Some buildings are flattened or partially collapsed. Others are riddled with bullets or scarred by smoke. Civilians are nowhere to be found.
This is the scene CNN found on the outskirts of Al-Bureij in central Gaza after three months of war.
CNN embedded with the Israel’s military on Monday, getting a glimpse of the destruction inside Gaza and a rare look inside the alleged Hamas underground and weapons manufacturing infrastructure uncovered by Israeli forces.
Alongside now-bulldozed farmlands and inside a nondescript building, the Israeli military took reporters inside the opening of what it said was a tunnel system leading to a weapons manufacturing facility both above and below ground.
“We are standing in one of the main entrances to the manufacturing terror center,” said an officer identified only as Maj. Ariel of the 188th Brigade, which uncovered the tunnel entrance.
Under a nearby shed, the Israeli military showed another shaft leading into the same tunnel.
The Israeli military also showed reporters the above-ground manufacturing facility, where CNN saw mortar shells that Israeli commanders said were made there. Another tunnel shaft lay in the corner of the factory, leading to what the Israeli military said was an underground facility where explosive material — made in some cases from dual-use materials like fertilizer — was packed into the shells.
The Israeli military did not allow reporters underground, saying the chemicals made it too dangerous, but provided a video it said was filmed inside that underground facility in which large vats and industrial material could be seen.
“What we’re seeing is using the embedded civilian industries to build a rocket industry,” IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari told CNN inside the weapons facility, a point he repeatedly raised throughout the day.
Pressed whether he was stressing the connection between Hamas infrastructure and civilian buildings to justify the heavy civilian death toll in Gaza, Hagari said: “We are focusing on Hamas, not, not — we’re focusing on a war on Hamas, we’re not fighting the people of Gaza.”
“Every death of every child is a tragedy. We didn’t want this war,” Hagari said.
Lower-intensity phase: Israel expanded its ground offensive into central Gaza in late December and over the past two weeks, it has carried out strikes and pushed its ground forces into areas where it had previously urged civilians to evacuate.
But there are indications that it is slowing its offensive in parts of Gaza, moving to a lower-intensity phase of the war following significant American pressure.
“There’s big change because it’s a different level of intensity. Now, it’s not in the same intensity, high intensity that we worked in the north (of Gaza),” Hagari said. “It’s more continuous effort in the center of gravity so we can make sure that the population is being distinguished from the terrorists and focusing on Hamas frameworks,” he added.