October 14, 2023 Israel-Hamas war news

By Kathleen Magramo, Andrew Raine, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sana Noor Haq, Peter Wilkinson, Tori B. Powell, Kaanita Iyer and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:12 AM ET, Sun October 15, 2023
7 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
2:12 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

Israel denies using white phosphorus in Gaza and Lebanon after Human Rights Watch claim

From CNN Staff

Israel is denying claims it used white phosphorus munitions after the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israeli forces of using them during military operations in Gaza and Lebanon this week.

According to a HRW report published Wednesday, the rights group said it verified one video taken on October 10 in Lebanon and another video in Gaza on October 11 that it claims shows "multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border."

White phosphorus is intended to provide illumination or to create a smokescreen in battle, but it is known to burn flesh down to the bone, according to earlier CNN reporting.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza on Friday reported the evacuation of Durra children's hospital in eastern Gaza after they said it was targeted by "white phosphorus bombs," according to Dr. Ashraf Alquedra, ministry spokesperson. 

Asked if Israeli forces had used white phosphorus this week in Gaza and Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces strongly denied the claims. In a live interview earlier on Friday, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN “categorically, no," it had not.

HRW said it interviewed two individuals from the al-Mina area in Gaza City, who described seeing strikes “consistent with the use of white phosphorus" and "both described ongoing airstrikes before seeing explosions in the sky followed by what they described as white lines going earthward,” they said.

The rights group said it reviewed the video and confirmed that it was taken in the port of Gaza City and “identified that the munitions used in the strike were airburst 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles. Other videos posted to social media and verified by Human Rights Watch show the same location," the group said. "Dense white smoke and a garlic smell are characteristics of white phosphorus,” the statement said. 

The rights group also reviewed two videos on October 10 that occurred near the Israel-Lebanon border. “Each show 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles being used, apparently as smokescreens, marking, or signaling,” the release explained. 

CNN has reached out for comment to authorities in Lebanon.

Is white phosphorus illegal? Under an international protocol ratified by Israel in 1995, the use of such incendiary weapons is allowed when "not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons," CNN previously reported.

There is no prohibition, per se, against white phosphorus in conflict. But the timing and location of its use are restricted.

For example, it is illegal under the protocol to use white phosphorus against any personnel, civilian or military. It can be directed only against military targets. International law says incendiary weapons cannot be used where civilians are concentrated.

Israel's history with white phosphorus: Israel previously faced widespread criticism for firing white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas during a Gaza offensive that began in late 2008. HRW said in a 2009 report that Israel's white phosphorus munitions had killed and injured civilians and damaged civilian structures, including including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse, and a hospital. HRW claimed that Israel's use of the weapons in crowded neighborhoods "violated international humanitarian law (the laws of war), which requires taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm and prohibits indiscriminate attacks."

In response, the nation pledged to limit the use of white phosphorus and make greater efforts to protect civilians during conflicts. Still, the government said that it had used white phosphorus lawfully.

11:58 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

US officials believe Israel was complacent and failed to recognize signs of Hamas' operation

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Zachary Cohen, Alex Marquardt and Natasha Bertrand

US officials and lawmakers are generally coming to believe that Israel’s failure to predict the explosion of simmering rage from Gaza was primarily due to a lack of imagination, according to conversations with dozens of current and former intelligence, military and congressional officials.

Hamas likely hid the planning of the operation through old-fashioned counterintelligence measures such as conducting planning meetings in person and staying off digital communications whose signals the Israelis can track. But US officials also believe Israel had become complacent about the threat Hamas posed and failed to recognize key indicators that the group was planning for a large-scale operation.

For example, Israeli officials failed to recognize routine Hamas training exercises as a sign that the group was preparing an imminent attack. The militants trained for the onslaught in at least six sites across Gaza, a CNN investigation found, including at one site less than a mile from Israel’s border.

“There were numerous indicators of a change in posture generally by Hamas and then pivoting both in public rhetoric and posture more towards violence and attacks generally,” said one source familiar with US intelligence.  

In general, the Biden administration’s public posture in the lead up to the attack also did not reflect a heightened sense of alarm about the potential for violence. The intelligence community’s annual assessment of worldwide threats, released in February, does not mention Hamas. 

“The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades,” national security advisor Jake Sullivan said at The Atlantic Festival on Sept. 29.

“Challenges remain,” Sullivan said, citing “tensions" between Israelis and Palestinians. “But the amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced.”

Hamas had refrained from entering two smaller cross-border skirmishes within the last year between another Palestinian militant group and Israel. Israel believed that its policy of offering work permits to Gazans and allowed Qatari money into the country had given Hamas something to lose — and lulled the group into quiescence. 

“Hamas is very, very restrained and understands the implications of further defiance,” Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s national security adviser, told an Israeli radio channel six days before the assault.

It’s also possible that the Hamas operation was more successful than the group anticipated, one former intelligence official and another source familiar with current intelligence said. 

“I think that it’s very possible, if not probable, that Hamas vastly exceeded its own expectations,” the second person said. “They thought, 'We would mount this assault and there would be a couple dozen killed,' but never did they think it would rise to the level it did.”

11:58 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

BBC says 3 of its journalists were assaulted and held at gunpoint by Israeli police

From CNN's Oliver Darcy

A group of BBC journalists covering Israel’s war with Hamas were held at gunpoint and assaulted by Israeli police in Tel Aviv Thursday night, according to the network.

The disturbing incident came as the team of three journalists drove to their hotel in a vehicle "clearly marked as media," the British news network said. 

The BBC said that the team was “dragged from their vehicle,” searched, and pushed up against a wall during the stop. One of its journalists said that when he tried to film the incident, an officer threw his phone to the ground.

"Journalists must be able to report on the conflict in Israel-Gaza freely," a BBC spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNN.

An Israeli police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident came as Israel faces questions after firing artillery into southern Lebanon on Friday, killing Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and injuring six other journalists.

In that instance, the journalists were wearing jackets identifying themselves as members of the press. The Israel Defense Forces acknowledged firing artillery into Lebanon on Friday but did not respond to additional questions specifically related to the victims.

12:13 p.m. ET, October 14, 2023

The UN says Israel's call to evacuate northern Gaza is "impossible." Here's the area in question

Israel's military has told the entire population of northern Gaza to evacuate — a task the United Nations said Thursday is "impossible" without causing major humanitarian consequences.

The Israeli military told the UN just before midnight local time Thursday that "the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza," according to Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN Secretary General.

That amounts to roughly 1.1 million people in the densely populated territory.

The map below shows the affected area:

11:58 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

This is how Israel's Iron Dome defense system works

From CNN's Joshua Berlinger, Lou Robinson, Rachel Wilson and Will Mullery

As thousands of rockets have rained down on Israel, the country has been relying once again on the Iron Dome system to protect its citizens.

The missile defense system is one of the most important tools in Israel’s arsenal and has saved countless civilian lives over various conflicts in the last decade, analysts say. It is highly effective. The Israel Defense Forces said the system boasted a 95.6% success rate during a rocket salvo fired by Islamic Jihad in May.

Here's how it functions:

12:08 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

Israel cut off electricity, food, water and fuel supplies to Gaza. Here's what it looks like

After Hamas attacked Israel last Saturday, Israel responded by ordering a "complete siege," of Gaza, cutting off food, electricity, fuel and water supplies.

The UN said in a statement released Thursday that residents in Gaza "have lived under unlawful blockade for 16 years," and condemned this "further tightening" of the blockade. 

That has left people in Gaza with nowhere to go.