October 18, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Tara Subramaniam, Rob Picheta, Sophie Tanno, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Dakin Andone, Tori B. Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 1:49 AM ET, Thu October 19, 2023
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5:48 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden says he was "very blunt" during meeting with Israeli leaders

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

US President Joe Biden said he was “very blunt” with Israeli leaders when he met with them on Wednesday – and that he laid out the expectation that they would be “held accountable” if they didn’t allow for more assistance for people displaced by the conflict. 

“As they probably told you I was very blunt with the Israelis,” Biden told reporters on Air Force One. “Israel has been badly victimized but the truth is if they have an opportunity to relieve the suffering of people who have nowhere to go, that’s what they should do.” 
“If they don’t,” he continued, “they’ll be held accountable in ways that may be unfair.” 

Biden said his overall message to everyone was, “if you have the opportunity to alleviate pain you should do it, period.” 

“And if you don’t,” he said, “you’re going to lose credibility worldwide.”

Asked specifically what he was “blunt” with the Israelis about, Biden responded, “Everything." 

“I was very blunt on the need to support getting humanitarian aid to Gaza, and to do it quickly,” he said.

The president added that he received "no pushback" from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday when he raised humanitarian issues.

“But we’ve had a number of discussions about this,” Biden said. “Look, I don’t know what you picked up in Israel but I got no pushback. Virtually none. Let me say it again, I got no pushback.”

Biden wouldn’t go into details about attempts to get Americans and other civilians out of Gaza, but he assured that "we're going to get people out."

Later, he said he was, “hopeful we can get some Americans out as well of Gaza and I’m hopeful we can continue to work toward getting other Americans out through other means as well.”

5:40 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Report: Palestinian Authority leadership holds meeting "to confront ongoing Israeli aggression"

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Kareem Khadder

Palestinian Authority leadership held an urgent meeting Wednesday “to confront ongoing Israeli aggression” following the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital blast in Gaza City, official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

The meeting was headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the news agency reported.

During the meeting, the leadership emphasized the need to prevent the displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, which they considered a "red line" that cannot be crossed.

The leadership also underscored “the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to defend themselves” while taking into account "international legitimacy and international law," according to WAFA.

The news agency reported that the Palestinian leadership announced their intention to follow up on legal cases alleging "war crimes" that have been filed in international courts.

The leadership also resolved to work with “all concerned parties” to provide “medical relief supplies, food, water, and electricity” to the devastated areas of Gaza.  

The Palestinian leadership decided to remain in permanent session in order to follow up on developments in the situation around Gaza, WAFA reported. 

The blast at the hospital fueled fury across the region over the bloodshed in Gaza, a coastal enclave home to 2.2 million people that has been under siege by Israel for more than a week in retaliation for a large-scale terror attack carried out by Hamas in Israel on October 7.

5:17 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden will deliver a primetime speech Thursday about wars in Israel and Ukraine, White House says

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

US President Joe Biden will deliver a primetime address from the Oval Office Thursday about his country's "response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine,” the White House announced Wednesday.

The speech will be delivered at 8 p.m. ET from the Oval Office, the White House said.

5:16 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden says Egypt's Sisi agreed to allow 20 trucks of humanitarian aid through Rafah crossing

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Biden speaks to re in front of the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, onboard of Air Force One en route from Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
Biden speaks to re in front of the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, onboard of Air Force One en route from Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi agreed to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza to humanitarian aid – after US President Joe Biden spoke with the leader for more than an hour on Air Force One, the president said. 

“He agreed that what he would do is open the gate to do two things. One: let up to 20 trucks through to begin with,” Biden told reporters who were traveling with him on his way back from Israel. “My ambassador is— in Cairo now, he's going to coordinate this. He has my authority to do what is needed to get it done."

He said he’d been speaking to Sisi the whole time Air Force One was on the tarmac of Ramstein Air Force Base for a refuel. Biden was speaking just over an hour after the plane had landed. “That’s why we haven’t taken off,” he said. 

The road into Gaza had to be fixed and potholes filled before the trucks could pass, the president said. He said it would take about eight hours on Thursday to get the work done, and he expected the trucks to be rolling Friday. 

The crossing would open only to get aid in, Biden said, not for evacuations. 

“For this purpose, not to allow a lot of people out but for this purpose,” he said.  

He called it a “very blunt negotiation” with Sisi. 

“The commitment is if in fact they cross the border, the UN is going to be on the other side — and then distributing, which is going to take a little time to set up,” he said. 

He said that he’d made a commitment that “if Hamas confiscates it or doesn’t let it get through – then it’s going to end. Because we’re not going to be sending humanitarian aid to Hamas.” 

Biden called Sisi “very accommodating” and said he deserved some “real credit” for the agreement.  

5:28 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Hezbollah says it conducted 6 attacks Wednesday on Israeli military posts along the Lebanese border

From CNN’s Sarah El Sirgany and Ben Wedeman in southern Lebanon, Kevin Flower in Jerusalem and Hadas Gold in Washington

Hezbollah conducted six attacks on Israeli military posts along the Lebanese border on Wednesday using guided missiles, machine guns and 57-mm mortars, the militant group said.  

Fighters attacked an Israeli tank in el-Raheb, an observation post in Manara and military posts in other four areas, the group said. The attacks took place on the eastern and western sides of the border. 

Hezbollah claimed to have inflicted casualties on Israeli troops. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has not yet commented on the group’s claim. 

Three Hezbollah fighters were killed, the militant group said without providing further details.  

Nine rockets fired from Lebanese territory crossed into northern Israel on Wednesday, the IDF said in a statement.  

Four of the rockets were intercepted by the IDF Aerial Defense Array, it said.  

“Several launches of anti-tank missiles toward the areas of Metula, Malkia, and Manara were identified. The IDF is responding with fire toward the origins of the shootings,” the Israeli military said earlier Wednesday.  

“An IDF (drone) thwarted a terrorist cell which fired mortar shells toward the area of Turmus,” it added.  

A CNN team in southern Lebanon heard thuds, booms and a volley of rockets near the Lebanese-Israeli border. The exchange continued for more than two hours. 

4:58 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Family still hasn't heard from Israeli man who was fishing with friend the morning of attacks

From CNN’s Jessica Xing

An Israeli man who was fishing on a beach north of Gaza with his longtime friend on the morning of the October 7 attacks has still not been in contact with his family.

The family last heard from Danil Kimenfeld after the attacks started and he told them he was going to a shelter, his son Igor Kimenfeld told CNN on Wednesday.

“He called my brother to tell him that we are going to a shelter so don’t be worried if you can’t reach him,” Kimenfeld said.

Kimenfeld, who is a US citizen and lives in New Jersey with his wife, said he traveled to Israel on Monday. He said they haven’t received any information from police and instead got “rumors, gossip that there were 60 fishermen around Zikim [beach], most of them found dead except a few who managed to run away.” 

Friends of Danil Kimenfeld went to the beach and found his car riddled with bullets and all the fishing gear still in car, his son said.

Igor Kimenfield hopes his father made it to a shelter but he doesn’t know.

Kimenfield gave a DNA sample as part of the search for his father, but was told it didn’t match any of the dead, he said.

“No one is giving us answers,” Kimenfeld said. “When we call, it sounds like we are bothering someone.”

Kimenfield described his father as the "anchor" of the family.

“I admire everything about him he is very easy person to love, he was funny, he is super social,” Kimenfeld said of his father.

“I’m trying to be as fun and social and as a great person as he is, very giving and reaching out,” he added. “He was the anchor not only to our family but to the whole distant family.” 

The Israelis have responded heroically to such a brutal tragedy, Kimenfeld told CNN.

“The people here are extremely strong. Everybody here knows someone who lost someone,” he said.

5:31 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

White House National Security Council gives more details on their Gaza hospital explosion assessment

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Adrienne Watson provided additional details about the US assessment that Israel was not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza.

The assessment is based on intelligence that includes “missile activity,” as well as open source video and imagery that the US analyzed, according to a statement from the NSC.

Watson also pointed to intelligence indicating that Palestinian militants in the Gaza strip themselves believed the blast was caused by an errant rocket or missile launch by the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ.) Israeli officials have released audio of what they say is Hamas militants discussing the blast and attributing it to a rocket launched by PIJ. 

Read the full statement:

"The U.S. government assesses that Israel was not responsible for an explosion that killed hundreds of civilians yesterday at the Al Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip.  Our assessment is based on available reporting, including intelligence, missile activity, and open source video and images of the incident.  
"Intelligence indicates that some Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip believed that the explosion was likely caused by an errant rocket or missile launch carried out by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The militants were still investigating what had happened."
4:33 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

$100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza and West Bank will come from pre-approved funding, White House says

From CNN's Kayla Tausche

The $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza and the occupied West Bank that US President Joe Biden announced in Tel Aviv will come from pre-approved funding, the White House says.

The United State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration is providing $66 million in existing funding that will cover safe water, emergency food, shelter, hygiene support and healthcare services to Palestinians affected by the conflict, a White House official tells CNN.

The United States Agency for International Development will provide an additional $34 million to cover unanticipated needs as they arise.

“This money will support more than one million displaced in conflict affected Palestinians, including emergency needs in Gaza,” Biden said Wednesday.

The Biden administration reached an agreement with the Israeli government in recent days to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza, where water and food have been bottlenecked in the weeks since war broke out between Hamas and Israel. 

Biden also pledged to request from Congress an “unprecedented” aid package for Israel.

Sources have told CNN the request – which would intend to cover funding through September 2024 for wars in Israel and Ukraine, readiness in Taiwan, and security measures at the southern US border – is expected to top $100 billion.

4:10 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

UN spokesperson: "No update on if and when" Rafah crossing will open to supply aid into Gaza via Egypt 

From CNN’s Richard Roth and Caitlin Hu in New York, Sugam Pokharel in London and journalist Magdy Samaan in Cairo

Trucks carrying supplies line up near the Rafah border on Wednesday, October 18, in North Sinai, Egypt. 
Trucks carrying supplies line up near the Rafah border on Wednesday, October 18, in North Sinai, Egypt.  Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images

There is “no update on if and when” the Rafah border crossing will open for the passage of humanitarian aid from Egypt into Gaza, the UN Secretary General's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Wednesday.  

Israel’s Prime Minister’s office confirmed earlier Israel will not block humanitarian aid going into Gaza through the crossing.  

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday blamed Israeli shelling for preventing the vital crossing from re-opening.   

"Egypt did not close the Rafah crossing since the outbreak of the crisis, but that Israeli shelling from the Palestinian side prevented it from opening,” Sisi said at a news conference, speaking alongside visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.  

El-Sisi also called on the international community to "allow humanitarian assistance to enter the Gaza Strip."  

Intermittent explosions were witnessed throughout Wednesday on the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing, according to a CNN stringer on the Egyptian side of the border.  

Aid convoy drivers and volunteers have been waiting at the Egyptian side of the crossing since the early hours of Tuesday.