October 16, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Tara Subramaniam, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Christian Edwards, Dakin Andone, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Zoe Sottile, Amir Vera and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 4:21 AM ET, Tue October 17, 2023
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3:59 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

Israel denies reports of plans to open Rafah border crossing

From CNN’s Amir Tal in Jerusalem

Palestinians gather outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the hope of getting permission to leave Gaza on Monday.
Palestinians gather outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the hope of getting permission to leave Gaza on Monday. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

The Israeli prime minister’s office has denied there are any arrangements for the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. 

"At the moment there is neither a ceasefire nor humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip in return for the exit of foreigners," the office told CNN around 9:45 a.m. local time.

Hamas also issued a statement noting it had not received confirmation from Egypt about the possible opening of the Rafah border crossing.

A security alert from the US Embassy in Jerusalem earlier on Monday cited media reports saying the Rafah crossing will open at 9 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) on October 16.

“We anticipate that the situation at the Rafah crossing will remain fluid and unpredictable and it is unclear whether, or for how long, travelers will be permitted to transit the crossing,” the embassy statement said.

The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is the only remaining outlet for supplies, but it has been closed for much of the past week, with neither Gazans nor foreign nationals able to cross. Tons of vital humanitarian supplies for people in Gaza have been piling up on the Egyptian side of the border.

2:48 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

Hamas has not received a notification about possible opening of Rafah border crossing, official says

From CNN's Abeer Salman and Tim Lister

Hamas has not yet received confirmation from Egypt about the possible opening of the Rafah border crossing, the Palestinian militant group said in a statement Monday. 

“Until this moment, we have not received any contacts or confirmations from the Egyptian authorities regarding the intention to open the Rafah crossing today. All the information being circulated in this regard is attributed to Israeli media outlets," said Salama Marouf, head of the government media office.

A security alert from the US Embassy in Jerusalem cited media reports saying the Rafah crossing will open at 9 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) on October 16.

“We anticipate that the situation at the Rafah crossing will remain fluid and unpredictable and it is unclear whether, or for how long, travelers will be permitted to transit the crossing,” the embassy statement said.

It’s unclear whether the border opened at the anticipated time. CNN has reached out to Palestinian officials at the border crossing. 

The Secretary General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said WHO’s planeload of medical supplies arrived near Rafah on Saturday “and we are working with partners to transport them into Gaza today if at all possible. Many civilians are in serious need.”

The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is the only remaining outlet for supplies, but the crossing has been closed for much of the past week, with neither Gazans nor foreign nationals able to cross. Tons of vital humanitarian supplies for people in Gaza have been piling up on the Egyptian side of the border.

3:23 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

Pakistan's prime minister calls for ceasefire in Gaza amid nationwide pro-Palestinian rallies

From CNN's Sophia Saifi

As tens of thousands of Pakistanis demonstrated against Israel’s military strikes in Gaza over the weekend, the country's interim Prime Minister, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, on Monday called for “an immediate ceasefire and lifting of the blockade in Gaza."

Kakar expressed his deep concern over the "ongoing violence and loss of life in Gaza” in a statement posted to "X," formerly Twitter, on Monday.

He also accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, calling it a “manifest violation of international law.”

“The breakout of violence needs to be seen in the context of years of forced and illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and repressive policies against its people,” Kakar added.

During a news briefing on Sunday, caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani called the situation in Gaza “a genocide conducted by Israel against the poor people of Palestine.” Jilani will attend an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Executive Committee on October 18 to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Sunday.

Both ministers' statements came after a weekend of pro-Palestinian rallies across Pakistan, including in the north-western city of Peshawar on Saturday, where former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal addressed thousands of supporters of the Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan via video link.

2:10 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

Israeli airstrike kills 5 rescuers in Gaza, Palestinian interior ministry says

From CNN's Eyad Kourdi

Five rescuers from civil defense teams were killed after a "direct” Israeli airstrike, the Palestinian Ministry of Interior Affairs said Monday. 

Several others are injured, two of whom are in critical condition, according to a Palestinian Ministry of Interior Affairs statement published Monday morning. 

The airstrike hit the Civil Defense headquarters in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood, east of Gaza City, the ministry added. 

CNN has reached out to the Israel Defense Forces for comment.

2:16 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

US working to get assistance into Gaza, Secretary of State Blinken says

From CNN's Tim Lister

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the press before leaving Cairo on Sunday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the press before leaving Cairo on Sunday. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/Reeuters

The United States is “actively working” to ensure that humanitarian assistance can get into Gaza, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday.

In a short message on "X", formerly Twitter, Blinken wrote: “We stand with Israel as it defends itself. The United States is also actively working to ensure the people of Gaza can get out of harm’s way and the assistance they need — food, water, medicine — can get in. Hamas does not care if Palestinians suffer.”

Gaza is facing a critical humanitarian crisis, with shortages of water, electricity, food, fuel and medicine. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the only remaining outlet for supplies, has been closed for much of the past week.  Tons of vital humanitarian supplies for people in Gaza have been piling up on the Egyptian side of the border.

Some background: Half a million residents have left northern Gaza for the south, according to Israel, as it gears up for the next stages of its war. More than 2,600 people have died in Israeli airstrikes over the past week, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The enclave is a narrow strip of land, only about 25 miles long and seven miles wide — just over twice the size of Washington DC. To its west lies the Mediterranean Sea, to its north and east is Israel, and Egypt is to its south. It is one of two Palestinian territories, the other being the larger, Israeli-occupied West Bank, which borders Jordan.

Around 2 million people are crammed into the 140-square-mile territory. The overwhelming majority of people are young, with 50% of the population under the age of 18, according to the World Health Organization.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said Sunday that Gaza is rapidly running out of water and electricity, and the population faces severe shortages of food and medicine.

"Gaza is being strangled and it seems that the world right now has lost its humanity. If we look at the issue of water — we all know water is life — Gaza is running out of water, and Gaza is running out of life,” Lazzarini said.

1:52 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

"My life is not worth it without my family.” Gazans stuck outside enclave fear for their families

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Abeer Salman, Wisam Jafari, Jeremy Diamond and Matthias Somm

The men in the wedding hall at the Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank spend most of their days and nights glued to their phones, smoking and constantly refreshing their news feeds. They look exhausted, the horrors of the last few days clearly visible on their faces.

These 180 men – they are all men – are refugees from Gaza. They are among the roughly 18,000 residents of the enclave who have Israeli work permits and are allowed to cross the border back and forth. When the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shut all access to Gaza following Hamas’ deadly attack last Saturday, these men became stuck.

Their wives and children are still in Khan Younis, a town in southern Gaza that is now the epicenter of its own rapidly unfolding refugee crisis, with no way of getting out.

The IDF has been relentlessly pounding Gaza with airstrikes and artillery after Hamas fighters staged a terror attack and launched thousands of rockets that so far have killed at least 1,400 people. The terror group also kidnapped some 150 others on October 7 during the unprecedented rampage.

Israel’s military says its goal is to destroy Hamas and ensure it can never again carry out such an attack. But the civilian toll of the campaign has been immense. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said 2,450 have been killed in the past eight days, which is more than during the entire 2014 war, which lasted 51 days. 

Ismail Abd Almagid’s wife and five children – four girls and one boy – are in Gaza while he is staying in the refugee camp. He has videos of all of them on his phone. One shows his young daughter Misk eating a piece of mango. When he plays the clip, tears start streaming down his face.

Tala, his second-oldest daughter, was injured in the 2014 war when the family was staying at his parents’ house. “She loves roller skates, so I told her I’ll bring them when I come back,” he said.

Abd Almagid, 44, told CNN he tries to keep in touch with his wife at all times, but communication has been difficult since Israel cut off Gaza’s access to electricity, food and water.

“My children are telling me to pray for them. The situation is very difficult over there,” he said. “I’d go back (to Gaza) right now … even with everything that’s going on, take me to Gaza, I will go with you right now … my life is not worth it without my family.”

Right now a huge population shift is underway in Gaza, with hundreds of thousands heading south, many heading to the overcrowded streets of Khan Younis.

Read more about the Gazans stuck outside the enclave

1:28 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

"Gaza is being strangled," UN relief agency head says

From CNN's Ben Wedeman and Hamdi Alkhshali

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, addressed the dire situation in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, highlighting the critical humanitarian crisis. Lazzarini emphasized Gaza is rapidly running out of water and electricity, and the population faces severe shortages of food and medicine.

“Gaza is being strangled and it seems that the world right now has lost its humanity. If we look at the issue of water — we all know water is life — Gaza is running out of water, and Gaza is running out of life,” Lazzarini said.

Asked by a journalist during a news conference about the restoration of water in the southern Gaza, Lazzarini said:

"We haven't been able yet to confirm. My understanding is that if there is restoration of the water, it would primarily impact Khan Younis or half of Khan Younis. So, it would not cover to south of Khan Younis or the people in Rafah. But again, this is a report that we need to confirm. And for the time being our colleagues on the ground are not able to confirm this information."

He described an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe with thousands seeking shelter in UNRWA facilities, while resources are stretched to the limit. “The number of people seeking shelter in our schools and other UNRWA facilities in the south is absolutely overwhelming, and we do not have, anymore, the capacity to deal with them,” he added.

Lazzarini noted the blockade, which he said started 16 years before the recent conflict, had already placed a significant burden on the population, with more than 60% relying on international food assistance.

According to UNRWA, 14 of its staff members have been killed, and many others are displaced or affected by the ongoing crisis, Lazzarini said.

He called for an immediate end to the hostilities to prevent further loss of life, the lifting of the siege, and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to provide essential supplies such as fuel, water, food, and medicine.

The commissioner general stressed the importance of upholding international humanitarian law, emphasizing all wars must abide by its principles.

12:48 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

What to know about Gaza, the crowded Palestinian enclave falling deeper into a humanitarian crisis

From CNN's Laura Paddison

Internally displaced Palestinians take refuge at a United Nations school, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Sunday.
Internally displaced Palestinians take refuge at a United Nations school, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Sunday. Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/AP

Israel is gearing up for the next stage of its war on Hamas, following the Palestinian militant group’s brutal October 7 attacks that killed 1,400 people.

Following a week of unprecedented airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which have killed more than 2,600 people, Israel is massing troops and military equipment on its border with the Hamas-controlled enclave. It has warned some 1.1 million people in the northern half of the strip to evacuate, according to the United Nations.

As Israel prepares for a ground offensive into Gaza, here’s what you need to know about the 140 square-mile territory — one of the most densely-populated areas on Earth.

  • What is Gaza? Gaza is a narrow strip of land, only about 25 miles long and seven miles wide — just over twice the size of Washington DC. To its west lies the Mediterranean Sea, to its north and east is Israel, and Egypt is to its south. It is one of two Palestinian territories, the other being the larger, Israeli-occupied West Bank, which borders Jordan.
  • Who lives there? Around 2 million people are crammed into the 140-square-mile territory. The overwhelming majority of people are young, with 50% of the population under the age of 18, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly all Gazans — 98-99% — are Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook, with most of the rest Christians. More than 1 million of Gaza’s residents are refugees, with eight recognized Palestinian refugee camps, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
  • Hamas has held the territory for years: In 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections — the last polls to be held in Gaza. Hamas is an Islamist organization with a military wing that formed in 1987, emerging out of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group that was founded in the late 1920s in Egypt. The group considers Israel to be an illegitimate state and an occupying power in Gaza. Unlike other Palestinian groups, such as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas refuses to engage with Israel. The group has claimed responsibility for many attacks on Israel over the years and has been designated as a terrorist organization by countries including the United States, the European Union and Israel. The last war between Hamas and Israel was in 2021, which lasted for 11 days and killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
  • Israel's blockade: Despite Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, since 2007 it has maintained tight control over the territory through a land, air and sea blockade. For nearly 17 years, Gaza has been almost totally cut off from the rest of the world, with severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people. The blockade has been fiercely criticized by international bodies including the UN, which said in a 2022 report that restrictions have had a “profound impact” on living conditions in Gaza and have “undermined Gaza’s economy, resulting in high unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency.” Israel has said the blockade is vital to protect its citizens from Hamas.

Read more about Gaza.

12:02 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023

It's morning in Israel and Gaza. Catch up on the latest headlines here

From CNN staff

Conditions in Gaza have deteriorated dangerously, experts say, with serious shortages of clean water and food as tens of thousands of Palestinians attempt to flee crippling airstrikes and an Israeli ground offensive.

About half a million people have left northern Gaza for the south following Israel's evacuation notice on Friday, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said Sunday.

The estimate represents roughly half the population of northern Gaza, where the IDF is gearing up for the next stages of its war with Hamas, which controls the territory.

Israel launched its offensive in response to devastating Hamas terror attacks that killed 1,400 people on October 14.

In his first clear denouncement of Hamas' attacks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the militant group's actions "do not represent the Palestinian people."

Here's what else you need to know:

  • Next stages: Israel has been signaling it is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza, even as a humanitarian crisis grows inside the coastal Palestinian enclave. Israel’s military said Saturday its forces are readying for the next stages of the war, including “combined and coordinated strikes from the air, sea and land.” More than 2,600 people have died as Israel pounds Gaza with strikes, the Palestinian health ministry said.
  • Crossing "will be open": Israel has closed its two border crossings with Gaza and imposed a “complete siege” on the territory, blocking supplies of fuel, electricity and water. That has left the Rafah crossing with Egypt as the only viable outlet to get people out of the enclave — and supplies into it. On Monday, the US embassy said desperate residents hoping to exit Gaza via Rafah may receive "very little notice" if it opens. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that "Rafah will be open" after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
  • Humanitarian crisis: Shelters in southern Gaza are overloaded, with shortages of crucial supplies, as tens of thousands of people flee from Israeli airstrikes in the north, a UN official said. "There aren’t shelters available in the south in terms of the numbers that are coming," UN coordinator Lynn Hastings told UNTV. Southern Gaza is also experiencing shortages of food, water and fuel, she said.

  • Biden's warning: US President Joe Biden warned Israel against occupying Gaza in one of his most notable public calls for restraint. In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Biden said it would be a “big mistake” for Israel to occupy Gaza. Later Sunday, Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told CNN Israel "has no interest" in occupying Gaza but will do "whatever is needed" to eliminate Hamas.
  • Fears of regional conflict: The Pentagon has ordered a second carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and is sending Air Force fighter jets to the region, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday. On Sunday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned of the risk of a wider regional conflict, telling CBS's "Face the Nation" the US' move was "a very clear message of deterrence to any state or any actor that would seek to exploit this situation."
  • Beijing's stance: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday reiterated Beijing’s support for an independent Palestinian state as a way out of the conflict. In a phone call with his Iranian counterpart, Wang presented China as a peace broker, saying Beijing would “stand on the side of peace and justice and to support the Palestinian people in their just cause of safeguarding their national rights.”
  • Protests in Europe: Large-scale demonstrations in support of Palestinians took place around Europe over the weekend, including in London, Amsterdam and Switzerland. As the conflict reaches unprecedented heights, protests in support of both Israelis and Palestinians have been seen around the world — some resulting in violent clashes.