January 19, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:07 a.m. ET, January 20, 2024
8 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:34 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."

11:29 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.” 
11:32 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Netanyahu says idea of Palestinian sovereignty clashes with security of Israel

From CNN's Lauren Izso, Jennifer Hansler, Jorge Engels and Sugam Pokharel

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

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

“In any future arrangement … Israel needs security control all territory west of Jordan. This clashes with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty. What can you do?” he told a press conference in Tel Aviv when asked about reports that he told US officials he opposes the idea of Palestinian sovereignty.  

Many countries, including the US, have called for the establishment of a Palestinian state.  

“This conflict is not about the absence of a (Palestinian) state but about the existence of a state, the Jewish state,” Netanyahu also said.  

The prime minister claimed in the press conference that the Israeli politicians asking for him to step down are essentially asking for the creation of a Palestinian state.  

“Those who talk about the day after Netanyahu are actually talking about the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he said. An Israeli prime minister needs to be “capable of saying no to our friends.”

 

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

Israel says it is exhuming bodies in Gaza to determine if they're hostages

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Ibrahim Dahman, Benjamin Brown, Jeremy Diamond and Muhammad Darwish

Palestinians check damaged graves at a cemetery following an Israeli raid in Khan Younis, Gaza, on January 17.
Palestinians check damaged graves at a cemetery following an Israeli raid in Khan Younis, Gaza, on January 17. Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

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 (IDF) 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.

In response to CNN’s request for comment on the damaging of graves, the IDF told CNN on Thursday that rescuing the hostages and finding and returning their bodies is one of their key missions in Gaza, which is why the bodies were removed.

“The hostage identification process, conducted at a secure and alternative location, ensures optimal professional conditions and respect for the deceased,” an IDF spokesperson told CNN, adding that bodies that are determined not be those of hostages are “returned with dignity and respect.”

According to international law, an intentional attack on a cemetery could amount to a war crime, except under very limited circumstances relating to that site becoming a military objective.

Read more.

8:20 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Why escalating violence in the Middle East isn't pushing up gas prices — yet

Analysis from CNN's Anna Cooban in London

Not that long ago, the closure of one of the world’s most important trade routes would have pushed households’ energy and fuel bills sharply higher.

So why, then, in the midst of a crisis in the Red Sea, with tankers of oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) forced to take much longer routes to their destinations, have energy prices barely reacted — or even declined — over the past few weeks?

Europe imports most of its natural gas, but the price of the benchmark gas contract has fallen 28% since early December when Iran-backed Houthi militants began ratcheting up attacks on shipping in retaliation for Israel’s war against Hamas.

In recent days, tensions have escalated further with Iran and Pakistan conducting strikes on each other’s territory, and as Iran’s allies and proxies in the Middle East — the so-called axis of resistance — launch attacks on Israeli forces and its allies against the backdrop of the war in Gaza.

The prices of a barrel of Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, have barely moved. They’re up around 4% since early December.

“The (oil) market basically doesn’t get as excited as it used to because it knows that most of these tensions don’t really, necessarily lead a reduction in supply,” Homayoun Falakshahi, a senior oil analyst at data provider Kpler, told CNN.

Read the full analysis.

8:16 p.m. ET, January 18, 2024

Biden concedes Houthis haven't been deterred from carrying out attacks as US launches further strikes

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Nikki Carvajal

President Joe Biden conceded Thursday that strikes against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen are not deterring the groups’ attacks in the Red Sea, as the military carried out further strikes against the group in Yemen on Thursday.

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, the official said.

The US military confirmed the most recent strikes in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday, Biden said that strikes on the Houthis will continue — even if they aren’t stopping the group from carrying out attacks.

Asked at the White House if the strikes are working, the president responded: “When you say working are they stopping the Houthis? No.”

“Are they going to continue? Yes,” he added.

Read more about the strikes.

4:49 a.m. ET, January 19, 2024

Gaza communications blackout hits one-week mark — the longest of the war

From CNN's Mick Krever, Sana Noor Haq, Eyad Kourdi and Celine Alkhaldi

A near-total communications blackout in Gaza, the longest of the war, has now lasted one week with no signs of abating, preventing humanitarian and emergency services from operating effectively in the territory.

It is the ninth such outage since Israel’s war on Hamas began following the group’s attacks in Israel on October 7, according to the Internet monitoring site Netblocks.

The blackout affects both physical and wireless data connections, as well as mobile phone usage.

“It’s almost impossible to do the work that we’re supposed to do,” Juliette Touma, director of communications for UNRWA, the largest UN agency operating in the Palestinian Territories, told CNN by phone from Jerusalem. “It’s something that is very difficult to imagine in this day and age.”

Read more about the blackout.