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6 months into Israel-Hamas war, Palestinians return to southern Gaza city Khan Younis to find "everything is destroyed"

Netanyahu insistent on Rafah invasion
Netanyahu insistent on Rafah invasion 02:23

After Israeli forces withdrew from the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Sunday, thousands of Gazans returned to find that "everything is destroyed."

Malak, 13, was among the thousands of Palestinians who came back to search through the rubble of their homes, hoping to find any belongings that might have survived. She found nothing left.

"Everything is destroyed. There is no life here anymore," she told CBS News. "Our dreams are gone and so is our childhood… I wished to go back home and study, but all is gone."

Small towns around Khan Younis, as well as the city itself, were destroyed as the Israel Defense Forces spent weeks battling Hamas, with houses, factories and schools all reduced to rubble. Israel launched its war on the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers in response to the Palestinian group's Oct. 7 terror attack, which Israeli officials say left some 1,200 people dead and more than 200 others captive in Gaza.

Destruction in Khan Yunis after Israel's withdrawal
Some Palestinian residents start to return to their homes after Israel's withdrawal leaving behind a huge destruction in Khan Younis, Gaza on April 07, 2024. Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu via Getty Images

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the territory since Israel launched its offensive, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, which does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths.

Another woman, Suha Abdelghani, sat on the rubble of her Khan Younis home, crying. She told CBS News she had seven children and, before the war, her husband worked in Israel to feed their family. Now, she said they're living hand to mouth.

"My husband lost his job and we lost our home," Suha said. "I have nowhere to go with my children. Everything is gone… I won't be able to rebuild my home again in Gaza."

Palestinian Suha Abdelghani sits and cries on the rubble of her home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, April 8, 2024. CBS News

Israel continued bombing targets in Gaza Tuesday as negotiations over a cease-fire and deal to return the remaining Israeli hostages continued in Cairo. 

Hamas told the AFP news agency that it was "studying" a new proposal, which would see a 6-week pause in the fighting, the exchange of 40 women and child hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and hundreds of trucks of aid entering Gaza per day.

A spokesman for Hamas told CBS News, however, that the latest negotiations over the weekend were "set back."

"All the parties at the table have failed" to free those held by Hamas, mother of hostage says 04:46

Israel's military has said it now has just one division still inside the Gaza Strip, positioned along the enclave's border with Israel and to the north, where Israel has built a new road cutting across Gaza from east to west, which is thought to be part of its planning for after the war. The IDF said the troops it pulled out of Gaza are recuperating and preparing for future missions.

Despite U.S. opposition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel had set a date for a ground offensive in the southern city of Rafah, just south of Khan Younis, where around 1.5 million people are sheltering, though he did not specify the date.

"We have made clear to Israel that we think a full-scale military invasion of Rafah would have an enormously harmful effect on those civilians and that it would ultimately hurt Israel's security," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Monday.

On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to meet in the U.S. with the families of American hostages taken by Hamas or other groups in Gaza on Oct. 7.

CBS News' Holly Williams contributed to this report.

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