Roughly 30 hours into a 72-hour cease-fire deal, the IDF has begun to withdraw its ground forces from the Gaza border area, it announced Wednesday afternoon.
IDF forces began withdrawing from within Gaza itself earlier this week; now, it has discharged 30,000 reserve soldiers from along the Gaza border.
Despite the step toward normalization, the IDF emphasized that forces remain on the ground and at the ready to retaliate in the event Hamas violates the tenuous truce; some 55,000 combat soldiers - mostly soldiers in regular service - remain patrolling along the Gaza border fence.
The IDF also stressed that any attempts by Hamas or Islamic Jihad to break the cease-fire would be met with retaliation - both by ground and by air.
However, Channel 2 reports that many residents of communities near Gaza are hesitant to return to their homes, wary of Hamas's poor track record; six cease-fires were broken within the past thirty days.
"In some communities near the Gaza border fence, large numbers of people have not yet returned," Hof Ashkelon Regional Council head Yair Farjun stated to the daily on Wednesday. "Sixty percent (60%) of them have left and we're seeing them slowly return."
"There is still great concern; that is clear," he added. "We need to work on preparing them to return home and giving them the confidence that it's all right to go back. We trust the army to restore security to our communities."
Meanwhile, residents were shocked earlier Wednesday, as "Code Red" sirens sounded near the Gaza belt at roughly 2:00 pm. It was later established that the siren was a false alarm, and the IDF quickly sent out messages to all residents assuring them that the area was still safe.