The latest on Israel's war in Gaza

By Chris Lau, Sophie Tanno, Antoinette Radford, Maureen Chowdhury and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 3:30 a.m. ET, January 19, 2024
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9:15 a.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Israel's President Isaac Herzog outlines vision for region after Gaza war

From Cristiana Moisescu in Davos 

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, left, speaks with WEF president Borge Brende during a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 18.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, left, speaks with WEF president Borge Brende during a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 18. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog Thursday outlined a broad vision for the region after the Gaza war, including rebuilding the enclave, a dialogue between Israel and Palestinians, and normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“We should see on the horizon a coalition of nations who are willing to commit to rebuilding Gaza in a way that, number one, enables the safety and well-being of Israel. Number two, enables the safety and well-being of the Palestinians and brings a future - a different future - to Gaza,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He also said he believed normalization with Saudi Arabia was key to exiting the war into a new geopolitical environment.

“It’s delicate, it’s fragile, it will take a long time, but I think it will provide the opportunity to move forward in the region towards a better future,” Herzog said.

“It is a game-changer.”

8:42 a.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Israel launches interceptor missile toward Red Sea over false alarm

From Amir Tal in Jerusalem

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Thursday that an interceptor missile that was fired toward the Red Sea was launched due to “false identification.”

It had earlier said in a statement on Thursday that it detected a “suspicious aerial target” approaching its territory over the Red Sea, and launched an interceptor at the object.

“A short while ago, following the sirens that sounded in the city of Eilat, southern Israel, an interceptor was launched in the area of the Red Sea toward a suspicious aerial target that was approaching Israeli territory,” the statement released Thursday morning read.

The IDF later clarified that it was found to be a "false identification,” it said, and that the sirens in Eilat went off because the interceptor was launched.

Iron Dome missiles self-destruct when there is no target to intercept.

7:05 a.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Israeli family marks first birthday for baby taken hostage by Hamas

From Amir Tal in Jerusalem and Mick Krever in London

Ofri Bibas Levy, sister of Yarden Bibas held hostage in Gaza with his wife Shiri and two children Kfir and Ariel, during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 14.
Ofri Bibas Levy, sister of Yarden Bibas held hostage in Gaza with his wife Shiri and two children Kfir and Ariel, during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 14. Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

An Israeli family will hold a public event on Thursday marking the first birthday of Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage taken from Israel on October 7.

The Hostage and Missing Families Forum said that the Bibas family “will make an impassioned plea for Kfir’s release, as well as the release of his parents Yarden and Shiri and his young brother Ariel.” The event will be held at what has come to be known as Hostages Plaza, in Tel Aviv, at 3:30 p.m. local (8:30 a.m. ET).

It is, however, unclear whether Kfir Bibas is still alive. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in November that it was assessing a claim by Hamas’ military arm, the Qassam Brigades, that the infant was killed in an Israeli airstrike. The Qassam Brigades did not provide evidence for its claim.

When asked on Thursday whether the IDF had come to any conclusion in that investigation, it said it had no comment.

 Kfir was taken, alongside his brother and parents from kibbutz Nir Oz in October.

5:22 a.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Russian foreign minister says creation of Palestinian state essential to avoid "relapses of violence"

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Jessie Gretener

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds an annual press conference in Moscow, Russia, on January 18.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds an annual press conference in Moscow, Russia, on January 18. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pushed for the creation of a Palestinian state while speaking about the situation in Gaza during his annual press conference on Thursday. 

“The main direction of efforts should be the creation of a Palestinian state in full compliance with the decisions of the Security Council - a state that, as written in these decisions, would exist in security and good neighbourliness alongside Israel with other countries in the region,” Lavrov outlined.
“Without this, whatever happens, we will see relapses of the violence that is now seen in Gaza, because without the creation of a Palestinian state, the Palestinian people will continue to feel disadvantaged, will continue to live in conditions of inferior justice,” Lavrov argued, urging the need to “put an end to it.”

Lavrov said he “hopes the Israeli state will come to this conclusion eventually” but also said that he understood that was “unacceptable for Israel at the moment.”

“We can’t do anything apart from explain it to them,” Lavrov argued. 

Lavrov then urged that mediation efforts by the US would not work unless there is “direct dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

“Assume that, so to speak, 'grown men' will somewhere agree on how the Palestinians will continue to live, and then will present it to them. It won't be a success. Only direct dialogue that needs to be restored,” Lavrov outlined.

2:59 a.m. ET, January 18, 2024

New US strikes on Houthis as Iran warns attacks won't stop until Gaza war ends. Catch up here

From CNN staff

The US military carried out another round of strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, US officials said, marking the fourth time the US has struck the Iran-backed rebel group in less than a week.

Hours earlier, the Houthis struck a US-owned and operated vessel for the second time this week. 

The latest US strikes come amid heightened tensions in the Middle East. Iran's top diplomat has warned that attacks by Tehran-backed groups in the region won't stop until Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza ends, while Israel's military chief said the likelihood of war along the border with Lebanon is now "much higher" than in recent times.

Meanwhile, Iran is embroiled in an escalating spat with its southeastern neighbor Pakistan, which targeted locations inside Iran a day after deadly Iranian strikes on separatists in Pakistani territory. Read more about that conflict here.

Here's what else you should know:

  • Inside Gaza: More than 24,400 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health said. Gazans are living through what is now the longest sustained internet disruption in the enclave since the start of the war, surpassing 120 hours, according to monitoring site Netblocks.
  • Military campaign: Israeli forces appear to have withdrawn from the area around the largest hospital in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, after their approach toward the compound sparked panic among the thousands sheltering there. A cemetery in Khan Younis was severely damaged during a period when Israel's military said it conducted operations in the area, according to video geolocated by CNN.  
  • Medicine deal: Medicine for hostages has entered Gaza, Qatar said, after the Gulf nation brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas to provide medication to Israeli captives and Palestinians. An Israeli military spokesperson said Israel does "not have the ability to guarantee" the medicine will reach the captives, but they would work with Qatar to ensure it does.

  • Hostages latest: US national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet Thursday with families of the Americans believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas, a White House official told CNN. The US believes six Americans remain in captivity in Gaza. Meanwhile, a freed Israeli hostage told CNN she was held in a Gaza hospital with dozens of others, in an account that potentially backs up US and Israeli assessments. Israel said Wednesday that 253 people were taken hostage to Gaza on October 7, announcing a firm number for the first time. Israel now believes 132 hostages are still being held in the strip, 105 of whom are alive.
  • West Bank strike: At least three people were killed in an Israeli airstrike targeting a car in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah. Israeli security forces said they eliminated a terrorist cell in "a precise airstrike."
1:07 a.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Medicine for Israeli hostages and Palestinians arrives in Gaza under deal struck by Qatar

From CNN's Helen Regan and Jennifer Hauser

Members of the Egyptian Red Crescent and civil organizations work to mobilize aid in preparation for its entry into Gaza on January 17 in Rafah, Egypt.
Members of the Egyptian Red Crescent and civil organizations work to mobilize aid in preparation for its entry into Gaza on January 17 in Rafah, Egypt. Ali Moustafa/Getty Images

Medicine for Israeli hostages and Palestinians has entered Gaza, Qatar said Wednesday, after the Gulf nation brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas to provide vital medication to the war-torn enclave.

The agreement mediated by Qatar Tuesday will see medication delivered to Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for medicine and humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.

“Over the past few hours, medicine & aid entered the Gaza Strip, in implementation of the agreement announced yesterday for the benefit of civilians in the Strip, including hostages,” Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Dr. Majed Al-Ansari wrote on X.

“Qatar, along with its regional and international partners, continues mediation efforts at the political and humanitarian levels.”

The medication left Doha on Wednesday and headed to Egypt before being transported to Gaza, the ministry previously said.

Osama Hamdan, a Lebanon-based Hamas official, said the agreement was dependent on there being enough medication for Palestinians in Gaza in addition to the Israeli hostages.

Hamas has stipulated that for every box of medication given to the hostages, Palestinians in Gaza must receive 1,000 boxes.

Read more about the deal.

11:24 p.m. ET, January 17, 2024

Freed Israeli hostage says she was held in Gaza hospital with dozens of others

From CNN's Tara John and Jennifer Griffiths

Sharon Aloni Cunio speaks with CNN's Anderson Cooper on January 17.
Sharon Aloni Cunio speaks with CNN's Anderson Cooper on January 17. CNN

It has been more than 50 days since Hamas militants released Sharon Aloni Cunio and her twin 3-year-old daughters, but she remains haunted by her time as a hostage — most of which she says was spent in a Gaza hospital — and longs for her husband who remains captive in the Palestinian enclave.

“I’m both mother and a father right now,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday. Though when her children are out of sight, she watches videos and listens to voicemails of her husband, David Cunio, “to feel connected to him — but I’m pretty much depressed.”

Aloni Cunio’s family were among the more than 250 people kidnapped on October 7 and taken to Gaza during the Hamas attacks on Israel that killed more than 1,200 people.

She told Cooper that while her family had become separated in the chaos of the attacks, the four of them had been reunited in captivity when militants hid them alongside dozens of other hostages being held at Nasser hospital in southern Gaza.

In an account that potentially backs up US and Israeli assessments that hospitals were used to shelter hostages, Aloni Cunio said there were three rooms at Nasser hospital each holding between 10 and 12 captives and that they were tended to by a male nurse every other day.

“He knew who we are, he went along with it,” she said.

Read her account.

9:55 p.m. ET, January 17, 2024

US carries out another round of strikes against Houthis in Yemen, officials say

From CNN's Haley Britzky and Oren Liebermann

The United States carried out another round of strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, according to two US officials, marking the fourth time the US has struck the Iran-backed rebel group in less than a week.

The US used Tomahawk missiles to target approximately 14 Houthi missile launchers used to attack international shipping lanes, one of the officials said. The Tomahawk missiles were launched from US Navy surface vessels and the USS Florida, a guided missile submarine, another official said.

The US strikes are the latest in a series of actions against the Houthis, following significant US-led strikes last week with the UK, and support from a handful of other allies. 

They come amid heightened tensions in the Middle East and fears that the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza could further spill out into the region.

Hours earlier, the Houthis struck a US-owned and operated vessel for the second time this week. 

The Iran-backed rebel group used a one-way attack drone to target the M/V Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden, according to US Central Command. No one was injured on board the commercial vessel, Central Command said in a statement. The ship suffered some damage but was able to continue on its way.

Read more about the latest US strikes.

7:57 p.m. ET, January 17, 2024

IDF says it will work with Qatar, but can't guarantee medicine reaches Israeli hostages

From CNN staff

Israel does "not have the ability to guarantee" medicine will reach hostages in Gaza, a military spokesperson said Wednesday, after Qatar brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas to deliver medication to the captives and to Palestinians. 

Asked how the medicine would reach the hostages, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel would work with Qatar to ensure it gets to those held captive.

“What is important is that this effort happens, and currently the trucks are being checked. They will finish the checks, they will get in (to Gaza) and we need to do everything we can to ensure that the medications will indeed reach where they need to go,” Hagari said.  

The agreement says that for every box of medication given to Israeli hostages, 1,000 boxes of medication must be provided for Palestinians in Gaza.