October 19, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Eric Levenson, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Tori B. Powell and Emma Tucker, CNN

Updated 9:43 a.m. ET, October 20, 2023
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9:31 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Greek Orthodox church in Gaza hit in an airstrike, church officials say

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq, Kareem Khadder, Abeer Salman and Ibrahim Dahman 

The St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church was hit in an Israeli airstrike on Thursday nigh, according to its owners and Hamas. 

The church's campus in Gaza City is owned by the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which said in a statement they "remain committed to fulfilling its religious and moral duty in providing assistance, support, and refuge to those in need, amidst continuous Israeli demands to evacuate these institutions of civilians and the pressures exerted on the churches in this regard."

"Targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored," the Patriarchate's statement read.

An Israeli airstrike caused one of the buildings belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in central Gaza City to collapse, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior and National Security said in a statement on Thursday, adding that many people who were taking shelter in the building were injured.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday acknowledged that "a wall of a church in the area was damaged" as a result of the IDF strike.

"Earlier today, IDF fighter jets struck the command and control center belonging to a Hamas terrorist involved in the launching of rockets and mortars toward Israel," IDF told CNN in a statement.

"The command and control center was used to carry out attacks against Israel and contained terrorist infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization," the statement continued.

"We are aware of reports on casualties. The incident is under review," the statement read.

"Hamas intentionally embeds its assets in civilian areas and uses the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields," the IDF said.

9:13 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Increased military activity along Israel-Gaza border, CNN reports

From CNN's Nic Robertson

Several illumination flares were seen floating down in the distance while red tracer rounds can be seen accompanied by the sound of heavy machine gun fire. 
Several illumination flares were seen floating down in the distance while red tracer rounds can be seen accompanied by the sound of heavy machine gun fire.  CNN

Early Friday morning, CNN's Nic Robertson witnessed increased military activity along Israel's border with Gaza.

Several illumination flares are seen floating down in the distance, while red tracer rounds can be seen accompanied by the sound of heavy machine gun fire.  

In the video, Robertson recalled hearing heavy machine gun fire, and distant explosions.

CNN is unable to provide further detail on the type of military activity seen along the border.

When asked for comment on the military activity, Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus told Burnett, "The reserves are ready, equipped, mission-oriented, and standing by for the next stage of our operations. But at this time, of course, we will not advertise when, where, and how we will advance or do or enhance our military activities."

Israeli politicians have given Israel's military the "green light" to enter Gaza, officials told Robertson on Thursday, and it is now up to the military to decide when to go in.

8:58 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

2 additional American citizens identified as among those kidnapped and taken to Gaza 

From CNN’s Paula Newton 

Two additional American citizens, Judih Weinstein Haggai, 70, and her husband, Gadi Haggai, 72, are being counted by Israeli officials as being kidnapped, their daughter told CNN.  

Iris Haggai-Liniado says her parents were on their morning walk about a mile and a half from their home in Nir Oz, a kibbutz just a few miles from the Gaza border when they heard an extraordinary number of rockets flying overhead. 

The couple hit the dirt and tried to call for help as rockets blasted in from Gaza and gunfire could be heard in the distance. That was the last moment Iris heard from her parents.

The Haggai family says Israeli military officials and police finally spoke to them earlier this week and confirmed signals from her parents’ mobile phones were last pinpointed in Gaza.

After hours of frantically calling her parents and trying to get information from others in the community of Nir Oz, Iris said she and her family finally heard from a local paramedic who was trying to get help to them. 

“He said that my mom called him at 7:04 a.m., she said that they were both shot by terrorists on a motorcycle, that my Dad is shot really bad, and she thinks he might be dead and that she needs medical assistance,” said Haggai-Liniado, in an interview with CNN Thursday from her home in Singapore. 

“It’s just chaos basically, I don’t think anyone really knows how to handle this,” she said, adding the scope of the tragedy and the horrific atrocities committed in her Kibbutz of Nir Oz are hard to fathom.  

Haggai-Liniado says her parents are an amazing couple who were committed to peace throughout their lives. 

Haggai-Liniado said her mother was born in New York but grew up in Toronto before moving to Israel in her 20s where she met and married Gadi. The family has not been in touch with the Canadian government, she said, but remains in near-daily contact with US officials, including the FBI, which is providing them some comfort. They participated in a virtual call with US President Joe Biden last week, she added.

“It is nice to know that your parents are recognized somewhere because at this time we didn't hear from the Israeli government for days,” said Haggai-Liniado.

8:46 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Russian death toll in Israel rises to 19  

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

The number of Russians killed in Israel following the Hamas surprise attack on October 7 has increased to 19, Marina Ryazanova, the press secretary of the Russian Embassy in Israel, told state media TASS on Thursday. 

Ryazanova also told TASS that at least two Russians are being held hostage by Hamas militants in Gaza.

8:31 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Biden says the world cannot give up on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict

The world cannot give up on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, US President Joe Biden said in an address from the White House Thursday evening.

"As hard as it is, we cannot give up on peace. We cannot give up on a two-state solution," Biden said. "Israel and Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety, dignity and peace."

8:24 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Biden makes a sweeping argument for American leadership as he advocates for Israel and Ukraine spending

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden made a sweeping argument for US support for Israel and Ukraine as both a national security imperative and a critical moment for the future of American leadership and democracies worldwide. 

“American leadership is what holds the world together. American alliances are what keep us in America safe. American values are what make us a partner nation you want to work with. To put all that at risk – we walk away from Ukraine, we turn our backs on Israel – it’s just not worth it,” Biden said in a rare primetime address from the Oval Office Thursday. 

He announced he would be submitting an “urgent budget request” for supplemental funding for Israel and Ukraine, among other national security priorities, to Congress on Friday. 

8:28 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Biden will send an "urgent budget request" to Congress Friday to help support Israel and Ukraine

US President Joe Biden said he will send an "urgent budget request" to Congress on Friday in order to "fund America's national security needs to support our critical partners, including Israel and Ukraine."

"It's a smart investment that's going to pay dividends for American security for generations," he said Thursday evening during a speech from the Oval Office. "Help us keep American troops out of harm's way. Help us build a world that is safer, more peaceful, more prosperous for our children and grandchildren."

He called the request "an unprecedented commitment to Israel's security that will sharpen Israel's qualitative military edge, which we've committed to."

Remember: The House, which has been without a speaker for more than two weeks after Kevin McCarthy’s historic ouster, currently remains effectively frozen. While committees may still operate, Rep. Patrick McHenry, as speaker pro tempore, cannot bring bills or even non-binding resolutions to the floor.

8:23 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Biden says he's "heartbroken" by Gaza hospital explosion and that Israel was not responsible

Biden speaks from the Oval Office on Thursday, October 19.
Biden speaks from the Oval Office on Thursday, October 19. Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters

US President Joe Biden doubled down on the US assessment that Israel was "not responsible" for the deadly hospital blast this week in Gaza.

"I'm heartbroken by the tragic loss of Palestinian life, including the explosion at the hospital in Gaza, which was not done by the Israelis," he said Thursday evening from the Oval Office. "We mourn every innocent life lost. We can't ignore the humanity of innocent Palestinians who only want to live in peace and have an opportunity."
8:36 p.m. ET, October 19, 2023

Biden says Hamas and Putin share goal to "annihilate a neighboring democracy"

US President Joe Biden condemned the actions of Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin in his Oval Office address Thursday night, saying the attacks on Israel and the invasion of Ukraine share common motivations.

"Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy, completely annihilate it," Biden said.

"I know these conflicts can seem far away, and it's natural to ask why does this matter to America," Biden said. "So let me share with you why making sure Israel and Ukraine succeed is vital for America's national security."

Biden said "history has taught us that when terrorists don't pay a price for their terror, when dictators don't pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction."

The president went on to argue that if the US doesn't help "stop Putin's appetite for power and control in Ukraine," he won't stop at the invasion, going on to other conquests in Poland or in Baltic nations.

And on the conflict with Hamas, supporting Israel is part of the US goal to "build a better future for the Middle East," he said. By holding the group accountable for terror attacks, Biden says the US can help prevent future conflicts from boiling over in the region.

"American alliances are what keep us, America, safe," Biden said. "American values are what make us a partner that other nations want to work with. To put all that at risk if we walk away from Ukraine, if we turn our backs on Israel — it's just not worth it."