December 22, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Matt Meyer and Chris Lau, CNN

Updated 12:07 AM ET, Sat December 23, 2023
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9:58 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

Israel indicates it’s widening military operation in Gaza ahead of expected UN Security Council vote

From CNN's Abeer Salman, Sugam Pokharel and Lauren Izso

Smoke rises from an area hit during Israeli attacks in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on December 20.
Smoke rises from an area hit during Israeli attacks in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on December 20. (Ashraf Amra/Anadolu/Getty Images)

Israel indicated Friday that it is widening its military operation in Gaza as the United States says it is ready to support a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for suspension of fighting and increase in aid to the besieged enclave.

The Israel Defense Forces on Friday ordered the residents of the Al-Bureij refugee camp in Deir al-Balah and several other areas in central Gaza to move to shelters for safety, signaling a new focus of the ground offensive.

The military operation had so far been largely focused on northern Gaza and parts of the southern side of the strip. 

Israeli military officials have said they believe they are close to defeating Hamas militants in Jabalya and Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, Hamas’ last remaining strongholds in northern Gaza.

Shortly after the warning on Friday, an Israeli airstrike hit the Al-Bureij refugee camp, a hospital spokesperson said.  

At least three people were killed, and 10 others injured after the airstrike hit the camp, Dr. Khalil Al Daqran, a spokesperson at the Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, told CNN.  

UN resolution: Meanwhile, the much-delayed vote on Gaza in the UN Security Council is expected Friday after US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was ready to support a resolution calling for an increase in aid to the strip.  

Language calling for “urgent steps” to lay the groundwork “for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” was instrumental in the United States’ decision to support the resolution, a source told CNN. Negotiations have dragged on throughout the week as diplomats worked behind closed doors on the language.

The language of the now reads “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” according to the source.

It comes as the death toll in Gaza surpassed 20,000 since October 7, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah said Friday.

The risk of famine in the Palestinian enclave is increasing every day that hostilities persist, a UN-backed food security agency has warned, as the World Health Organization said no hospitals are functioning in northern Gaza and the strip's entire health care system is "on its knees." 

CNN’s Michael Rios, Priscilla Alvarez, Donald Judd and Alex Marquardt contributed previous reporting to this post.  

11:36 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

UN Security Council resolution for more aid into Gaza softened as US says it will support it

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Donald Judd and Alex Marquardt

Members of the United Nations Security Council hold sideline meetings as they take a break at the UN headquarters in New York on December 19.
Members of the United Nations Security Council hold sideline meetings as they take a break at the UN headquarters in New York on December 19. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

A United Nations Security Council resolution on suspending fighting between Israel and Hamas and allowing more aid into Gaza has been softened, according to a source familiar with the text, as the United States says it’s ready to support it. 

The UN is poised to vote Friday on the resolution, with a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET.

Language calling for “urgent steps” to lay the ground “for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” was instrumental in the United States’ decision to support a resolution from the United Nations Security Council, increasing the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza while calling for a halt in hostilities.

The language of the text has been replaced with “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” according to the source. 

A diplomatic source previously told CNN that key issues with the negotiations over the draft included language on the “cessation of hostilities” and a call for the UN to “establish a monitoring mechanism in the Gaza Strip with the necessary personnel and equipment, under the authority of the United Nations Secretary-General.”

Diplomats had been working behind closed doors to finalize a resolution drafted by the United Arab Emirates. A US official familiar with the discussions said the draft had started with calling for an “urgent cessation” of hostilities. Neither the United States nor Israel currently supports a ceasefire, so the US countered with “a more passive formulation,” the official said, describing the language that ended up in the resolution.

“Israel is aware and can live with it,” the official added, while arguing it was not the language on the cessation of hostilities that caused the delays but rather the disagreements over the monitoring mechanism.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced late Thursday that the US would support the measure after previously voting four times to delay a vote on the resolution.

8:25 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

Israeli-American hostage has died while being held captive in Gaza

From CNN's Lauren Izso

Gadi Haggai.
Gadi Haggai. (Florian Poitout/Abaca/Sipa)

73-year-old Gadi Haggai, an Israeli-American dual national and hostage who was kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, has died while being held captive in Gaza, the Missing Persons Families Forum said in a statement released Friday.

His body is still being held in Gaza, according to the Forum.

"Gadi was a man full of humor who knew how to make those around him laugh. A musician at heart, a gifted flautist, he played in the IDF Orchestra and was involved with music his whole life," the statement added.

Haggai had been out on a walk on the morning of October 7 with his wife, Judi, when he was shot at and "critically Injured," the statement added.

His wife is still being held captive by Hamas.

"We share in the profound grief of the Haggai family," the statement added.

9:50 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

Palestinian head of key Israel-Gaza border crossing killed in Israeli strike, Gaza official says  

From CNN's Abeer Salman, Jeremy Diamond, Elizabeth Joseph and Sugam Pokharel   

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid arrive from Egypt at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with southern Gaza on December 22.
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid arrive from Egypt at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with southern Gaza on December 22. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

The director of the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, a key border crossing between Israel and Gaza that was recently reopened for the entry of aid into the Palestinian enclave, was killed in an Israeli strike on Thursday, a Gazan border official told CNN. 

Bassam Ghaben and three other employees were killed after being hit by an Israeli drone strike, the official said.  

The Israeli military said on Friday that it “struck armed terrorists near” the crossing and that the incident is under review.  

“The IDF attacked Hamas militants with weapons that came and approached to our border and to this crossing, period," Col. Moshe Tetro, a senior Israeli defense ministry official with responsibilities for Gaza, told CNN Friday. 

He declined to answer, when pressed by CNN, on whether the reported militants presented an imminent threat. "I think that I gave a very clear answer. We attacked militants with weapons," he said.  

Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, said on Thursday that delivery operations at the crossing were temporarily suspended after the reported strike and that the UN believes the aid deliveries have now resumed. A CNN team on the ground on the Israeli side of the crossing witnessed aid trucks heading into Israel from Egypt and getting checked at Kerem Shalom — and appeared to be heading into Gaza. 

6:02 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

Israel struck some areas it directed civilians to in Gaza, CNN analysis shows

From CNN's Jake Tacchi

Israel has struck at least three locations in Gaza to which it had ordered civilians to evacuate since the breakdown of a fragile truce between Israel and Hamas earlier this month, CNN analysis has found.

On December 1, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released a map of Gaza – divided into 623 numbered blocks – indicating areas the military would imminently strike, and areas to which civilians should flee. It was made accessible online via a QR code printed on leaflets dropped over the strip.

The map, a vestige of the short-lived plan from the 1970s to rebuild Gaza in the early years of Israel’s occupation of the coastal strip, was described by the IDF as “a safe way to preserve your security, your lives, and the lives of your families.”

Residents of Gaza are told to “please pay attention and check this map,” while following “instructions of the IDF through various media outlets.”

However, CNN analysis shows that IDF instructions have – at times – been imprecise and confusing. Regular IDF updates highlight numbered blocks in orange, urging citizens to evacuate these locations, and move to other areas labeled on the map. But some of the messaging has been contradictory and concerns have also been raised over Palestinians’ capacity to access the information due to power and telecommunication outages.

Read the full story here.

1:48 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

Israel dropped hundreds of 2,000-pound bombs on Gaza, analysis shows

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi, Allegra Goodwin, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Nima Elbagir 

In the first month of its war in Gaza, Israel dropped hundreds of massive bombs, many of them capable of killing or wounding people more than 1,000 feet away, analysis by CNN and artificial intelligence company Synthetaic suggests.

Satellite imagery from those early days of the war reveals more than 500 impact craters over 12 meters (40 feet) in diameter, consistent with those left behind by 2,000-pound bombs. Those are four times heavier than the largest bombs the United States dropped on ISIS in Mosul, Iraq, during the war against the extremist group there.

Weapons and warfare experts blame the extensive use of heavy munitions such as the 2,000-pound bomb for the soaring death toll. The population of Gaza is packed together much more tightly than almost anywhere else on earth, so the use of such heavy munitions has a profound effect.

“The use of 2,000-pound bombs in an area as densely populated as Gaza means it will take decades for communities to recover,” said John Chappell, advocacy and legal fellow at CIVIC, a DC-based group focused on minimizing civilian harm in conflict.

Israel has come under pressure internationally over the scale of the devastation in Gaza, with even staunch ally US President Joe Biden accusing Israel of “indiscriminate bombing” of the coastal strip.

Israeli officials have argued that its heavy munitions are necessary to eliminating Hamas, whose fighters killed more than 1,200 people and took more than 240 hostages on October 7. They also claim that Israel is doing all it can to minimize civilian casualties.

Read the full report:

1:40 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

US ready to vote at UN as Gaza death toll rises and report warns of famine risk. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

A much-delayed vote on Gaza is expected Friday at the UN Security Council after US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was ready to support a resolution calling for an increase in aid to the strip. 

The resolution will bring humanitarian assistance and support “the priority that Egypt has in ensuring that we put a mechanism on the ground that will support humanitarian assistance,” she said Thursday.

It comes as the death toll in Gaza topped 20,000 since October 7, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in the strip.

The risk of famine in the Palestinian enclave is increasing every day that hostilities persist, a UN-backed food security agency has warned, as the World Health Organization said no hospitals are functioning in northern Gaza and the strip's entire health care system is "on its knees."

Here's what you need to know:

  • Famine risk: The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization expressed “deep concerns” over the rapidly worsening food security situation in Gaza. Nearly all of the enclave's 2.2 million residents are now facing acute hunger, according to a report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification released Thursday, which warned of the risk of famine if hostilities persist.  
  • "Unbearable" scenes: Northern Gaza no longer has a functioning hospital, the World Health Organization said Thursday, detailing "unbearable" scenes teams observed during a recent mission. "Patients were crying out in pain but they were also crying out for us to give them water," said Sean Casey, who led the missions. "It's pretty unbearable to see somebody with you know, casts on multiple limbs, external fixators on multiple limbs who are just asking for drinking water."
  • Hostages latest: Israel’s most recent proposal to Hamas is a one-week pause in the war for the return of around 35 hostages, including the remaining women, elderly, wounded and sick men held in Gaza, a senior US official told CNN. Hamas said Thursday that Palestinian factions will not agree to any talks about prisoner swaps until after Israel ends its military campaign.

  • On the ground: Israeli forces have established "operational control" over Shejaiya after days of intense fighting in the Gaza City neighborhood, the Israel Defense Forces claimed. IDF troops will maintain control and continue operating there based on operational needs, the military said. Meanwhile, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari claimed Israeli forces have killed "over 2,000 terrorists" in ground operations this month. Hagari also said the IDF destroyed a "strategic terror tunnel network" in Gaza City. CNN cannot independently verify the claims. 
  • Next phase: Without providing a timeline, the White House said Israel has assured the US of its plans to pivot to a lower-intensity operation in Gaza as its objectives shift. “The Israelis say they recognize the need to transition to a different phase of fighting,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.
  • Border fire: There were fresh exchanges of fire between the Israeli military and Iran-backed Hezbollah militants across the Lebanon-Israel border on Thursday. An elderly woman was killed in her home as a result of an Israeli strike on Maroun al-Ras in southern Lebanon, the country's National News Agency reported.
1:02 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

Gaza death toll surpasses 20,000, Hamas-controlled health ministry says

From CNN’s Kareem El Damanhoury

Smoke rises over northern Gaza, as seen from Israel on December 21.
Smoke rises over northern Gaza, as seen from Israel on December 21.  Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The number of people killed in Gaza since October 7 has risen to 20,057, according to a statement from the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the strip on Friday.

A total of 53,320 people have also been wounded in the conflict, it said.

CNN cannot independently verify the numbers.

The ministry said 390 people died in the past 48 hours while communication networks had been offline across much of the territory.

On Thursday night, telecom provider Paltel said in a statement that services in central and southern Gaza were gradually coming back online after being disrupted due to Israeli bombardment.

12:49 a.m. ET, December 22, 2023

Gaza faces increasing risk of famine, report by food security agency finds

From CNN’s Michael Rios

Palestinians receive food and humanitarian aid in Rafah, Gaza on December 19.
Palestinians receive food and humanitarian aid in Rafah, Gaza on December 19. Abed Zagout/Anadolu/Getty Images

The risk of famine in Gaza is increasing every day that hostilities persist or worsen, according to a report released Thursday by a United Nations-backed food security agency.

In its report on the ravaged enclave, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) said though acute malnutrition and non-trauma-related mortality have not crossed famine thresholds yet, "these are typically the outcomes of prolonged and extreme food consumption gaps."

“The intensification of the hostilities, further reduction in access to food, basic services, and lifesaving assistance, and the extreme concentration or isolation of people in inadequate shelters or areas without basic services are major factors that contribute to increasing this risk,” IPC reported. 

It added that hostilities — including bombardment, military ground operations and the besiegement of Gaza’s entire 2.2 million population — have already caused catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity across the territory.

The report said virtually all households in Gaza are skipping meals, with four in five northern households and about half the displaced households in the south going entire days without eating. 

“Many adults go hungry so children can eat,” IPC reported, saying humanitarian access must be restored throughout the region to enable the rapid delivery of life-saving aid. 

According to the report, the entire population of Gaza is classified in a state of crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

“This is the highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that the IPC initiative has ever classified for any given area or country,” the report states.

At least 79% of Gaza’s population is classified as being in a state of emergency (IPC Phase 4) or catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), according to the report.

The classification indicates that more than half a million people are experiencing catastrophic acute food insecurity conditions, marked by extreme food shortages, alarming rates of acute malnutrition in children under 5, and a significant rise in mortality rates.