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.