October 28, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Tara Subramaniam, Andrew Raine, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Thom Poole, Sophie Tanno, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:19 a.m. ET, October 29, 2023
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2:48 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Netanyahu says second stage of the war has begun, with goal of destroying Hamas

From CNN's Kyle Blaine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the second stage of the war against Hamas has begun, with the goal of destroying the group's armed wing and government, and returning hostages held in Gaza home.

“Our heroic fighters have one goal: To destroy this enemy and to make sure the existence of our country. Never again. 'Never again,' is now,” Netanyahu said during a news conference Saturday.

On hostages: Netanyahu also confirmed he spoke with the family of hostages held by Hamas and vowed to them that he would exhaust all options to return their loved ones.

During the same media briefing, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the intensifying assault will increase the chances Hamas will return hostages it is holding in Gaza.

“As we hit the enemy harder, there's a better chance that the enemy will agree to solutions to return the loved ones,” Gallant said. 

The expansion of ground operations has alarmed families of hostages, with an advocacy group saying Saturday that loved ones face "absolute uncertainty regarding the fate of the hostages held (in Gaza), who were also subject to the heavy bombings."

"Anxiety, frustration, and especially enormous anger that none of the war cabinet bothered to meet with the families of the hostages to explain one thing - whether the ground operation endangers the well-being of the 229 hostages in Gaza," the group said in a statement.

2:19 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Israeli military chief says war with Hamas requires ground operation

From CNN's Kyle Blaine, Tamar Michaelis and Jo Shelley

An Israeli army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer fires rounds toward Gaza from a position in southern Israel on October 28.
An Israeli army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer fires rounds toward Gaza from a position in southern Israel on October 28. Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s military chief said today marks a new stage in the country's war against Hamas, and that it requires a ground offensive.

“This is a war with multiple stages. Today, we move to the next one,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said in a video released by the IDF. “Our forces are currently operating on the ground in the Gaza Strip. These activities are being supported by precise and heavy fire, all in service of the war's objectives: dismantling Hamas, securing our borders and the supreme effort to return the hostages home.”

“The objectives of this war require a ground operation,” Halevi added, saying, “In order to expose and destroy the enemy there is no other way than to enter its territory with force.”

More context: A ground offensive in Gaza has been widely expected following the October 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas, but it does not appear as though any major operation aimed at seizing and holding significant amounts of the territory is yet underway.

On the ground: Israel Defense Forces announced Saturday that it had struck several Hamas targets in Gaza as part of its expanded ground operation in the strip. 

“Since early Friday evening, combined combat forces of armor, combat engineers and infantry have been operating on the ground in the northern Gaza Strip. As part of the operation, IDF soldiers identified terrorist cells attempting to launch anti-tank missiles and mortar shells and struck them. IDF soldiers also identified and destroyed a booby-trapped structure,” the IDF said in a release.

The IDF said that helicopters, under the direction of IDF tanks, struck a building being used by Hamas as an operational meeting point.

The military also said that Israeli soldiers “neutralized” several terrorist cells that attempted to fire anti-tank missiles at them. Forces also struck Hamas members who were located in what was described as a “booby-trapped structure.”

Gaza civilians say they endured the heaviest airstrikes of the conflict so far overnight, taking shelter from the bombardment and mourning those killed in hospitals. A communications blackout has disrupted emergency services and cut off contact between family members.

3:25 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Scottish politician has not heard from wife’s family in Gaza since Friday

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty in London

Newly appointed leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Humza Yousaf speaks following the SNP Leadership election result announcement at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 27, 2023.
Newly appointed leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Humza Yousaf speaks following the SNP Leadership election result announcement at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 27, 2023. Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf says he has not heard from his wife’s parents in Gaza since communications links were badly disrupted on Friday. 

“Gaza is under intense bombing. Telecommunications have been cut. We can't get through to our family who have been trapped in this war zone for almost 3 weeks. We can only pray they survive the night," Yousaf posted on X, formerly Twitter, late Friday.

In an update on Saturday morning, he said there was still no word from them. “Thank you for your good wishes, I'm afraid we have not heard from my in-laws,” he wrote. 

Yousaf’s parents-in-law, who live in Dundee in Scotland, went to visit family in Gaza about a week before the October 7 attacks, he has previously told UK media. “They can't leave. Gaza is under blockade. And even with the assistance of the Foreign Office now, they cannot guarantee any safe passage to any of the borders,” he said then. 

His brother-in-law also works as a doctor in Gaza and Yousaf shared video of him treating injured children in hospital last week. 

3:21 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

UN chief: Israel's "unprecedented escalation" in Gaza is impairing humanitarian aid

From CNN's Clarissa Ward and Jessie Gretener

Smoke rises from an explosion in Gaza, as seen from Sderot, Israel, on October 28.
Smoke rises from an explosion in Gaza, as seen from Sderot, Israel, on October 28. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday said he was surprised by the "unprecedented escalation" of bombardments in Gaza by Israel, which he said is "undermining" humanitarian help to the enclave. 

"I was encouraged in the last days by what seemed to be a growing consensus in the international community, including the countries supporting Israel, for the need of at least a humanitarian pause in the fighting to facilitate the release of hostages in Gaza, the evacuation of third country nationals and the necessary massive scale up of the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza," Guterres said in a statement.

"Regrettably, instead of the pause, I was surprised by an unprecedented escalation of the bombardments and their devastating impacts, undermining the referred humanitarian objectives," Guterres said.

Guterres also said the UN is "extremely concerned" about its staff in Gaza after communications links were badly disrupted by an aerial assault overnight. 

Palestinians collect bags of dried pulses from a UN-run aid supply center in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on October 28.
Palestinians collect bags of dried pulses from a UN-run aid supply center in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on October 28. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini earlier Saturday said that, while he was able to contact a few UNRWA colleagues in Rafah via a satellite phone, he has not heard from the “vast majority” of his team.

Guterres, who is currently in Doha, also thanked Qatar for "mediation initiatives," including the release of some hostages.

"I reiterate my strong appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire," Guterres continued. 

"I want to repeat what I said yesterday. This is the moment of truth. Everyone must assume their responsibilities. History will judge us all," the statement concluded.

The UN's ceasefire vote: An overwhelming majority of nations – 120 countries – voted on Friday for a United Nations resolution calling for a “sustained humanitarian truce” in Gaza, even as Israel’s military announced it is “expanding ground operations” in the besieged enclave.

The United States and Israel were among the 14 countries that voted against the resolution. The European Union has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, instead appealing for humanitarian “pauses.”

CNN’s Catherine Nicholls contributed reporting to this post.

2:32 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Communications blackout leaves medics struggling to reach wounded Gazans and families unable to talk

From CNN’s Zahid Mahmoud and Livvy Doherty in London, and Abeer Salmaan and Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem 

A near total communications blackout has impacted the work of medical staff in Gaza, with paramedics unable to reach the injured and hospitals unable to contact each other.

Dr. Mohamad Al-Rayan, a physician at Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza, said medics have faced delays in getting to people injured by Israeli airstrikes overnight. 

“Paramedics could not reach (the injured), because they had no communication with them. There were a few solutions to the problem, but the situation was very difficult and dangerous. The injured arrived at the hospital many hours later, (as) we could not reach them in a fast and direct manner,” he said. 

He told CNN that hospitals in Gaza had also lost contact with one another, making the transfer of patients needing specialist surgery between hospitals even harder. 

A journalist in central Gaza told CNN that Israeli artillery shelling “did not stop” on Saturday. Video filmed by Hassan Eslayeh showed ambulances and cars arriving at the Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, with crowds of people waiting outside the hospital entrance. Another video showed a young man lying on the floor of the hospital as doctors operated on him.

Eslayeh said the injured and dead being brought to the hospital were casualties of artillery shelling rather than airstrikes.

Families unable to speak: CNN’s producer in Gaza, Ibrahim Dahman, said he is struggling to contact relatives in the enclave in the face of the blackout. 

“I cannot reach them, and I don’t know anything about them,” Dahman said in one of several short voice recordings sent to CNN colleagues on Saturday using a phone with a foreign SIM card, which allows him intermittent connection via WhatsApp. 

“Even if they were subjected to shelling, or to be killed or wounded, I wouldn’t know anything,” he said. 

Since fleeing Gaza City with his wife and children on October 9, Dahman has been using WhatsApp to communicate with friends, family and colleagues. 

Now he says “there is no internet throughout the whole of the Gaza Strip” – another cause for concern for him and the other families he is sheltering alongside in the southern city of Khan Younis. 

“Everybody is gloomy, everybody is scared. … This is a big, big shock to everyone,” Dahman said. 

Jawwal and Ooredoo, two mobile phone companies operating in Gaza, and Paltel, a fixed-line operator, said in separate statements Saturday that their services in the strip remained down.   

1:12 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Israel says it has opened "a new phase in the war." Here's what to know as night falls in Gaza

From CNN staff

Israel's military says troops are still fighting in the besieged enclave after launching what it called an expanded ground operation.

Meanwhile, Palestinians last night faced what they said were the most intense round of airstrikes on Gaza since Israel began its retaliatory offensive against Hamas.

Here are the headlines you need to know:

  • Israeli forces are still in Gaza: Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said military operations against Hamas have progressed to "a new phase of war" while Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari confirmed Israeli ground forces had entered the enclave overnight from the north. “The forces are in the field and continue the fighting,” he said, without giving further details. While both statements confirm the military operation has undergone a notable expansion, it does not appear any major ground offensive aimed at seizing and holding significant amounts of territory is yet underway.
  • Renewed evacuation warnings: The Israeli military reissued a call for residents in northern Gaza to evacuate to the south of the crowded enclave, with the statement making reference to a coming IDF operation against Hamas in Gaza. Palestinians have said even those heeding the warnings have been wounded or killed by strikes outside the evacuation zone.
  • Communications severed: Many are struggling to get in touch with people in Gaza after communications links were badly disrupted by the aerial bombardments overnight. Elon Musk has offered his Starlink satellite service, saying the platform will support connectivity to internationally recognized aid organizations in Gaza.
  • Gazans shelter and mourn: Health workers, patients and civilians in Gaza spent the night “in darkness and fear,” the World Health Organization said. It added that hospitals were operating at maximum capacity, unable to take new patients while also “sheltering thousands of civilians.” Earlier, residents congregated at a central Gaza hospital to mourn relatives killed overnight. Video captured by CNN showed multiple bodies, including those of children, covered in white shrouds or thick blankets in the hospital yard.
  • On the ground: Near the Gaza border, staging grounds once teeming with hundreds of Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers and bulldozers had mostly emptied out at the time a CNN team visited. CNN also observed some tank units returning from the direction of Gaza, back to their forward operating positions.
  • Hostage situation unclear: The Israeli military's expansion of its ground operation in Gaza has alarmed families of hostages seized during the Hamas attacks. "This night was the most terrible of all nights," said the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group lobbying for the release of the captives.
12:43 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Intense explosions heard from Gaza Strip as night falls

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Ashkelon, Israel

As darkness fell over the Gaza Strip a short while ago, the Israel Defense Forces appeared to step up its bombardment of the enclave.

Intense and near-continuous thunder of explosions can be heard from the direction of the Gaza Strip for the past hour and a half, after more sporadic and less intense fire during most of the afternoon, a CNN team in Ashkelon, Israel, reports.

Fighter jets and military helicopters can be heard flying overheard.

Earlier, sirens indicating incoming rockets sounded across several parts of Israel. CNN observed several interceptions of these rockets by the Iron Dome, Israel’s air defense system.

CNN teams on the ground near the Gaza Strip have also seen tank movements throughout the day. Israeli staging grounds that were previously full with Israeli tanks, armored vehicles and bulldozers appeared mostly empty Saturday, amid what the IDF called an expanded ground operation in northern Gaza.

However, it remains unclear how many Israeli troops are currently in Gaza, as the IDF did not provide any further operational details.

12:36 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Second US aircraft carrier enters Mediterranean Sea heading toward Israel, ship tracking data shows

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Florence Davey-Attlee 

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and strike group has passed through the Strait of Gibraltar, entering the Mediterranean Sea, ship tracking data from MarineTraffic.com shows. 

The strike group — the aircraft carrier, a guided-missile cruiser and two guided-missile destroyers — were deployed from Norfolk, Virginia, on October 13. 

It's now the second carrier strike group in the Mediterranean. The USS Gerald R. Ford strike group is currently in the eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Israel.

Some background: As the war between Israel and Hamas continues, the US is seeking to send a strong message to adversaries to prevent the conflict spreading more widely in the region.

CNN has reported that the US has intelligence that Iranian-backed militia groups are planning to ramp up attacks against US forces in the Middle East, as Iran seeks to capitalize on the backlash in the region to US support for Israel.

Roughly 900 US troops have been deployed or are deploying to the Middle East amid the heightened tensions in the region, the Pentagon announced this week, after previously putting roughly 2,000 troops on prepare-to-deploy orders. That is in addition to US troops already in Iraq and Syria – roughly 2,500 and 900, respectively – and Navy assets in the region, now including the Eisenhower and Ford.

12:18 p.m. ET, October 28, 2023

"We moved to a new phase in the war," says Israel’s defense minister  

From CNN’s Amir Tal in Jerusalem

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends a joint press conference with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (not pictured) in Berlin, Germany, on September 28, 2023.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends a joint press conference with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (not pictured) in Berlin, Germany, on September 28, 2023. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters/FILE

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has confirmed military operations against Hamas have progressed.

"We moved to a new phase in the war,” he said in a statement delivered in Hebrew.

“Tonight, the ground in Gaza shook. We attacked above ground and below ground. We attacked terrorist operatives at all levels, in all places. The instructions to our forces are clear: the operation will continue until a new order is given,” he said. 

Some context: Earlier, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israeli ground forces were inside Gaza, having entered the enclave overnight from the north.

Israeli forces “went into the Gaza Strip and expanded the ground operation where infantry, armor and engineer units and artillery with heavy fire are taking part,” Hagari said during a press briefing in Tel Aviv. 

“The forces are in the field and continue the fighting,” he said, without giving further details. 

Additionally, the Israeli military reissued a call for civilians in northern Gaza to evacuate. That statement made reference to an impending IDF operation against Hamas in Gaza.  

A ground offensive has been widely expected following the attacks, but it does not appear as though any major operation aimed at seizing and holding significant amounts of the territory is yet underway.