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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8:10 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

What happens in Gaza “is purely an Israeli decision,” US military says

From CNN’s Florence Davey-Attlee

Israeli troops move near the border with Gaza on October 28 in Sderot, Israel.
Israeli troops move near the border with Gaza on October 28 in Sderot, Israel. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Lt. Gen. James Glynn – the US Marine Corps three-star general who went to Israel to counsel the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – has returned home, according to Marine Corps commandant Gen. Eric Smith, in comments to reporters in DC on Friday. 

“Jim’s home, I talked to him last night,” Smith said. “Lt. Gen. Glynn went over to provide advice. But make no mistake – what is, has or will unfold in Gaza is purely an Israeli decision… He provided his expertise as the lead planner for a first marine expeditionary force going into the battle of Fallujah. He was asked to go over… and say, ‘Here’s what I learned,’ so we would call that a professional military exchange. He was over, he’s back now and he provided his experience to be taken, (or) not taken.”

Glynn is currently the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and was previously the commander of Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC). 

Some context: As CNN previously reported, the US and its allies have urged Israel to be clear about its goals in Gaza for a broader operation targeting the coastal enclave.

The US has warned against a prolonged occupation of Gaza and has placed a particular emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, US and Western officials told CNN.

At least publicly, Israeli officials have articulated their plans only in broad strokes, saying that the goal is to eliminate Hamas and its infrastructure.

Previous reporting by CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann, MJ Lee and Katie Bo Lillis

6:38 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

World Health Organization says it is "out of touch" with staff and health facilities in Gaza

From CNN’s Catherine Nicholls in London

The World Health Organization has lost contact with its staff in Gaza, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday.

“Reports of intense bombardment in Gaza are extremely distressing,” Tedros wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “We are still out of touch with our staff and health facilities. I’m worried about their safety.”

The WHO chief said that the evacuation of patients is not possible due to the bombardment, and that it is not possible to “find safe shelter.”

“The blackout is also making it impossible for ambulances to reach the injured,” he said.

The WHO “appeals to all those who have the power to push for a ceasefire to act NOW,” Tedros wrote. 

The remarks from Ghebreyesus after several United Nations agencies reported losing contact with the Gazan staff amid severe communications interruptions.

Gaza is approaching a near total internet blackout as the region suffered its worst loss in connectivity today since fighting first broke out on October 7.

6:27 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Heavy artillery strikes on Gaza continue Saturday morning

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova and Adi Kopelwitz in Sderot, Israel

 A youth rides a bicycle past wrecked cars in the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah, Gaza, on October 28.
 A youth rides a bicycle past wrecked cars in the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah, Gaza, on October 28. Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are conducting heavy artillery strikes against northern Gaza, with multiple explosions heard every minute.

A CNN team on the ground at an Israeli checkpoint near the Gaza Strip perimeter is observing and hearing intense and continuous explosions and air power. Smoke can also be seen rising from the enclave.

Some of the explosions are so strong that the impact can be felt physically where the team is, around a kilometer from the border.

The IDF reserve soldiers who are manning the position told CNN that Friday night was by far the most intense night of bombing. They have been in the area since October 7 when Hamas launched attacks on Israel that killed more than 1,400 people and saw hundreds taken as hostages.

They said that while there have been many alerts of incoming fire coming from Gaza in the past three weeks, there were only a few on Friday and none so far on Saturday.

They said the bombardment observed and heard on Saturday morning is far less intense than overnight.

Israeli troops have cleared out a large perimeter around the Gaza Strip, fearing incoming anti-tank weapons.

6:07 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Israeli ground forces inside Gaza, Army spokesman confirms

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood and Ido Soen

Israeli ground forces are inside Gaza having entered the enclave overnight from the north, army spokesman Daniel Hagari said Saturday morning.

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. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman’s words confirm the military operation has undergone a significant expansion after what it had earlier described as two "targeted raids," which took place on Wednesday night and Thursday night. Both those raids saw ground forces withdraw after a few hours. 

However, it does not appear as though any major ground offensive aimed at seizing and holding significant amounts of the territory is yet underway.

Hagari said the army had suffered no casualties in overnight fighting, and added, “we keep doing everything in order to keep our forces safe.”

The IDF spokesperson said Gazans who had moved south of Wadi Gaza, a waterway bisecting the centre of the strip, were in an area he called a "protected space," and would receive more food, water and medicine today, though he did not give any details. 

Hagari also reiterated his appeal to disregard rumours of a hostage deal with Hamas, calling it a cynical move by the group aimed at promoting what he called “psychological terror.” 

"Returning the hostages home is of highest national effort. And all our operational activities are directed towards the realization of this goal,” he said. 

5:15 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

It's mid-morning in Gaza and Israel. Here's what you need to know today

From CNN staff

Women walk past a destroyed building in the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah, Gaza on October 28.
Women walk past a destroyed building in the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah, Gaza on October 28. Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says its warplanes have struck 150 underground targets overnight as it is “expanding ground operations” in the Gaza Strip. 

Among those killed was Asem Abu Rakaba, the man in charge of Hamas’ aerial assets, who helped plan the October 7 attacks on Israel and “directed the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on paragliders,” the IDF said.

A major Israeli ground offensive has been expected since Hamas’ initial attacks, but it is not yet clear whether the IDF’s announcement signals the start of it.

Here are the latest developments...

  • A night of heavy Israeli airstrikes: The intensified bombardment began Friday evening local time. A CNN team on the ground in southern Israel, close to the border with Gaza, reported a series of large explosions rocking Gaza City in the north of the enclave, and “unusual, intense and sustained” military activity and hearing heavy machine gunfire. 
  • What it’s like in Gaza this morning: Residents have been gathering at a central Gaza hospital to mourn loved ones killed overnight. Video captured by CNN shows multiple bodies, including those of children, covered in white shrouds or thick blankets, placed on the ground in the hospital yard. One doctor said the hospital had received 22 bodies overnight and hundreds of wounded. Gaza residents told CNN that Friday’s airstrikes were the most intense they have experienced since Israel began to retaliate against Hamas around three weeks ago.
  • Communications impacted: Many are struggling to get in touch with people in Gaza after communications links were badly disrupted by the aerial assault, according to Palestinian telecoms company Jawwal. London-based monitoring firm NetBlocks has also reported that the last standing major internet operator in the region, Paltel, has experienced damage to its international routes.
  • International community: Israel has rejected a call for a ceasefire in Gaza approved by the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, with the country's foreign minister calling it "despicable" in a post on social media. The UNGA approved a resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the war between Israel and Hamas. While a general assembly vote is politically significant, it is not binding, and comes amid a lack of global consensus on how to resolve the crisis.
5:18 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Gazans mourn multiple casualties after overnight bombardment 

From CNN's Kareem Khadder

Destroyed buildings during Israeli bombardment on October 28 in Gaza.
Destroyed buildings during Israeli bombardment on October 28 in Gaza. Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance/Getty Images

People gathered at Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza on Saturday morning to mourn loved ones lost in a night of intense Israeli airstrikes

Video captured by CNN shows multiple bodies, including those of children, covered in white shrouds or thick blankets, placed on the ground in the hospital yard.

Dr. Khalil Al-Dikran told CNN the hospital had received 22 bodies overnight and hundreds of injured. He said people had brought the dead and the wounded to hospital using everything from cars, bikes, and donkey carts.

Hospitals have lost contact with each other, he said, after communications networks were cut across the Gaza Strip.

People are desperate to find some news about their loved ones and their families,” he added.

Al-Dikran also said that after a pause of several hours, airstrikes had resumed again in central and northern Gaza.

Artillery fire had continued uninterrupted through the night, he said.

 

3:53 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Israel says its warplanes hit 150 underground targets overnight, and killed head of Hamas' aerial operations

From CNN's Andrew Carey

An overview of Gaza showing destroyed buildings during Israeli bombardment on October 28.
An overview of Gaza showing destroyed buildings during Israeli bombardment on October 28. Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance/Getty Images

The Israeli military says its warplanes hit 150 underground targets overnight and killed the head of Hamas' aerial operations.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had struck what it called terror tunnels and underground combat spaces during a period of very heavy air strikes on the north of the Gaza Strip.

Among several Hamas operatives killed, the military said, was the man in charge of Hamas’s aerial assets, who it named as Asem Abu Rakaba. 

Abu Rabaka was responsible for Hamas's UAVs, drones, and paragliders, as well as its aerial detection and aerial defense systems, the IDF said in a statement.

He had taken part in planning the October 7 attack on Israeli communities close to the Gaza border and “directed the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on paragliders," according to the IDF.

2:40 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

Sounds of heavy bombardment reverberate throughout the night near Israel's border with Gaza

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova in Ashkelon, Israel

 A dense cloud of smoke from the bombing of Gaza invades the Israeli border city of Ashkelon on the night of October 27.
 A dense cloud of smoke from the bombing of Gaza invades the Israeli border city of Ashkelon on the night of October 27. Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Questions swirled around the extent of the Israel Defense Forces' operation in Gaza overnight as the sun rose Saturday on a quiet, foggy morning in southern Israel.

In the city of Ashkelon near the Gaza border, heavy bombardment, sustained artillery fire and the roar of fighter jets were heard from the direction of the coastal enclave overnight in what appeared to be the busiest night of fighting during Israel's war with Hamas.

The IDF said Friday it was “expanding ground operations” in the Gaza Strip and “operating forcefully.” It has not given more details about the number of troops that have entered the enclave.

A substantial Israeli ground offensive has been expected ever since the October 7 attacks, in which Hamas killed more than 1,400 people and took some 200 others to Gaza as hostages. However, it is not yet clear whether the IDF announcement of an expanded operation signals the start of that push.

Meanwhile, Hamas militants continued firing rockets into Israel overnight — several alarms indicating incoming rockets were heard late into the evening in towns north of Gaza.

Early on Saturday, the sounds of war have mostly quietened, with only sporadic thunders of explosions heard in the distance.

All eyes are now on what Israel does next.

Earlier, an Israeli government spokesperson confirmed the IDF was "expanding its ground operations," in Gaza but said he would not comment further on the status of the military action.

"But it's important to understand what's coming up," spokesperson Eylon Levy told CNN. "The days ahead are going to be long, they’re going to be difficult, because we're going to go after the totality of the Hamas terror and governing infrastructure inside the Gaza Strip." 
2:28 a.m. ET, October 28, 2023

"You get home and then start crying": The horrors facing Israel's body collectors

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova and Adi Kopelwitz

Volunteers from Israeli volunteer-run emergency rescue service ZAKA search through debris in Be'eri, a kibbutz near the border with Gaza, on October 20.
Volunteers from Israeli volunteer-run emergency rescue service ZAKA search through debris in Be'eri, a kibbutz near the border with Gaza, on October 20. Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Yanir Ishay has thrown away three boxes of cigarettes in the past two weeks.

He said he thought he could smell death on them, having carried the packets in his pockets while collecting human remains from the sites of Hamas’ terror attack in southern Israel. Then his wife told him they were brand new — he’d just bought them.

“That’s when I realized the smell was in my mind, not in the box,” he told CNN.

Ishay is one of 120 volunteers – all of them men – working with ZAKA, a religious search and rescue organization, to recover the bodies of people killed near the Israel-Gaza perimeter by Hamas militants on October 7. Israeli authorities say more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack.

Weeks on, ZAKA volunteers are still collecting remains.

“With all the preparations and with all the experience, never in our worst nightmares have we ever imagined we would see anything like what we have seen here,” Snir Elmalih, a longtime ZAKA member, told CNN at a cemetery in Ashdod, where he was working on Friday.

He and other volunteers told CNN the victims of the massacre included whole families, little children, babies, even pregnant women, and that their bodies were found in a horrific state – mutilated and burnt.

ZAKA has long worked in Israel and around the world, responding to terror attacks, accidents and disasters. Most of its members are deeply religious orthodox Jewish men and their mission is driven by the desire to ensure everyone, no matter what the circumstances of their death, can get a proper Jewish burial.

“We believe that the respect for the dead is no less important – and sometimes more important – than the respect for the living,” Elmalih said.

READ MORE: Israel's body collectors encounter horrors beyond their worst nightmares