Israel says Gazans in two areas can return to their homes
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Israel says Gazans in two areas can return to their homes

Tunnel-destroying work ends in Beit Lahiya and al-Atatara, but IDF warns returning residents of Hamas booby traps

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Residents walk on debris from a destroyed house in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza strip, Saturday, July 19, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Residents walk on debris from a destroyed house in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza strip, Saturday, July 19, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Israel told Palestinian residents from the Beit Lahiya and al-Atatara areas of the northern Gaza Strip that they could return to their homes on Saturday afternoon.

The announcement, confirmed by Palestinian sources, marked the first time since Israel launched its ground offensive against Hamas targets in Gaza on July 17 that the IDF told Gaza residents it had completed its military operations in a specific area.

Residents of those two areas had previously been urged to move south, ahead of IDF activity. The announcement came with the withdrawal of IDF forces from the areas.

Security sources told The Times of Israel that additional withdrawals were expected in the coming days as forces completed tunnel-destroying operations in different Gaza areas.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav Mordechai, warned Gazans returning to their homes in the Beit Lahiya and al-Atatara areas that while the IDF had finished its work, they should be aware that many of their homes had been booby-trapped by Hamas.

Overnight Friday-Saturday, Israeli cabinet ministers decided to maintain the “current nature” of the Gaza operation, sources said, stressing the goal of demolishing tunnels, destroying Hamas terror infrastructure, and creating the deterrent effect intended to restore sustained calm for Israel. The sources said the IDF expected to complete its work on the tunnels in the next few days and would then “take stock,” Israel Radio reported.

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