October 29, 2023 Israel-Hamas war news

By Tara Subramaniam, Andrew Raine, Sophie Tanno, Maureen Chowdhury and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 1:40 AM ET, Mon October 30, 2023
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5:17 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

US worked to restore connectivity in Gaza, official says

From CNN’s Kevin Liptak

The US applied pressure on Israel to restore connectivity in Gaza after phone and internet service was severed late last week, according to a senior US official.

The blackout — which left civilians, aid groups and journalists without any means of communicating with the outside world — came amid heavy Israeli bombardment of the enclave. Service appeared to be gradually restored on Sunday.

The official said the US made clear to Israel the importance of restoring service in Gaza.

Speaking in an interview Sunday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan underscored the importance of communications networks in Gaza.

"We don't have a perfect picture of what is happening in Gaza. We do feel strongly that the restoration of that communications was a critical thing," he said on MSNBC. "Because aid workers need to be able to communicate, civilians need to be able to communicate, and of course, journalists need to be able to document what is happening in Gaza to report it to the wider world."

"That was something that we cared about, worked on, and we are glad to see that restoration," he said.

6:33 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

"Fabric of society is starting to break down" in Gaza, UN agency says

From CNN's Helena Geers, Rosanne Roobeek, Anna Gorzkowska, and Jessie Gretener in London

Palestinians check damage at the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Khan Younis on Sunday.
Palestinians check damage at the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Khan Younis on Sunday. Mohammed Salem/Reuters

 

The "fabric of society" in Gaza is starting to break down, an official from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) told CNN — echoing warnings Sunday of a breakdown in civil order.

Thomas White, director of Affairs for Gaza for UNRWA, spoke about how people were looting logistic and aid warehouses in Gaza. 

"We have been warning for a couple days now, that if essential public services and humanitarian aid would not be provided to the population in a sustained way we would see a breakdown in civil order. What we are seeing right now is the first stages of that, and that some of our logistic bases were looted by hundreds of young men. It's a very worrying sign that the fabric of society is starting to break down," White explained.

White said he was concerned for the people of Gaza but also for the UNRWA's ability to maintain operations there. He called for a humanitarian ceasefire, citing the urgent need “get the assistance that people need and stabilize society in Gaza." 

4:36 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

UN secretary-general calls for leaders to "step back from the brink." Here's the latest diplomatic news

From CNN Staff

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he urged “all those with responsibility to step back from the brink” while speaking about the Israel-Gaza conflict on Sunday.

Guterres said he will “continue to insist on the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages in Gaza,” and reiterated his “appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

“I repeat my utter condemnation of the appalling attacks perpetrated by Hamas,” Guterres echoed. “There is no justification, ever, for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians.”

Guterres continued by saying the situation in Gaza was “growing more desperate by the hours” and called for all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. 

“I regret that instead of a critically needed humanitarian pause supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations,” he said. 

Here's what else top diplomats and world leaders are doing on the diplomatic front Sunday:

French President Emmanuel Macron said 17 metric tonnes of humanitarian freight arrived in Egypt from France on Sunday.

“We are continuing our efforts by air and sea. Together, in solidarity, alongside Egypt and the Red Crescent,” Macron posted on X, formerly Twitter.

He also reiterated a call for a humanitarian truce for Gaza.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said he believes Israel has crossed the line regarding international law while speaking to Norwegian state broadcaster NRK on Sunday.

“They (Israelis) have the right to self-defense, and I recognize that defending oneself against warfare from such a densely populated area as Gaza is very demanding. And there are still rockets coming from Gaza towards Israel, we condemn that,” Støre said. “International law also states that it must be proportionate, civilians must be taken into account, humanitarian law is very clear of that, and I believe that that line has now been far crossed.”

Støre said he was specifically referring to Israeli “attacks coming from the air against civilian areas where people have nowhere to hide.” 

US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Sunday about the need for the continued flow of aid into Gaza and stressed the importance of protecting civilians lives, according to the White House.

In the call with Netanyahu, Biden reiterated his support for Israel to defend itself but said Israel needs to do so "in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of civilians." He also called for significantly increasing the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and discussed ongoing efforts to locate hostages still held by Hamas.

4:24 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

US Marine rapid response force moves toward eastern Mediterranean, sources say

From CNN’s Oren Liebermann

A US Marine rapid response force is moving toward the eastern Mediterranean Sea, according to two officials — amid concerns over the war in Gaza broadening into a regional conflict.

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, aboard the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship, was operating in the waters of the Middle East in recent weeks, but it began making its way toward the Suez Canal late last week, the officials said.

The Bataan is currently in the Red Sea and is expected to pass into the eastern Mediterranean soon, one official said. 

The move will place the Marine unit closer to Lebanon and Israel as the US is warning citizens to leave Lebanon. One of the typical roles of a Marine Expeditionary Unit is to help civilians evacuate.

CNN has reached out to the US Defense Department for comment.

On Tuesday, the White House said it would be “imprudent and irresponsible” not to plan for a possible evacuation of American citizens from the Middle East, including Israel and Lebanon. But at the time, National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby said, “We’re not at a point of execution right now.”

But on Friday, as Israel expanded its ground campaign in Gaza, the US embassy in Beirut once again urged Americans to “leave now,” warning that the best time to leave a country is “before a crisis.”

Earlier this month, the US State Department raised the travel advisory level for Lebanon last week to Level 4: Do Not Travel.

More background: The US has warned there is an “elevated risk” of the war between Israel and Hamas spilling over into a broader regional conflict, despite the efforts of the Biden administration to keep the fighting contained to Gaza.

One of the highest risks comes from Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where there is an ongoing, if still low-level, exchange of hostilities with Hezbollah, a powerful Iranian proxy. 

In 2006 during the last war between Israel and Hezbollah, the State Department ordered a non-combatant evacuation for American citizens in Lebanon, ultimately evacuating approximately 15,000 Americans in about two weeks.

4:01 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

Video shows Hamas launching weaponized drone from Gaza residential building during October 7 attack

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy 

Hamas launched at least one of its weaponized drones in the October 7 terror attack from a residential building in southern Gaza, video circulating social media shows.

CNN geolocated the takeoff site in the video to a residential building on the eastern outskirts of Khuza'a, in southern Gaza. 

It's the latest video to come to light from captured Hamas weaponry and body cameras that sheds new insight into how Hamas conducted its surprise assault on Israel. 

The drone is seen rising in the video from the building, away from Khuza'a and toward the Gaza-Israel border. A second video, taken near an Israeli military outpost just east of Nir Oz, shows the drone flying. 

It is suddenly heard losing propulsion and is then seen hitting the ground. It's unclear what caused the drone to crash, and it's unclear whether it dropped munitions before crashing. 

4:12 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

Cousin of Israeli held hostage in Gaza: "You must avoid any action that could hurt hostages"

From CNN’s Abby Baggini

Boaz Atzili, the cousin of Israeli hostage Aviv Atzili, spoke to a crowd calling for the release of the hostages held by Hamas at a Sunday rally in Washington, DC. 

"Hamas will not release them out of the good of their heart. It will take a prize, but 226 human beings' lives are worth any prize," he told the crowd.

Aviv and his Israeli-American wife, Liat Beinin Atzili, are believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas after the group attacked their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, according to Boaz.

He said the family's home was found empty and burned, but that their cell phone later pinged inside Gaza, leading the Atzili family to believe that Hamas is holding the couple.

Liat's father, Yehuda Beinin, previously told CNN that his daughter and son-in-law's official status has been updated to "probably abducted."

"They are a wonderful couple," Boaz said of Aviv and Liat, both 49 and parents to three adult children.

Boaz, who teaches international politics, called for an end to military action in Gaza, fearing that it could harm the hostages and perpetuate a cycle of violence. 

"We've had enough bloodshed. Stop the missiles and the rockets. Stop the bombings. You must avoid any action that could hurt hostages. Start looking for solutions that would allow both Israeli and Palestinian families to live their lives peacefully. That will put an end to the endless cycle of hurt and sorrow," Atzili said. "But first, bring them all back home, bring all the hostages back home."

"Our family wants to see Aviv and Liat hugging their children again, please," he concluded.

The demonstrators, who gathered in front of the Red Cross National Headquarters, plan to hold a rally every Sunday until the hostages are released. 

Family members of the hostages spoke with members of Congress on Thursday and participated in the Empty Shabbat Table event at the Lincoln Memorial Friday afternoon.

In Israel, families of hostages say they told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting Saturday that they would only accept an "everyone in return for everyone" deal, which would secure the immediate release of all hostages.h

The number of hostages believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza is up to 239, Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Sunday. Officials have said the exact number of captives held by the group and other militants in Gaza has been difficult to precisely assess.

CNN's Tamar Michaelis contributed reporting to this post.

3:54 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

Civilians say they can't find a safe place to stay as they flee Israel's offensive in northern Gaza

From CNN Staff

People take the bodies out of the mortuary of Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital to bury them in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Saturday.
People take the bodies out of the mortuary of Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital to bury them in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Saturday. Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Israel Defense Forces have told civilians in Gaza to leave the northern part of the enclave, as it continues to strike what it says are Hamas targets in the north. But many of the people who followed that evacuation order are finding it impossible to find a safe place to stay.

Hala Bin Naeem is from Beit Hanoun, a city in the northeastern corner of the Gaza Strip. She and her family fled their home when Hamas launched its attacks on Israel on October 7, and have been sheltering in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp.

The camp lies south of Wadi Gaza, within the area that the IDF instructed people to evacuate to. But they couldn’t escape the danger. Bin Naeem said two of her sisters-in-law were killed in a strike on October 11. Her niece and sister were wounded.

“We were living in peace. Suddenly we heard banging and noises. We were living in peace and (were) safe and suddenly everything changed and came crashing,” the 13-year old told CNN at the refugee camp in Gaza.

Eyewitnesses have told CNN that the area of Deir al-Balah was bombed Friday night, alongside other locations in central Gaza.

“We also went to the schools, and the situation has become dangerous, and it becomes more dangerous day in, day out. We are really very frightened and are subjected to a lot of danger. So I hope the war ends and we live normal life and we win victory. That’s it,” Bin Naeem said.

The situation at the camp is dire, the 13-year-old said.

“There is no water, but we struggle to sort out a small amount of water for the little children to drink … we wait for five to seven hours at the bakery to buy some bread to eat. The situation becomes worse daily. So I wish the war ends,” she added.

On the ground: Fighting continues during Israel's expanded ground operations in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers killed and wounded several “terrorists” Sunday who emerged from a tunnel near the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.

Meanwhile Israeli aircraft, with support from ground troops, struck what the IDF described as “two staging grounds” and killed several “terrorists.”

CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Pierre Meilhan contributed reporting to this post.

2:52 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

What to know about Iran's role in the fears surrounding a broader Middle East conflict

From CNN's Nadeen Ebrahim

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi welcomes the Saudi Ambassador to Iran in Tehran on October 24.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi welcomes the Saudi Ambassador to Iran in Tehran on October 24. Iranian Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Israel has "crossed the red lines" in Gaza, which "may force everyone to take action," Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said Sunday, while US national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned of an "elevated risk" of a spillover conflict in the Middle East.

Experts say that while Iran is wary of being dragged into the Israel-Hamas war, it may not be in full control if the militias it backs in the region — like the Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah — independently intervene as Hamas suffers heavy blows and the death toll in Gaza continues to mount.

“What connects all these groups to Iran is their anti-Israel policies,” said Sima Shine, head of the Iran program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, noting that while Iran has varying levels of influence over the groups, it doesn’t dictate all their actions.

Raisi's comments were not the first warning from an Iranian official of the potential for a broader conflict.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has also warned that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza could have far-reaching consequences, saying that if Israel does not halt its airstrikes, “it is highly probable that many other fronts will be opened.”

“This option is not ruled out and this is becoming increasingly more probable,” he told Al Jazeera in a recent interview.

Last Monday, Abdollahian said the US has sent Iran two messages regarding escalation in the region.

“The first message said that the United States is not interested in expanding the war, and the second message asked Iran to have self-restraint and insisted that Iran should also ask other countries and other sides to have self-restraint,” Abdollahian said during a news conference in Tehran, without saying how and when the messages were delivered.

He added that while the US says it wants to de-escalate, it has contradicted itself by continuing to support Israel.

Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC, said there is no appetite or desire from either Iran, the US or Israel for a wider war, but that Washington’s failure to restrain Israel may inadvertently drive the region toward escalation.

US President Joe Biden has pledged continued support for Israel, which has hardened Arab sentiment across the region and translated to mass protests against Israeli and American policies.

“The only actor that has a clear interest in (a wider conflict) is Hamas, given that an enlargement of the war could change the dynamics in a favorable way for them,” Parsi said. In the absence of US efforts to rein in Israel, “many (regional) actors are going to feel compelled to step in… because of their own strategic calculations.”

“When Israel is mobilizing 300,000 (troops), it is not likely that Hezbollah is going to sit there and assume that this is done only to go after Hamas,” he said, adding that it will factor in the risk of Israel going after the Lebanese group as well.

Read more on Iran's role in the region.

3:07 p.m. ET, October 29, 2023

Doctors Without Borders transfers 26 tons of medical supplies to Egypt for Gaza

From CNN’s Zeena Saifi in Tel Aviv and David Wilkinson in London

Médecins Sans Frontières — also known as Doctors Without Borders — has sent 26 tons of medical supplies on a World Health Organization plane to Egypt to support the emergency medical response in Gaza, it said in a statement on Sunday. 

The supply transfer will be coordinated with the Egyptian Red Crescent. Doctors Without Borders said the medical supplies can cover the needs for 800 surgical interventions and are destined for healthcare facilities in Gaza in collaboration with local health authorities.

“We need this delivery to happen as soon as possible, as healthcare facilities in Gaza are overwhelmed with patients and are running very low on medical supplies, following more than three weeks of complete siege by the Israeli forces. We reiterate our call for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza to prevent more deaths and allow for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid,” the statement added.