October 20, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

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5:00 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

Blinken: US welcomes the release of 2 Americans, but work continues to free all other hostages

In this handout photo provided by the Israeli government, American hostages Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, are seen following their release on Friday, October 20, 2023.
In this handout photo provided by the Israeli government, American hostages Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, are seen following their release on Friday, October 20, 2023. Handout/Israeli Government

The US welcomes the release of two Americans held hostage by Hamas and "shares in the relief that their families, friends and loved ones are feeling," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a briefing Friday.

"But there are still 10 additional Americans who remain unaccounted for in this conflict," Blinken continued, adding that they are among an estimated 200 others from various countries being held in Gaza, including men, women, elderly people and children.

"Every single one of them should be released," Blinken said.

Blinken said "the urgent work to free every single American, to free all other hostages, continues."

The top US diplomat said that during his recent travel to Israel, he met with loved ones of US citizens captured by Hamas. US President Joe Biden also "had the opportunity to hear directly from the families," he said.

"What I shared with the families, as the president did as well, is that the entire United States government will work every minute of every day to secure their release, to bring their loved ones home," Blinken said. "They have my solemn pledge — those who continue to have loved ones held hostage by Hamas — that we'll continue to do that."
4:22 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

IDF will continue fight against Hamas and is preparing for next stages, spokesperson says

From CNN's Tamar Michaelis and Zahid Mahmood

Israeli tanks move along the Israel-Gaza border on October 18.
Israeli tanks move along the Israel-Gaza border on October 18. Gil Cohen Magen/AFP/Getty Images

The Israel Defense Forces are preparing for the "next stages" in the fight against Hamas as the conflict continues, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Friday.

“The top priority of the country is to return all the abductees and locating the missing, in all possible ways: civil, intelligence and military,” Hagari said during a news conference in Tel Aviv. 

“At the same time, we are continuing the war against the Hamas. And getting ready for the next stages of the war. As we speak, the crossings are closed and no equipment (aid) is getting into the (Gaza) Strip,” he continued.

Hagari's response came after he was asked a question about further negotiations on the release of hostages, saying the IDF is making a “great effort and prioritizing the return of all the hostages.”

4:29 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

NOW: US secretary of state addresses release of 2 American hostages held by Hamas

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks on Friday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks on Friday. CNN

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is delivering remarks to the media following Hamas' release of two American hostages.

The released Americans — a mother and her 17-year-old daughter — are from the Chicago area and had been visiting relatives in Nahal Oz, a farming community in southern Israel, when they were taken, according to their family.

4:48 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

Palestinian prime minister criticizes Israel for telling over 1 million in northern Gaza to evacuate

From CNN's Becky Anderson and Zeena Saifi

Displaced Palestinians evacuate from northern and central Gaza on Friday, October 13.
Displaced Palestinians evacuate from northern and central Gaza on Friday, October 13. Loay Ayyoub/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Israel telling more than a million Palestinians to evacuate out of Gaza was "designed to end the question of the Palestinian right to return of the Palestinian refugees," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told CNN's Becky Anderson.

"If that is going to happen in Egypt, then who will prevent the Israelis from pushing us here in the West Bank to be forcefully transferred to Jordan? And that is where the issue of transfer is such a concern because it is a national security issue for Egypt. It's a national security issue for Jordan, but it is an existential issue for us the Palestinians," Shtayyeh said in a sit-down interview with CNN in Ramallah on Friday.

Last week, Israel's military told 1.1 million people in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes immediately, as it appeared to prepare to ramp up fighting against Hamas — which the United Nations and several humanitarian groups sharply criticized.

When asked if there was a possibility that the Palestinian Authority (PA) might take over governing Gaza if Israel succeeds in destroying Hamas, Shtayyeh said: "We will not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank," meaning they did not want Israel's war on Hamas to be the PA's path to leadership in Gaza.

Shtayyeh also said there needs to be a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue in both Gaza and the West Bank, and that a piecemeal approach would not work.  

"A solution for Gaza is not going to take us anywhere. A solution in the West Bank alone is not going to take us anywhere," he said. "So what we want is a comprehensive solution that ends occupation."
"We're not looking for improving life conditions under occupation," Shtayyeh said. "We are looking for a sovereign, independent, contiguous, viable state of Palestine on the borders of 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital, including the rest of the Palestinian territory in the West Bank."
4:09 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

International Committee of the Red Cross says it helped facilitate release of 2 American hostages

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau in London

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped facilitate the release of two American hostages on Friday by transporting them from Gaza to Israel, the organization said, calling their release a "sliver of hope."

“More of this kind of humanitarian action is urgently needed so that even more families can be reunited. Many people are still desperately waiting for news of their loved ones,” the ICRC statement said.

The organization also said it was “ready to visit the remaining hostages and to facilitate any future release following an agreement reached by the parties.”

4:17 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

Trucks need enough fuel for distribution of aid shipments in Gaza, UN chief's spokesperson says

From CNN's Richard Roth and Skylar Harris

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres inspects relief supplies at Egypt's El Arish International Airport before his visit to the Rafah border crossing on Friday.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres inspects relief supplies at Egypt's El Arish International Airport before his visit to the Rafah border crossing on Friday. Gehad Hamdy/Picture-Alliance/DPA/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wants to ensure the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has enough fuel to distribute humanitarian aid shipments by truck to Gaza, deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday.

"It is no use dropping off aid on the other side and then leaving it there because the trucks simply do not have enough fuel on that side to give it to the people who need it,” Haq said.

Haq also pointed out that the secretary-general made it clear: "He called for a humanitarian ceasefire, but he does want the humanitarian ceasefire to be a condition for the aid."

Speaking during a news conference earlier on Friday on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, Guterres emphasized the critical importance of delivering aid to the Gaza Strip.

According to the UN, 219 trucks are currently waiting at the Rafah border crossing, including 15 belonging to the Egyptian Red Crescent and 104 that contain aid originating from other countries.

3:56 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Friday, White House says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden spoke Friday morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following up on humanitarian assistance plans agreed to earlier this week in Tel Aviv and discussing hostage relief efforts, the White House said.  

“The President reaffirmed the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend itself and obligation to protect its citizens, while underscoring the importance of operating consistent with the law of war to include the protection of civilians in Gaza caught in the conflict launched by Hamas," the White House said in a readout.
"The President and Prime Minister discussed follow-up from the President’s visit to Israel earlier this week, including plans to begin moving humanitarian assistance into Gaza from Egypt," the readout continued.

They also discussed “ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas – including US citizens –and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza,” the readout said.  

The leaders and their teams have been in close contact since Hamas first attacked Israel on October 7. Biden met with Netanyahu on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, and the two spoke on October 8; 10 and 11.

4:36 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

"Our prayers have been heard": Rabbi reacts to release of mother and daughter hostages

From CNN’s Sara Smart

Rabbi Meir Hecht gives remarks on the release of American hostages Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Raanan on Wednesday, October 20.
Rabbi Meir Hecht gives remarks on the release of American hostages Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Raanan on Wednesday, October 20. WLS

The rabbi for the family of the two released American hostages said the news of their release is both comforting and overwhelming.

“Our prayers have been heard for Judith and Natalie and we are so overjoyed for that, at the same time please continue praying,” Rabbi Meir Hecht said in a press conference Friday afternoon.

Judith Tai Raanan and Natalie Raanan are from the Chicago area and were kidnapped by Hamas nearly two weeks ago when visiting relatives in southern Israel. They were released by Hamas on Friday and are going to an Israeli military base to be reunited with their family.

“They’ve gone through the most evil period of their life, by people who inflicted terror and horror to them and so many others,” Hecht said.

The rabbi described the mother and daughter as kind, generous and giving souls. He said Judith is a weekly congregant at synagogue, attending every Shabbat.

“We have been deeply concerned and deeply pained, and the family’s waiting period is unimaginable pain,” Hecht said.

“Our pain is still there because there are still over 200 hostages in the hands of terrorists, please don’t forget that. Keep on praying,” he added.
3:42 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

More Americans are still being held by Hamas, US official says

From CNN's MJ Lee

A US official confirms that there are more American hostages still being held by Hamas, following the release of two Americans Friday. 

President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday that the US has “not ceased our efforts to secure the release of those who are still being held.” That, the official said, was indeed a reference to the fact that there are additional American hostages. 

US officials have never given a firm number of American hostages – only that they believe there are a “handful.”