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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11:56 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

No security in Middle East without a Palestinian state, Palestinian Authority says

From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi

There will be no security or stability in the Middle East without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority president said Thursday, in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's dismissal of the idea.

Netanyahu on Thursday said the idea of creating a Palestinian state would clash with the security of Israel — remarks at odds with the stance of many countries, including the United States.

"The entire region is on the verge of a volcanic eruption," PA spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA, adding that Netanyahu’s remarks show the Israeli government is "determined to push the entire region into the abyss."

Rudeineh also claimed the US "bears responsibility for the deterioration of security and stability in the region due to its bias and blind support for the Israeli occupation."

US President Joe Biden has long advocated for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. US officials said Thursday they would not allow Netanyahu’s apparent rejection of an eventual Palestinian state to stop them from pressing the matter with their Israeli counterparts.

11:33 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Houthis pledge safe passage for Russian and Chinese ships in Red Sea

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Houthi rebels will provide safe passage to Chinese and Russian ships in the Red Sea as they maintain attacks against commercial vessels in retaliation for Israel's war in Gaza, a spokesperson for the Iran-backed militants told Russian media Thursday.

In an interview with pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, senior Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti said the Yemen-based militants would only attack ships linked to Israel and its allies.

"As for all other countries, including Russia and China, their shipping in the region is not threatened," he said. "Moreover, we are ready to ensure the safe passage of their ships in the Red Sea, because the freedom of navigation plays a significant role for our country.”

The Houthis fired missiles at another US-owned commercial ship Thursday, just hours after a new round of US military strikes against the group in Yemen.

"Israeli ships or those in any way connected with Israel will not have the slightest opportunity to sail through the Red Sea," Bukhaiti told the Russian outlet. "The attacks on them will continue."

11:28 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Families of hostages meet with top Biden advisers at the White House

From CNN's MJ Lee

Ruby Chen, father of Itay Chen, who is being held hostage by Hamas, holds an hourglass while speaking a Senate Foreign Relations Committee bipartisan press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 17.
Ruby Chen, father of Itay Chen, who is being held hostage by Hamas, holds an hourglass while speaking a Senate Foreign Relations Committee bipartisan press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 17. Bryan Olin Dozier/NurPhoto/AP

Family members of the six remaining Israeli-American hostages believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza met with several of US President Joe Biden’s top national security advisers at the White House Thursday.

Ruby Chen, father of 19-year-old reservist Itay Chen who has been missing since October 7, told CNN the conversation was “informative,” and that officials offered the families the “broad strokes” of the ongoing efforts to secure the captives' release. He declined to share those details. 

Officials at the meeting included National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and deputy homeland security adviser Jen Daskal, according to a White House official.

The official said the administration is "committed to unwavering effort to get family members home," even as frustration mounts.

“Bottom line, it’s been 104 days and that’s a disappointment and a frustration,” Chen said. “Where’s justice? And do we want more dead US citizens? What is the administration doing about that?"

Some context: Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, four American hostages have been released before negotiations stalled. Talks between Israel and Hamas, with the US, Qatar and Egypt playing mediating roles, are continuing, but there has been no significant breakthrough recently, according to two US officials. 

9:20 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Houthis fire missiles at another ship just hours after US military strikes

From CNN staff

Houthi rebels fired missiles at another US-owned commercial ship Thursday, just hours after a new round of US military strikes against the Iran-backed group in Yemen.

The Houthis launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles at M/V Chem Ranger, the US military said, marking the third such attack on a US-owned vessel this week.

"The crew observed the missiles impact the water near the ship. There were no reported injuries or damage to the ship," US Central Command said. 

President Joe Biden conceded Thursday that US strikes against the Houthis are not deterring the group's attacks in the Red Sea, which it says will only stop when Israel ends its war in Gaza.

Biden's remarks came after the US military said the fifth US attack on Houthi assets in one week targeted a small number of anti-ship missiles that were being prepared to launch against international shipping lanes.

But Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the US has “been able to degrade and severely disrupt and destroy a significant number” of Houthi capabilities.

“We never said that the Houthis would immediately stop,” she said. “That is something that they will have to make that decision and that calculation to do.” 
11:30 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Officials react to Netanyahu's rejection of a Palestinian state. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

Netanyahu speaks in Tel Aviv on Thursday, January 18.
Netanyahu speaks in Tel Aviv on Thursday, January 18. Government Press Office

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the idea of creating a Palestinian state would clash with the security of Israel on Thursday.  

Many countries, including the US, have called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. US officials said they wouldn't allow Netanyahu's apparent rejection of Palestinian sovereignty stop them from pressing the matter with their Israeli counterparts.

Following Netanyahu's remarks, his senior adviser Mark Regev told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that security is the "highest priority" when asked about observers who say the Israeli leader's position is more about keeping himself in power than finding a fair solution to the conflict. 

Here's what else you should know:

  • Damaged cemetery: Israeli forces severely damaged a cemetery in Khan Younis in southern Gaza earlier this week, exhuming and removing bodies in what the Israel Defense Forces told CNN was part of a search for the remains of hostages seized by Hamas during the October 7 terror attacks. Footage of the burial ground showed the area bulldozed, with graves damaged and destroyed, and human remains left exposed after the IDF conducted operations in the area.
  • Strikes in Yemen: Houthi spokesperson Mohammad Abdul Salam described strikes in Yemen by the US and the UK as a "persistent act of aggression" aimed at safeguarding Israel, during an interview with the Houthis' Al-Masirah TV. Despite the recent attacks, Abdul Salam emphasized that the Houthis will not be deterred from launching attacks on what he claims are "Israeli-linked" vessels.
  • Investigation request: Mexico and Chile are asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether crimes have been committed in the Palestinian territories, either by "agents of the occupying power or the occupied power," Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday.
5:42 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Obstetrician says she is “ashamed and shocked that we’re doing this to fellow humans” after Gaza visit

From CNN’s Madalena Araujo

Dr. Deborah Harrington appears on CNN on Wednesday, January 17.
Dr. Deborah Harrington appears on CNN on Wednesday, January 17. CNN

A British obstetrician who spent two weeks volunteering at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza says she feels “desperate … ashamed, and shocked that we’re doing this to fellow humans.” 

Dr. Deborah Harrington told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour she traveled to the strip at the end of December as part of a team led by the International Rescue Committee and Medical Aid for Palestine. Most of the patients Harrington attended to in the emergency department were children. 

Every day she saw “a horrendous mix of [children with] open fractures, partial amputations, open chest wounds, horrendous lacerations from shrapnel to the sort of chest.” 

Harrington, who has visited Gaza since 2016, also painted a dire picture for pregnant women and babies in the enclave. 

“There is no antenatal care for women… and the women I saw were really severely anemic,” she said. “Many women can never even reach a hospital to give birth.”

At least 20 out of 22 hospitals identified by CNN in northern Gaza were damaged or destroyed in the first two months of Israel's war against Hamas, from October 7 to December 7, according to a review of 45 satellite images and around 400 videos from the ground, as well as interviews with doctors, eyewitnesses and humanitarian organizations. Fourteen were directly hit, based on the evidence collected and verified by CNN and analyzed by experts. 

The Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza says Israel “has deliberately targeted 150 health institutions, putting 30 hospitals and 53 health centers out of service, and targeting 122 ambulances." CNN cannot independently verify these numbers and CNN has reached out to the Israeli military for comment.

4:57 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Mexico and Chile ask ICC to investigate possible crimes in Palestinian territories

From CNN's Karol Suarez and Michael Rios

Mexico and Chile are asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether crimes have been committed in the Palestinian territories, either by "agents of the occupying power or the occupied power," Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday.

“The action by Mexico and Chile is due to growing concern over the latest escalation of violence, particularly against civilian targets, and the alleged continued commission of crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court, specifically since the attack on October 7, 2023, carried out by Hamas militants and the subsequent hostilities in Gaza,” the statement read, without directly mentioning Israel — which has been accused of striking civilian populations.

Israel has repeatedly stated that it is targeting Hamas, not civilians.

The referral by Mexico and Chile comes two months after South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros and Djibouti submitted a similar referral to the ICC, and a week after South Africa also accused Israel of genocide in a different case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Israel and the US have rejected South Africa’s claims.

5:15 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

US officials don't view Netanyahu's rejection of Palestinian state as the final word on the matter

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting at the the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on December 31.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting at the the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on December 31. Abir Sultan/Pool/Reuters

US officials said on Thursday they would not allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apparent rejection of an eventual Palestinian state to stop them from pressing the matter with their Israeli counterparts.

The statement — at direct odds with President Joe Biden's stated position — is another example of the growing rift between Israel and its top international ally.

Even as Biden offers staunch support for Israel publicly, behind the scenes, he and top officials have grown frustrated that Netanyahu appears to be rejecting advice and pressure on the campaign in Gaza.

A senior administration official noted after Netanyahu's comments that the prime minister had reversed himself on hardline positions before — and that his statement Thursday was not necessarily the final word. 

“If we took such statements as the final word, there would be no humanitarian assistance going into Gaza and no hostages released," a senior US administration official said. "As with those and many other issues, we will continue to work toward the right outcome, particularly on issues where we strongly disagree.”

One person familiar with the matter said it wasn't clear whether Netanyahu had, in fact, relayed his views directly to American officials, as he stated during his news conference. The person said that inside the administration, his comments aren't being viewed as a major departure from what he's said previously.