November 18, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Chris Lau, Andrew Raine, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Thom Poole, Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:10 AM ET, Sun November 19, 2023
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4:20 p.m. ET, November 18, 2023

Biden rejects ceasefire calls and condemns West Bank violence in op-ed

From CNN's Aileen Graef and Priscilla Alvarez

US President Joe Biden speaks at a press conference in Woodside, California, on November 15.
US President Joe Biden speaks at a press conference in Woodside, California, on November 15. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden has rejected the mounting calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying in an op-ed published Saturday that it would not achieve peace.

“As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, a cease-fire is not peace. To Hamas’s members, every cease-fire is time they exploit to rebuild their stockpile of rockets, reposition fighters and restart the killing by attacking innocents again,” he wrote in the piece for the Washington Post. “Our goal should not be simply to stop the war for today — it should be to end the war forever, break the cycle of unceasing violence, and build something stronger in Gaza and across the Middle East so that history does not keep repeating itself.”

Biden also called for Israel to respect humanitarian law and minimize the loss of civilian life, saying he counseled Israeli officials during his trip to Tel Aviv “against letting their hurt and rage mislead them into making mistakes we ourselves have made in the past.”

Biden said a two-state solution is the only solution to the enduring conflict in the region, and that, in the meantime, there should be governance under the Palestinian Authority.

“As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution," he wrote.

Eyes on the West Bank: Biden also took aim at extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank — which has been a concern among officials — saying the US is prepared to issue visa bans against the perpetrators.

"I have been emphatic with Israel’s leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable," the president wrote.

The warning came amid concerns over Israel violating the Visa Waiver Program — which allows eligible travelers to apply to enter the US without a visa, and went into effect in late October.

“I won't get into full details of our private diplomatic conversations, but we expect Israel to address those concerns,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said this week.

More background: Biden's op-ed is the latest example of efforts from the White House to remind Americans that conflicts abroad also affect US national security, as the administration’s supplemental funding request remains stalled.

Last month, the Biden administration requested more than $105 billion from Congress as part of a package it said will provide security assistance for the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. At the time, Biden made his own impassioned plea for the funding in a primetime Oval Office address to the nation, calling the moment “an inflection point” in American history.

The president closed with condemning the rising antisemitism and Islamophobia since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began.

3:46 p.m. ET, November 18, 2023

There is no deal on release of hostages, Netanyahu says 

From CNN’s Michael Rios

People look at photographs of hostages captured by Hamas posted on a wall in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 13.
People look at photographs of hostages captured by Hamas posted on a wall in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 13. Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there is still no deal to release some of the hostages captured by Hamas during the militant group's October 7 attacks.

Netanyahu denied what he called false reports that Israel was considering a proposal for the release of at least 50 abductees. When the government has something to say, authorities will report it, he said.

The Israel Defense Forces said Friday that the military’s official estimate of hostages being held in Gaza is 237. 

Netanyahu said he has invited the representatives of the hostages’ families to a meeting with Israel’s war cabinet later this week.

On fuel tankers: The prime minister also defended the war cabinet’s decision to allow two fuel tankers to enter Gaza daily after several Israeli officials criticized the move.

He said the tankers will supply a minimal emergency amount of fuel to operate water and sewage pumps in Gaza. He also denied that the move was a change of policy, saying instead that it was a specific and limited solution to prevent diseases.

3:42 p.m. ET, November 18, 2023

Hundreds of foreign nationals exit Gaza through the Rafah crossing, administration says

From CNN’s Ibrahim Dahman and Eyad Kourdi 

Six hundred seventy-four foreign nationals and nine injured Palestinians, along with 11 companions, have left Gaza for Egypt through the Rafah crossing Saturday, according to a statement by the Rafah crossing administration.

In addition, 50 trucks made their way into Gaza, including fuel trucks delivering 127,000 liters of fuel designated for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the statement added. 

Remember: Rafah is the only crossing in and out of Gaza that is not controlled by Israel, making it the sole option for foreigners trying to leave the besieged enclave.

Waves of foreign nationals have begun to escape the war-torn territory, alongside a limited number of wounded Palestinians, after spending weeks stuck in Gaza.

3:13 p.m. ET, November 18, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces battles on all fronts after 6 weeks of war

From CNN's Tara John

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 28. 
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 28.  Abir Sultan/Pool/Reuters

Winds have been shifting against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s war in Gaza drags past its sixth week.

Multiple opinion polls suggest national favor toward Netanyahu and his governing coalition is collapsing, despite continued overwhelming support in Israel for the war on Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza.

Opposition parties initially rallied behind Israel’s war effort, with National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz joining the wartime government ­­– but cracks have begun to emerge.

On Wednesday, the country’s opposition leader Yair Lapid said it was time for the six-term prime minister to resign, and called for Netanyahu’s Likud party to oust him. But Lapid did not go as far as to call for new elections, saying instead that Likud should put forward an alternative leader.

Hostage negotiations drag on: Israel, Hamas and the United States, with the Gulf state of Qatar acting as mediator, have been struggling to reach an agreement on a number of sticking points over a pause to allow for hostages to be released.

Sticking points include how many days a potential pause in fighting would last, the number of hostages that would be released, and Hamas’ demand that Israel stop flying surveillance drones over Gaza, according to several sources familiar with the talks.

Gestures to relieve pressure on the besieged enclave’s civilian population have already drawn the ire of Netanyahu’s unruly governing cabinet — which is the most right-wing in Israel’s history.

Some families have demanded that the government should consider an “everyone for everyone deal,” which was floated by Hamas. Such a deal would involve exchanging the hostages for all Palestinians currently held in Israeli prisons – some 6,630 people, according to estimates by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.

Though such a swap might cause concern in the current environment, a 2011 prisoner exchange saw kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit swapped for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Read more here on the cracks in Netanyahu's support.

1:57 p.m. ET, November 18, 2023

Satellite imagery shows crowds attempting to evacuate to southern Gaza yesterday

From CNN's Mitch McCluskey

Satellite imagery shows a large crowd of people gathered along Salah Eddin Road in Gaza on November 17.
Satellite imagery shows a large crowd of people gathered along Salah Eddin Road in Gaza on November 17. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed a large crowd of people gathered along Salah Eddin Road in Gaza on Friday morning attempting to flee south along the evacuation corridor.

Israel in the past two weeks had announced the evacuation corridor for specific times along the road, one of two north-south highways in Gaza.

Palestinians have described difficult conditions on their way to the highway. A man who did not provide his name told a CNN journalist in southern Gaza that he and his neighbors had lived through “horrifying days.”

“There is no safe place in Gaza,” he said.

“We are seven families. All of our houses are gone. Nothing is left. We couldn’t take anything – no clothes, no water, nothing. The way here was very difficult. If something falls, you are not allowed to pick it up. You are not allowed to slow down. Dead bodies everywhere,” he added.

Internally displaced: An estimated 200,000 people fled northern Gaza from November 5 to November 14 through the corridor, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

OCHA said those who have moved to the south have been grappling with "overcrowding and limited access to shelter, food and water."

12:44 p.m. ET, November 18, 2023

Here's what pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators want you to know

From CNN's Zoe Sottile, Chandelis Duster and Eric Levenson

Laura Oliverio/Rebecca Wright/CNN
Laura Oliverio/Rebecca Wright/CNN

Since October 7, large, pulsing crowds have gathered at rallies around the world, holding signs and chanting to convey their simmering frustration, outrage and fear over the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas and the resulting casualties.

CNN spoke to some demonstrators at recent pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli rallies to better understand why thousands have joined marches and what those in attendance hope to accomplish.

Here’s what they said:

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators: Elizabeth Oram, a 70-year-old nurse and adjunct lecturer, waved a Palestinian flag during a pro-Palestinian event last Friday night in New York City’s Columbus Circle, her short blonde hair falling onto the top of a white KN95 mask. She said she is a longtime supporter of Palestinian rights and had seen the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories go from “very bad to absolutely barbaric.”

“I’m 70. I need to be able to tell my grandchildren that when this happened, when a genocide happened, that I did not sit still – that I spoke out,” she said. “That’s what I need them to know.”

Sami, a 20-year-old French student at a London university, was visiting New York when he came upon the rally. He told CNN he felt inspired to stay and attend after seeing images of the violence in Gaza on social media.

“I see all the videos and the pictures, and it’s horrible – I see this every day, every time on social media, on Twitter, on Instagram,” he said. “Every day, these atrocities in front of my eyes. I feel a lot of pain for them and I want this massacre and this genocide to stop.”

Protesters criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and accused the country of apartheid and genocide, pushed for a ceasefire in Israel’s military campaign and challenged American leaders to end their support for Israel.

Pro-Israeli demonstrators: At the "March for Israel" held in DC Tuesday, Sara Blau, a student at the University of Maryland, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the face of Omer Neutra, a high school friend who was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 and is believed to be held hostage.

Blau said she wanted to join the march “to show my support for Israel. I’m a proud Zionist, a proud Jew and I wanted to be here to support my community.”

Michal and Noam Sheps, a married couple from New Jersey, said they came to show support for the hostages and for Israel.

“We’re one nation and we’re all supporting each other, and we want the hostages to be released. It’s extremely important,” Michal said. “(We’re here) for peace, for the safety of the people that are in Israel and for the hostages.”

Several of the pro-Israeli demonstrators said they had concerns about their personal safety as Jewish Americans. They pushed for Hamas to immediately release the more than 200 hostages who were taken October 7.

Read more on what other protesters had to say.

2:46 p.m. ET, November 18, 2023

Satellite images show Gaza’s Palestinian Legislative Council building partially destroyed

From CNN's Eve Brennan and Gianluca Mezzofiore in London

A satellite image shows the damaged Palestinian Legislative Council building in Gaza City, on Wednesday, November 15.
A satellite image shows the damaged Palestinian Legislative Council building in Gaza City, on Wednesday, November 15. PlanetLabs

New satellite images provided by Planet Labs show the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) building in Gaza City has been at least partially destroyed.

A satellite image from Tuesday shows the building and its adjacent park intact. But an image of the same area on Wednesday shows some rubble where the building previously stood. Additionally, the images show an area of brown sand in the location of the park.

On Monday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israeli soldiers had entered the PLC building. The minister highlighted a photo showing Israeli forces posing for a picture inside the building waving Israeli flags.

CNN has reached out to the Israeli army for confirmation it was responsible for the partial destruction of the building but has not been offered an answer.

9:41 a.m. ET, November 18, 2023

Two fuel tankers a day “far from enough” for Gaza aid operation, says UN agency

From CNN's Jo Shelley

A truck carrying fuel arrives in Rafah, Gaza, on November 15.
A truck carrying fuel arrives in Rafah, Gaza, on November 15. Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu/Getty Images

The amount of fuel Israel has agreed to allow into Gaza each day is “far from enough,” the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency said Saturday.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini said the amount approved – which Israel said Friday was two fuel tankers a day – was, “far from enough to cover the needs for desalination plants, sewage pumps, hospitals, water pumps in shelters, aid trucks, ambulances, bakeries and communications networks to work without interruption.”

It would meet “only half of the daily minimum requirements of fuel for humanitarian operations in Gaza,” Lazzarini said.

At the current rate, Lazzarini said people in Gaza would still not have enough clean drinking water, “large parts” of the enclave would “continue to be flooded with sewage” and the UN would be “forced to handle a reduced number of aid trucks crossing daily into Rafah.”

Israel’s national security advisor Tzachi Hanegbi had said on Friday the amount of fuel that would enter would be “very minimal.”

Some context: Israeli government ministers are scheduled to meet Saturday night to discuss a decision made by the emergency war cabinet to allow the daily entry of fuel trucks to Gaza.

In an interview on Israel's Channel 13 on Friday night, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he believed the decision to lift the fuel blockade, made late Thursday night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet, should be approved by the extended security cabinet.

"Personally and ideologically, I'm against the entrance of fuel [to Gaza]," Cohen said.

The UN needs 200,000 liters of fuel each day in order to “meet the minimum of our humanitarian responsibilities in Gaza,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Friday.

The lack of fuel means “communications and other essential functions such as water desalination are progressively dropping offline,” Griffiths told the General Assembly.

10:57 a.m. ET, November 18, 2023

It's early evening in Israel and Gaza. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, has become the epicenter of fighting in the besieged enclave after the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday it had launched a “precise and targeted operation against Hamas” in the complex.

While civilian buildings like hospitals are protected under international humanitarian law, they can lose their protection if used for military purposes, which can make them a legitimate target. Justifying its targeting of the hospital, the IDF said Hamas had used Al-Shifa as an “operational command center” – which Hamas called a “baseless lie.”

Israel has come under growing pressure to provide more evidence for its claims, as the humanitarian crisis inside the hospital deepens. CNN analysis of video suggests the IDF may have rearranged weaponry at Al-Shifa prior to international news crews arriving to document their findings this week.

Meanwhile, there are growing indications that a ground offensive into the southern parts of Gaza could be imminent, after the IDF said it would advance anywhere Hamas is found.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Al-Shifa evacuations: Several doctors from Al-Shifa told Al Jazeera on Saturday morning they had left the hospital after the IDF ordered them to evacuate – a claim the IDF denies. Dr. Munir Al-Bursh said the hospital director had received the order over a phone call, when he was told to evacuate the entire hospital and instruct those leaving to wave white flags or handkerchiefs. Six doctors will stay behind to take care of 120 patients who cannot move due to poor health conditions, the head of plastic surgery, Ahmed El Mokhallalati, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) Saturday.
  • Calls for investigation: Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called on Israel to grant his team access to Gaza to investigate competing claims about the Al-Shifa Hospital. Turk told CNN the situation needs an “independent international investigation because we have different narratives.” While Israel’s attack on the hospital does not necessarily breach international law, a lot rests on the accuracy of its intelligence, which has claimed Hamas is using the hospital to house a command center and military equipment. The IDF released a video showing a tunnel shaft in the grounds of Al-Shifa but is yet to offer clear evidence that the shaft has a military purpose.
  • Hostage negotiations: Hamas has demanded that Israel stop flying surveillance drones over Gaza as part of its request that Israel pause its military operations in exchange for freeing hostages held by the terrorist group, according to two Israeli officials and a third source familiar with the ongoing negotiations. While Israel could pause its military operations for as long as several days to allow for the release of scores of hostages the sources said it is unlikely to accept the drone request, since this would entail losing track of the movement of Hamas operatives. Separately, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamas Al Khalifa, said the release of hostages is a “prerequisite to a pause in hostilities.”
  • Southern offensive: Israel’s ground offensive so far has targeted the north of the Gaza Strip, and Gaza City in particular. It warned civilians last month to evacuate south of the Wadi Gaza, causing the displacement of more than a million Palestinians before IDF soldiers began their incursion into the enclave. But there are signs that the IDF may soon expand its operations southwards after spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israeli troops will advance to anywhere Hamas is found. Israel dropped leaflets across parts of southern Gaza on Wednesday, calling on civilians to evacuate and “head towards known shelters.”
  • Nova music festival: Israeli police believe at least 364 people were killed by Hamas gunmen at the Nova music festival in southern Israel on October 7, according to Israeli media – a sharp revision upwards from the previous toll of 270. Israel’s Channel 12 News said it had obtained a copy of the first police report into the attack and presented some of the report’s findings on its main news bulletin Friday evening, but did not show a copy of the report. Channel 12 News reported that 40 festival goers had been kidnapped and taken into Gaza. The music festival was the location of the highest number of deaths on October 7.