October 31, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Eric Levenson, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, November 1, 2023
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11:10 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

US trying to get 100 aid trucks a day to enter Gaza this week, Blinken says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States is trying to get 100 trucks a day with humanitarian aid to be able to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday.

“That is the bare minimum of what's needed, but we've got to do it,” Blinken said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, where he was making the case for billions in supplemental funding, some of which will be used for humanitarian aid.

Prior to the war, 500 to 800 trucks a day with assistance were entering the strip, Blinken said. Now it’s “almost 60.”

Blinken spoke about the system set up at Rafah, where the trucks are “verified by Israel as well as by the Egyptian authorities.”

“To date, we don't have reports either from the UN or from Israel that this assistance has been diverted from its intended recipients but it's something that we're going to track very closely,” Blinken said.

“Can I promise you in this committee that there'll be 100% delivery to the designated recipients? No. There will inevitably be some spillage. We haven't seen it to date, but I think we have to anticipate that,” he continued.

“But the overwhelming, overwhelming majority of the assistance thus far is getting to people who need it, and we need more,” Blinken said.

More on Rafah crossing: Located in Egypt’s north Sinai, the Rafah crossing is the sole border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. It falls along an 8-mile (12.8-kilometer) fence that separates Gaza from the Sinai desert.

10:57 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasizes need to protect civilians in Gaza and reiterates support for Israel

From CNN's Haley Britzky

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the national security supplemental request, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the national security supplemental request, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday he has “repeatedly made clear” to Israeli leaders that they must ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians.

“Now, we fully understand that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. And we mourn the loss of Palestinian civilians,” Austin said in opening remarks to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I have repeatedly made clear to Israel’s leaders that protecting civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative. Democracies like ours are stronger and more secure when we uphold the law of war and protect civilians.”  

Speaking to the committee, Austin also outlined the Pentagon’s “four key lines of effort” in the Middle East:

  1. Ensuring the protection of US forces from attacks carried out by Iranian-backed militia groups and taking further action against them if necessary.
  2. Providing key security assistance to Israel.
  3. Coordinating with Israel “to help secure the release of every man, woman, and child seized by Hamas."
  4. Strengthening US force posture in the region.

“Two Carrier Strike Groups are now in the region,” Austin said. “Last week, an additional F-16 squadron arrived in the region, complementing other fighter squadrons already in theater. All this underscores the President’s clear warning: no government or group that wishes Israel harm should try to widen this crisis.”

Still, Austin reiterated that the US must “remain focused on Ukraine” in addition to supporting Israel.

“In both Israel and Ukraine, democracies are fighting ruthless foes who are out to annihilate them,” he said. “We will not let Hamas or Putin win. Today’s battles against aggression and terrorism will define global security for years to come. And only firm American leadership can ensure that tyrants, thugs, and terrorists worldwide are not emboldened to commit more aggression and more atrocities.”

11:04 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Top US diplomat stresses "clear links" between conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine in push for funding

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Michael Conte and Casey Riddle

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed said there are "clear links" between the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine in opening remarks to a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday.

In making the case for billions of dollars in supplemental funding to support Israel and Ukraine, Blinken argued that "allowing Russia to prevail with Iran’s support will embolden both Moscow and Tehran." 

“Since we cut off Russia’s traditional means of supplying its military, it’s turned more and more to Iran for assistance. In return, Moscow has supplied Iran with increasingly advanced military technology, which poses a threat to Israel’s security,” he said.

Blinken emphasized the importance of passing aid for both Israel and Ukraine in one package so that Russia and China would not see the US as “playing whack-a-mole” in response to global crises.

“If we start to peel off pieces of this package, they'll see that, they'll understand that we are playing whack-a-mole while they cooperate increasingly and pose an ever greater threat to our security as well as that of allies and partners,” he said.

Humanitarian issues: The top US diplomat said that “the president and I both stressed in our conversations with the Israeli government the need for Israel to operate by the law of war and in accordance with international humanitarian law and to take all possible measures to avoid civilian casualties.”

He said the supplemental funding “will enable us to tackle grave humanitarian needs created by autocrats and terrorists, as well as by conflict and natural disasters in Ukraine, in Gaza, in Sudan, in Armenia, in other places around the world.”

“Food, water, medicine and other essential humanitarian assistance for civilians must be able to flow into Gaza. Civilians must be able to stay out of harm’s way – a task made even more difficult as Hamas uses civilians as human shields. And humanitarian pauses must be considered,” he reiterated.

“Humanitarian assistance is also vital to Israel’s security. Providing immediate aid and protection for Palestinian civilians in the conflict is a necessary foundation for finding partners in Gaza who have a different vision for the future than Hamas – and who are willing to help make it real,” Blinken argued.

Blinken and other US and European leaders have stopped short of calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, instead appealing for humanitarian “pauses” to get in desperately needed aid.

Blinken also argued that “we now stand at a moment where many are again making the bet that the United States is too divided or distracted at home to stay the course. That is what is at stake with President (Joe) Biden’s national security supplemental funding request.”

10:47 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

US officials warn of increased domestic threats, particularly against Jewish, Muslim and Arab Americans

From CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz and Priscilla Alvarez

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrives to testify during a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrives to testify during a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Tuesday of the spike in domestic threats following the breakout of the Israel-Hamas war, particularly the increased threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab-American communities. 

In their opening remarks at a US Senate panel hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Mayorkas and Wray outlined the threat landscape that the United States faces and emphasized how the ongoing war poses challenges to American security.

“As the last few weeks have shown, the threat environment our Department is charged with confronting has evolved and expanded constantly in the 20 years since our founding after 9/11,” Mayorkas said in his opening remarks.

Mayorkas said that since “Hamas terrorists horrifically attacked thousands of innocent men, women, and children in Israel on October 7, brutally murdering, wounding, and taking hostages of all ages,” DHS has “responded to an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab-American communities and institutions across our country. Hate directed at Jewish students, communities, and institutions add to a preexisting increase in the level of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.”

Wray too said that the FBI has been confronted with a heightened threat landscape from individuals or small groups of violent extremists within the US who may “draw inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives.”

The conflict has also inspired foreign actors, including from hostile nation-states like Iran, Wray said. He noted that “in just the past few weeks, multiple foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the West.”

“The cyber targeting of American interests and critical infrastructure that we already see – conducted by Iran and non-state actors alike – will likely get worse if the conflict expands,” he said.

11:58 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Protesters repeatedly interrupt US Senate hearing on funding for Israel and Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Holmes Lybrand

Protesters raise their painted hands as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testify during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the national security supplemental request, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31. 
Protesters raise their painted hands as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testify during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the national security supplemental request, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31.  Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's opening remarks at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday were quickly and repeatedly interrupted by protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Within minutes of speaking, Blinken was interrupted by a man shouting “ceasefire now” and “save the children of Gaza.”

Subsequently, four other solo protesters and another group of protesters interrupted Blinken, shouting, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” and “Let Gaza Live!”

There were other protesters in the audience with their hands, painted red, in the air.

A dozen protesters were arrested during the congressional hearing Tuesday, according to Capitol Police. They were arrested on the charge of crowding, obstructing or incommoding.

A protester is removed while others show painted hands as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testify during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the national security supplemental request, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31.
A protester is removed while others show painted hands as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testify during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the national security supplemental request, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 31. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

9:56 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

13 aid trucks arrive in Gaza from Egypt via Rafah crossing

From Asmaa Khalil in Rafah, CNN’s Zeena Saifi in Jerusalem and CNN's Kylie Blaine in Tel Aviv

An aid truck full of shrouds from Egypt arrives at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza, on October 31.
An aid truck full of shrouds from Egypt arrives at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza, on October 31. Abed Zagout/Anadolu/Getty Images

Thirteen aid trucks have passed inspection and made their way into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, according to a CNN ​journalist at the Rafah border crossing.

Eighty-one trucks are currently undergoing security checks by Israeli authorities, according to an Egyptian border official at the crossing who spoke to CNN.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the humanitarian assistance provides Israel with "important leeway in which to act to realize the goals of war."

"These are food and medicines that have been physically checked and inspected by Israeli security personnel and are delivered via Egypt," it added.

The total number of trucks that have crossed into Gaza so far has reached 157.

Some context: The humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated with limited access to food, water, electricity and fuel. A total of 26 aid trucks went through the Rafah crossing into Gaza on Monday, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.

8:49 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

It’s afternoon in Israel and Gaza. Here’s what you need to know

From CNN staff

Israel has vowed to “intensify” its ground offensive in Gaza, dismissing a growing chorus of calls for a ceasefire as concern grows around the world about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave.

Despite an overwhelming majority of nations voting on Friday for a United Nations resolution calling for a “sustained humanitarian truce” in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear on Monday he would not heed such calls, as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responds with unrelenting force to Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks, which killed 1,400 people and saw more than 200 people taken hostage.

Drawing parallels to the United States’ position after Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the September 11 attacks in 2001, Netanyahu said that while the Bible says there is a time for peace, “this is a time for war.”

Here are the latest developments:

  • No ceasefire: “Calls for a ceasefire or calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorists, to surrender to barbarism, that will not happen,” Netanyahu said in an address Monday night, decrying calls from a growing number of countries and international bodies to agree to a pause the conflict to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. When asked by reporters if he was considering resigning for his government’s failure to prevent Hamas’ October 7 attack, Netanyahu said the only thing he would resign is Hamas. “We’re going to resign them to the dustbin of history. That’s my goal. That’s my responsibility,” he said.
  • Ground operation: Israel announced Friday it was “expanding ground operations” in Gaza, after launching what residents described as the most intense bombardment of the conflict to date and severing the enclave’s communications links. CNN analysis on Monday showed that Israeli troops had advanced more than 2 miles (about 3 kilometers) into the enclave. The IDF said Tuesday it had struck “hundreds” of Hamas targets overnight in “combined and coordinated attacks by the ground and air forces.” CNN teams on the ground saw numerous large explosions in northern Gaza, as the IDF appeared to fire flares illuminating the ground, followed by artillery rounds and airstrikes.
  • Gazans “dehumanized”: The entire population of Gaza is “being dehumanized,” the chief of the main UN agency working in the enclave told the UN Security Council Monday. Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said thousands of children killed in the past three weeks “cannot be collateral damage.” He described the need for a ceasefire as “a matter of life and death for millions.” While aid has begun to trickle into the besieged enclave, the initial deliveries included food, water and medicine – but not fuel. UNRWA warned Sunday that the aid convoy system in Gaza “is geared to fail” if Israel continues to ban fuel.
  • Antisemitism spreads: Israel’s response in Gaza to horrific Hamas terrorist murders of Israeli civilians on October 7 has sparked new outbursts of antisemitism across the globe. Jewish day schools have canceled classes. Synagogues have been locked. Social media has pulsated with hatred against Jews. CNN’s Stephen Collinson sees this new wave of antisemitism as a harbinger of societies in deep trouble: “The wave of global hatred directed against Jews… should not just be seen as a reaction to the Middle East yet again slumping into war. It is also a reflection of destructive forces tearing at American and western European societies, where stability and democracy are already under pressure.” Read the full analysis here.
  • Dagestan riot: One of the most shocking bursts of antisemitism was seen Sunday in Dagestan, a majority Muslim republic in southern Russia, where a mob of rioters overran the Makhachkala Uytash Airport, looking for Jews who had arrived on a flight that landed from Tel Aviv. The shocking incident has also posed a problem for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long prided himself as the leader of what he calls a “multinational, multiconfessional” Russia. The antisemitic riot has shaken Russia’s Jewish community, stoked international outrage and raised serious questions about the blowback from Putin’s war on Ukraine – now in the Russian leader’s view directly linked to events in Gaza. CNN’s Nathan Hodge has analyzed the risks of Putin’s balancing act on Hamas. Read the full story here.
8:42 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Hamas commander who directed massacre on Israeli kibbutz and village is dead, Israel says

From CNN's Amir Tal

The Hamas commander who directed the October 7 attack in the Israeli kibbutz of Erez and the village of Netiv HaAsara was killed Monday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) — also known as Shin Bet — said in a joint statement Tuesday.

IDF jets struck Nasim Abu Ajina, the commander of the Beit Lahia Battalion of Hamas' Northern Brigade, according to joint intelligence by the IDF and ISA.

He had also commanded Hamas' Aerial Array and helped develop unmanned aerial vehicles and paragliders.

His death will impede Hamas' efforts to "disrupt the IDF's ground activities," the statement read.

Hamas has not confirmed his death.

8:09 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Israeli military hit hundreds of Hamas targets overnight, according to spokesperson

From CNN’s Pauline Lockwood and Alex Hardie in London 

Israeli army tracked vehicles move along a road near the northern town of Kiryat Shmona close to the border with Lebanon on October 31.
Israeli army tracked vehicles move along a road near the northern town of Kiryat Shmona close to the border with Lebanon on October 31. Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli military attacked "hundreds" of Hamas targets overnight, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said at a briefing Tuesday morning.

“In combined and coordinated attacks by the ground and air forces, terrorists were eliminated," Hagari said.

The IDF announced Friday it was "expanding ground operations" into Gaza, as it seeks to "destroy" Hamas and prevent it from being able to carry out further attacks on Israeli soil. CNN analysis on Monday suggested troops had advanced more than 2 miles (about 3 kilometers) into the enclave.

Attacks in Lebanon: Hagari also said that “in the north during the night, the warplanes attacked in Lebanon and destroyed the infrastructure of the terrorist organization Hezbollah.”

There has been continual crossfire since October 7 between the IDF and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group that dominates southern Lebanon, along the Israel-Lebanon border.

“The policy is clear: we will attack in any response to any attempted attack and eliminate any cell that tries to penetrate or shoot towards the territory of the state of Israel. IDF forces are at a very, very high level of readiness,” Hagari continued.