January 2, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

By Heather Chen, Sana Noor Haq, Antoinette Radford, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024
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11:21 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

Israeli national security minister responds to US rebuke of his comment on resettling Gazans

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

Itamar Ben Gvir takes part in a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on December 31.
Itamar Ben Gvir takes part in a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on December 31. Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images/File

A far-right Israeli official has responded to the US State Department's rebuke to his comments that call for the resettlement of Gazans outside of the Gaza Strip.

 “Very appreciative of the United States of America but with all due respect we are not just another star on the American flag," National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said in a translated post on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.

He called the US Israel's "good friend."

"But first of all we will do what is good for the State of Israel," the minister said, adding that the "emigration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza" will allow Israeli settlers to return and "live in security."  

He and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich made the suggestion earlier this week.

Smotrich called for Palestinian residents to leave the Gaza strip, to make way for Israelis who could "make the desert bloom," according to Reuters.

Gvir expressed support for resettling Palestinians from the Gaza Strip abroad, declaring that the war presents an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza” during a political meeting.

Earlier Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said that “such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government," denouncing them as "inflammatory and irresponsible."

9:57 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

French president urges Israel to avoid escalation with Lebanon

From CNN's Xiaofei Xu and Mitchell McCluskey

Emmanuel Macron seen at a press conference after the European Council Summit in Brussels, Belgium on October 27, 2023.
Emmanuel Macron seen at a press conference after the European Council Summit in Brussels, Belgium on October 27, 2023. Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/Sipa/AP

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz to avoid escalation “particularly in Lebanon,” according to a statement from the French presidency.

“The President of the Republic stressed that it was essential to avoid any escalatory attitude, particularly in Lebanon, and that France would continue to pass on these messages to all players directly or indirectly involved in the area,” the statement read.

Macron’s comments come after Hamas accused Israel of carrying a strike in Lebanon that killed senior Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri on Tuesday.

Israel has not claimed involvement in the strike. 

Macron also expressed concern over the civilian death toll and the humanitarian emergency in Gaza. The French president also spoke out against “unacceptable” statements calling for the forced displacement of Gazans.

9:05 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

Israel carried out strike that killed senior Hamas leader in Beirut, US official says

From CNN's Alex Marquardt

Israel carried out the strike Tuesday in southern Beirut that killed senior Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri, a US official told CNN.

The Biden administration was not told about the operation in advance, the official added.

Citing a senior Israeli official, Axios’ Barak Ravid reported earlier that the administration was informed “as the operation was happening.” 

Some background: Hamas said Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, was “martyred in a treacherous Zionist airstrike in Beirut.”

Arouri was considered one of the founding members of the group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and was based in Beirut.

Two other leaders from Hamas’ military wing, Samir Findi Abu Amer and Azzam Al-Aqraa Abu Ammar, were among those killed in the strike, according to Hamas officials.

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev said that Israel had "not taken responsibility" for the attack. During an interview with MSNBC, the senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had "seen the reports" about the attack.

7:58 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

What we know about the senior Hamas leader killed in the Beirut attack. Catch up on the latest

From CNN’s Abeer Salman and AnneClaire Stapleton

People search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on January 2.
People search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on January 2. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

Hamas said Tuesday that one of its senior officials was killed in an attack in southern Beirut. Saleh Mohammed Suleiman Al-Arouri was a prominent Palestinian political and military leader whom Israel considers one of the key founders of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, in the occupied West Bank.

A member of Hamas since 1987, he began establishing and organizing a military apparatus for the movement in the West Bank in 1991-1992, which contributed to the actual launch of the Al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank in 1992.

He was the former deputy head of the Political Bureau of Hamas and had a hand in negotiating the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011, in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

He had been repeatedly detained by Israel, including for long periods between 1985 and 1992, and from 1992 to 2007, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations. In 2010 he was deported by Israel to Syria where he lived for three years before moving to Turkey, and then from there to Lebanon.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Israel not claiming responsibility: Israel has "not taken responsibility" for the attack that killed a senior Hamas figure in Lebanon, a top official said Tuesday. During an interview with MSNBC, Mark Regev, who is a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said "Israel has not taken responsibility for this attack. But whoever did it must be clear that this was not an attack on the Lebanese state. It was not an attack even on Hezbollah," Regev said. Meanwhile, a former ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, praised Israeli security agencies for the “assassination” of Arouri and Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari skirted a question from a reporter on the death of the senior Hamas leader.
  • Hamas and Houthis react to Beirut attack: Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, mourned the death of Arouri, calling the attack in Lebanon a "terrorist act." The Yemeni rebel forces known as the Houthis have also condemned the killing, calling it a "cowardly crime." In a statement, the group's political bureau accused Israel of carrying out the attack which killed senior Hamas official Saleh Al-Arouri. 
  • Gaza death toll rises: Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed at least 22,185 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intensifies its military campaign in the central part of the territory. CNN is unable to independently confirm the figures provided by the health ministry in Gaza due to restricted access to the region and the difficulty in verifying accurate numbers amidst the ongoing war. 
  • Israeli military adjusts operations in Gaza: The Israeli Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant, said on a visit to the Gaza Strip that Israel's military operations in the enclave will continue for some time but will change as it assesses the situation. “The feeling that we will stop soon is incorrect — without a clear victory, we will not be able to live in the Middle East," the official said.
  • Israel will appear before ICJ: The State of Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice at The Hague “to dispel South Africa's absurd blood libel,” Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said in a news briefing Tuesday, referring to South Africa’s claim that Israel is committing genocide in its war against Hamas.
  • US Senate delegation plans to meet with Netanyahu: A bipartisan group of United States senators will travel to the Middle East Tuesday night to meet with senior Israeli officials to discuss the state of the Israel-Hamas war. The lawmakers are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They are also expected to talk with Netanyahu and leaders in Arab countries during the visit, according to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
7:06 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

Houthis condemn killing of senior Hamas official

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

The Yemeni rebel forces known as the Houthis have condemned the killing of a senior Hamas official in Beirut on Tuesday — calling it a "cowardly crime." 

In a statement, the group's political bureau accused Israel of carrying out the attack which killed senior Hamas official Saleh Al-Arouri. 

Israel has denied responsibility for the attack with Mark Regev, the senior advisor to the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahi, telling NBC News that Israel had "no comment" on Tuesday's events in Beirut. 

In their statement, the Houthis described Arouri's killing as a "brutal and cowardly crime."

The group described Arouri as a "leader" of Palestinian resistance, expressing support for avenging action to be taken against Israel. 

More background: The Houthis and Hamas share a backer in the Iranian government, which widely suspected of providing extensive assistance to both groups. 

7:02 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

Hamas political leader calls "cowardly assassination" of Saleh Al-Arouri a "terrorist act"

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, mourned the death of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, calling the attack in Lebanon a "terrorist act."

In a televised speech, Haniyeh condemned Arouri's killing as a "cowardly assassination" and blamed Israel for the deadly strike.

Haniyeh also mourned the deaths of two leaders from Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades, Samir Findi Abu Amer and Azzam Al-Aqraa Abu Ammar, who were killed in the same strike.

Despite the assassinations, Haniyeh said Hamas would never be defeated. 

"A movement whose leaders and founders fall as martyrs for the dignity of our people and our nation will never be defeated," Haniyeh said.

Israel has not confirmed it was behind Tuesday's deadly attack in Dahieh, a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital. 

"Israel has not taken responsibility for this attack," Mark Regev, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu said in an interview with MSNBC. "But whoever did it must be clear that this was not an attack on the Lebanese state. It was not an attack even on Hezbollah." 
6:01 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

US State Department denounces comments by far-right Israeli officials on resettlement of Palestinians

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler

The exterior of the State Department building is seen in March of 2023, in Washington.
The exterior of the State Department building is seen in March of 2023, in Washington. Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The US State Department on Tuesday rejected comments by far-right Israeli officials —Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — calling for the resettlement of Gazans outside of Gaza, denouncing them as "inflammatory and irresponsible."

"We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the Government of Israel, including by the Prime Minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government. They should stop immediately," State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said in a statement.

Miller noted in the statement that the department has been "clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel."

"That is the future we seek, in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region, and the world," he said.

The State Department’s comments come after Israeli cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition made remarks advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.

On Sunday, Smotrich, called for Palestinian residents to leave the Gaza strip, making way for Israelis who could "make the desert bloom," according to Reuters.

Ben Gvir expressed support for resettling Palestinians from the Gaza Strip abroad, declaring that the war presents an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza” during a political meeting.

CNN’s Jonny Hallam contributed to this report.

4:19 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

Israeli finance minister claims all of Israel’s enemies will "perish"

From CNN's Lauren Izso and Tara John  

In a seemingly a veiled reference to the killing of a senior Hamas leader on Tuesday, Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich wrote on his official social media platforms that all of Israel’s enemies will “perish.”  

His comment comes after Hamas said Tuesday that one of its senior officials had been killed in an attack in southern Beirut. Saleh Al-Arouri was a prominent Palestinian political and military leader whom Israel considers one of the key founders of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, in the occupied West Bank.