January 3, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

By Chris Lau, Sana Noor Haq, Antoinette Radford, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, January 4, 2024
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8:38 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah will give scheduled speech amid fallout from deadly strike on senior Hamas leader

From CNN's Pauline Lockwood

People gather at Imam Hossein Square in Tehran, Iran, on November 3, to watch Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's speech regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict.
People gather at Imam Hossein Square in Tehran, Iran, on November 3, to watch Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's speech regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict. Hossein Beris/Middle East Images/AFP/Getty Images

Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah is set to deliver his third speech since the Israel-Hamas war erupted. 

The speech comes a day after a senior Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri was killed in a strike in Beirut, but had been previously scheduled to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Iranian Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards who died following a US air strike in 2020.

Some context: Hezbollah is an Iran-backed Islamist movement with one of the most powerful paramilitary forces in the Middle East. The group, which has its main base on the Israel-Lebanon border, could become a wildcard player in the Hamas-Israel war, and spark a wider regional conflict.

Prior to October 7, Nasrallah had not spoken publicly in person since 2006, when a month-long war erupted between Lebanon and Israel.  

In his first public speech since 2006, Nasrallah called for a ceasefire and praised Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel, adding that they were fully planned and executed by Hamas.

8:07 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

UN force in Lebanon expresses concern over potential escalation after senior Hamas figure killed in Beirut

From CNN’s Charbel Mallo in Beirut

Saleh al-Arouri speaks during a reconciliation deal signing ceremony in Cairo, Egypt, on October 12, 2017.
Saleh al-Arouri speaks during a reconciliation deal signing ceremony in Cairo, Egypt, on October 12, 2017. Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters/File

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon is “deeply concerned” at any potential border escalation between Hezbollah and Israel after the killing of Hamas senior leader Saleh Al Arouri in Beirut on Tuesday. 

“We are deeply concerned at any potential for escalation that could have devastating consequences for people on both sides of the Blue Line,” the peacekeeping mission's spokesperson Kandice Ardiel told Lebanese state-run National News Agency on Wednesday. 

“We continue to implore all parties cease their fire, and any interlocutors with influence to urge restraint,” she added.

11:36 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

Displaced health worker in Rafah, southern Gaza, says he is haunted by "frightening dreams and nightmares"

From CNN's Sana Noor Haq

Palestinians cross a flooded street at a makeshift camp housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza, on January 2.
Palestinians cross a flooded street at a makeshift camp housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza, on January 2. AFP/Getty Images

Mohammed Hamouda says the streets of Rafah, in southern Gaza, are thick with pollution as beggars and homeless civilians try to survive in sheltering conditions ravaged by death and disease.

“Life here is very difficult,” the physical therapist, who is working at Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah and volunteering at a nearby shelter, told CNN on Tuesday. “Hundreds of thousands cannot find shelter,” he said. “Others sleep on the sidewalk.”

Hamouda and his family are part of the 1.93 million people in Gaza who have been displaced in search of safety from Israeli bombardment and besiegement. He is staying with his family inside a shelter center. He was displaced to Rafah from his neighborhood in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, where his house was destroyed on October 15.

More than 1 million people are crammed into Rafah, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said on Tuesday. The southern city is estimated to be the most densely populated area in Gaza, exceeding 12,000 people per square kilometer, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in December.

Israel’s severe restrictions on food, fuel and water entering Gaza have put more than 2.2 million people in Gaza at risk of severe dehydration and starvation. Those living in overwhelmed shelters and huge tent camps are exposed to infectious diseases, where children are most at risk, according to Hamouda.

Young kids show signs of malnutrition, he said. Meanwhile, “there is no one” available to meet the needs of disabled civilians who require assistive devices. Those with chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and epilepsy cannot access medication, Hamouda added.

Unfortunately, (those with) wounds are infected, and they are preparing for amputation,” he said.

Civilians in Gaza are no strangers to the trauma of war, having lived through years under siege. As Israel’s military assault on the Palestinian enclave following Hamas' October 7 attacks enters its third month, Hamouda said “all residents of the Gaza Strip need mental health intervention.”

“Children in particular show complications of fear and crying a lot, urine incontinence. They wake up many times at night,” he told CNN. “My children don't let me go to my work,” he said. “When I am outside, they hear the explosion. They think their father is dead, shouting and crying a lot and asking for their father, asking for their mother.”

Hamouda has three children who are aged six, four and two and a half. He described the turmoil of being surrounded by “the sense of death,” as he balances his responsibility as a health worker with his fears for his family.

“I often wake up to frightening dreams and nightmares. I feel like I will lose my children soon,” he said, adding that many of his friends and relatives have been killed in the war.

“There is so much suffering that I cannot describe. Three months ago, my children and I had a house. Today I live inside a shelter center,” he added. “My house was completely destroyed. And with it, the beautiful memories were destroyed.”

8:29 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

Water has been restored to some parts of central Gaza, municipality says

From CNN's Ibrahim Dahman

Water has been restored to parts of central Gaza according to the municipality of Deir al Balah.
Water has been restored to parts of central Gaza according to the municipality of Deir al Balah.

Water has been restored to parts of central Gaza, according to the municipality of Deir al Balah.

It said that in conjunction with the Palestinian Water Authority and other municipalities, it had been able to repair the Makrut water line. The line, which is a critical source of clean water for many neighborhoods in central Gaza, had been out of service for several days.

The lack of water pumping had resulted “in the overflow of sewage in the streets,” the municipality said.

The Makrut line is one of several that have been used to supply Gaza with water from Israel. 

UN agencies and NGOs have warned that the lack of clean water in many areas of Gaza risks spreading skin diseases and other illnesses such as diarrhea.

5:54 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

WHO chief condemns "unconscionable" bombardment of Palestinian Red Crescent hospital and headquarters

From CNN’s Mitch McCluskey and Lucas Lilieholm

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), attends a press briefing at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 15.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), attends a press briefing at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 15. Lian Yi/Xinhua/Getty Images

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, condemned strikes on the Palestine Red Crescent Society headquarters in Khan Younis in a statement on Tuesday.

“I deplore today’s strikes on the @PalestineRCS-run Al-Amal hospital in the southern #Gaza city of Khan Younis, which severely damaged the Palestine Red Crescent Society training centre located within the hospital complex,” he said.

Calling the bombardment “unconscionable,” Ghebreyesus said hospitals, ambulances, health workers and people seeking care must be protected under international humanitarian law and added that WHO’s movements, as well as those of its partner organizations like the Red Crescent, had been severely impeded by the ongoing violence across Gaza.

Ghebreyesus reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire to ensure “the accelerated and unimpeded flow of food, medical supplies, water and other essential items to millions of civilians forced to live in unspeakable conditions.”

Pointing to “widespread deaths, suffering and decimation of homes, roads and other infrastructure,” the WHO chief wrote “If the conditions for a cease-fire in hostilities have not been met by now, I do not know what it will take.”

CNN has contacted the IDF for comment.

12:54 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

Houthis fire anti-ship ballistic missiles in Red Sea, US officials say

From CNN’s Lucas Lilieholm

Yemen's Houthi rebels fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the southern Red Sea on Tuesday night, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) said Wednesday. 

No damage was reported, CENTCOM said in a statement. It marks the latest in dozens of Houthi attacks on commercial vessels since October 7, which the rebels say are in solidarity with Hamas amid the militant group's war with Israel.

“Multiple commercial ships in the area reported the impact of the ASBMs into the surrounding water though none have reported any damage,” CENTCOM said, adding that the attacks endangered the lives of innocent mariners and continued to “disrupt the free flow of international commerce.”

The latest Houthi attacks come after the Iran-backed group condemned the killing of senior Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri in a strike in Lebanon on Tuesday, calling it a "cowardly crime" and expressing support for revenge to be taken against Israel.  

A US official told CNN that Israel carried out the strike in Beirut. Israel did not claim responsibility for the attack, which has raised fears of a potential escalation in fighting in the region.

Some more background: The Red Sea is one of the world’s most important maritime trade routes and prolonged Houthi attacks there could disrupt the global economy.

The US has deployed warships to the waterway and last month launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational maritime coalition, to strengthen security in the critical global shipping lane.

On Sunday, the White House said it is not seeking a wider conflict in the Middle East after US helicopters sank three Houthi boats in the Red Sea after coming under fire.

1:14 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

Deadly strike on Hamas leader in Beirut escalates fears of wider regional conflict. Catch up here

From CNN staff

Israel carried out the deadly strike in Lebanon on Tuesday that killed senior Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri, a US official told CNN.

The Biden administration was not told about the operation in advance, the official said.

Arouri, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, was "martyred in a treacherous Zionist airstrike in Beirut," Hamas media outlet Al Aqsa TV said.

If confirmed, Arouri would be the most senior Hamas official killed by Israeli forces since the start of the war sparked by the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Israel did not claim responsibility for the strike in Beirut, which was condemned by Hamas' regional allies, raising fears of a potential escalation in fighting in the Middle East.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday urged Israel to avoid escalation "particularly in Lebanon," according to a statement from the French presidency.

Here's what else you need to know:

  • Rising toll: Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed at least 22,185 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, as the Israel Defense Forces intensifies its military campaign in the central part of the territory. CNN is unable to independently confirm the figures provided by the health ministry in Gaza due to restricted access to the region and the difficulty in verifying accurate numbers amidst the ongoing war. 
  • Military moves: On a visit to Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel's military operations in the strip will continue for some time but will change as it assesses the situation. “The feeling that we will stop soon is incorrect — without a clear victory, we will not be able to live in the Middle East," he said.
  • Resettlement rebuke: A far-right Israeli official said the country is "not just another star in the American flag," after Washington described his call for the resettlement of Gazans outside of the enclave as "inflammatory and irresponsible." National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir previously declared that Israel's war with Hamas presents an "opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza." State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said the US had been told by Israel "that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government."

  • Court claim: Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice to answer South Africa's claim that it is committing genocide in its war against Hamas, an Israeli government spokesperson said. Eylon Levy said Israel would appear at The Hague “to dispel South Africa's absurd blood libel.”
  • US senators' visit: A bipartisan group of US senators was scheduled to travel to the Middle East Tuesday night to meet with senior Israeli officials to discuss the Israel-Hamas war. The Senate Intelligence Committee members are also expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Arab leaders during the visit, according to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
7:18 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

Far-right Israeli official hits back after US criticizes Gaza resettlement remarks

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

Itamar Ben Gvir takes part in a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2023.
Itamar Ben Gvir takes part in a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2023. Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images/File

A far-right Israeli official hit back Tuesday after Washington described his call for the resettlement of Gazans outside of the enclave as "inflammatory and irresponsible."

“Very appreciative of the United States of America but with all due respect we are not just another star on the American flag," Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said in a translated post on X, formerly Twitter.

Ben Gvir on Monday declared that Israel's war with Hamas presents an "opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza," echoing comments a day earlier by another member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition.

In a rebuttal Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said the US had been "told repeatedly and consistently" by Israel "that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government," as officials consider the coastal enclave's post-war future.

Responding to the US statement, Ben Gvir on Tuesday called the US a "good friend" but said the "emigration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza" will allow Israeli settlers to return and "live in security."  

“The United States is our good friend, but first of all we will do what is good for the State of Israel," he said.

What the Israeli officials said: Israel’s Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, also responded to the US State Department's rebuke following his comments calling for the resettlement of Gazans outside of the Gaza Strip.

“More than 70% of the Israeli public today supports a humanitarian solution of encouraging the voluntary immigration of Gaza Arabs and their absorption in other countries,” Smotrich said in a post on X.

He added that Israel could not afford to live in close proximity to “a hotbed of hatred and terrorism where two million people wake up every morning with a desire to destroy of the State of Israel,” adding that the residents of Gaza desired the “slaughter and rape and murder Jews wherever they are.”

Smotrich said that achieving peace and prosperity required a “new, collaborative way of thinking with our friends in the international community.”

On Sunday, Smotrich called for Palestinian residents to leave Gaza to make way for Israelis who could "make the desert bloom," Reuters reported. A day later, Ben Gvir expressed his support for resettling Palestinians from Gaza overseas.

US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said on Tuesday that “such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government.”

Some context: Last month, US officials discussed post-war Gaza governance plans with the Palestinian Authority along with regional US allies — making it a key focus as they try to look beyond the immediate conflict.

In the US statement Tuesday, Miller said the State Department had been "clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel."

"That is the future we seek, in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region, and the world," he said.

CNN’s Jonny Hallam contributed to this report.

12:09 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

France's Macron urges Israel to avoid escalation with Lebanon

From CNN's Xiaofei Xu and Mitchell McCluskey

Emmanuel Macron visits a Royal Jordanian Air Force base outside Amman, Jordan on December 22, 2023.
Emmanuel Macron visits a Royal Jordanian Air Force base outside Amman, Jordan on December 22, 2023. Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images/File

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz to avoid escalation “particularly in Lebanon,” according to a statement from the French presidency.

Macron’s comments come after Hamas accused Israel of carrying out a strike in Beirut that killed senior Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri on Tuesday. Israel has not claimed responsibility.

“The President of the Republic stressed that it was essential to avoid any escalatory attitude, particularly in Lebanon, and that France would continue to pass on these messages to all players directly or indirectly involved in the area,” the French statement read.

Macron also expressed concern over the civilian death toll and humanitarian emergency in Gaza.

Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed at least 22,185 Palestinians, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health said Tuesday.

The French president also spoke out against “unacceptable” statements calling for the forced displacement of Gazans.

Two members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition have in recent days expressed views that Palestinian residents should leave Gaza as officials consider the coastal enclave's post-war future.