Israel airstrikes across the Gaza Strip, sending tanks back north

The Israeli Air Force has launched massive raids across the Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours, while the infantry sent tanks back north to hunt for Hamas facilities.

“In the past day, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has attacked more than 40 targets across the Gaza Strip, including underground fortifications used to launch rockets and booby-trapped structures where enemy fighters gathered. training facilities, reconnaissance facilities, underground fortifications, and a number of other enemy structures,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on April 17.

In the central region of the Gaza Strip, the IDF confirmed that it destroyed a number of Hamas rocket launchers that were ready to attack Israeli territory.

On the outskirts of the Nuseirat refugee camp, IDF units killed many gunmen and raided and destroyed a number of facilities belonging to Palestinian armed groups. One of the raids targeted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control facility.

Palestinian health officials in the Gaza Strip accused Israel of killing many civilians. Several raids in Rafah, a city adjacent to the Egyptian border with about 2.3 million people fleeing, left at least 11 people dead and many injured. Among the casualties were children, according to local health officials.

The attack at the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip killed at least 11 people. A raid in the Taffah district of Gaza City left seven Hamas police officers dead. Local authorities also accused Israel of bombing and destroying four residential buildings in the Nuseirat area.

The IDF has not commented on information about civilian casualties in the series of air strikes on April 16.

Residents and medical staff in the areas of Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, located in the northern Gaza Strip, said IDF tanks returned to this front. Israeli infantry withdrew from the area at the end of March, after completing a two-week siege of Al-Shifa hospital.

According to Hamas officials, IDF tanks entered Beit Hanoun and surrounded several schools, which were being used as refugees for civilians. “The Israeli army asked all families in the school and neighboring houses to evacuate. Israeli soldiers arrested many men,” a witness described the situation to Reuters.

Beit Hanoun, an area with more than 60,000 people before the war, was one of the first targets of the IDF when it launched its campaign in the Gaza Strip in October 2023.

What was once known as Gaza’s “fruit basket” is now desolate, as fighting and raids flattened homes. Most Beit Hanoun residents evacuated to the southern Gaza Strip at the request of the IDF, but many families returned home in the past few weeks when they learned of Israel’s withdrawal.

The IDF announced that it would launch a campaign to suppress Hamas in the Beit Hanoun area on April 13, but did not reveal the scale of the campaign and has not updated developments on the ground so far.

Hamas on April 16 confirmed fighting with Israeli units in Beit Hanoun. Local residents began evacuating when they saw fighting flare up again.

Location of Beit Hanoun, Gaza City and Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Graphics: BBC

Location of Beit Hanoun, Gaza City and Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Graphics: BBC

Since the events of October 7, 2023, when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing more than 1,100 people, the IDF has launched a military campaign across the entire Gaza Strip with the goal of demilitarizing the land and eliminating Totally Hamas. Tel Aviv is planning to establish a security buffer zone along the Israel-Gaza Strip border, despite international opposition.

According to Gaza health authorities, Israel’s retaliation campaign has left more than 33,700 people dead in the area, mainly women and children. The IDF claims to have killed more than 13,000 Hamas members. The war lasted more than 6 months but the sides showed no signs of getting close to a ceasefire agreement. Efforts at intermediary negotiations by Egypt, the US, and Qatar have yet to produce a breakthrough.