An Israeli soldier stands in an apartment during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. AP
The Israeli occupation army escorted international journalists into the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, giving them a glimpse of the aftermath of 12 days of heavy fighting in the area.
Israel has been at war on Gaza since Hamas carried out the Al-Aqsa Flood operation on Oct. 7, killing over 1,400 people, and capturing about 240 captives.
Israel responded with weeks of intense airstrikes before launching a ground operation on Oct. 27, killing almost 11,000 Palestinians, 4412 of whom are children, 2918 women, 667 elderly individuals, and 26,905 injured.
“It’s been a long two weeks of fighting,” said Lt. Col. Ido, whose last name was withheld under military guidelines. “We've lost some soldiers.”
The initial focus of the operation was northern Gaza, near the Israeli border, before troops moved in on Gaza City, which Israel says is the centre of Hamas’ military operations.
The drive into Gaza on Wednesday was in a windowless armoured vehicle. A screen inside showed images of the shoreline, damaged buildings and downed trees. Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles sat motionless as soldiers patrolled the area.
During the tour, the army said it had found ammunition and a weapons-making facility inside one building. Much of the lab had been removed, but the remnants of rockets, thousands of which had been launched at Israel during the fighting, could be seen.
One floor above the lab was what appeared to be a children’s bedroom. The bright pink room had multiple beds, a doll and a Palestinian flag.
During the less than two hours they spent inside Gaza on Wednesday, journalists could hear gunfire but did not witness any live fire. Israeli troops instructed the journalists not to move around too much.
The army ordered civilians to evacuate to the southern Gaza Strip ahead of the ground offensive. While about 70% of Gaza's population is believed to have fled their homes, U.N. officials estimate that roughly 300,000 people have remained behind.