March 22, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 7:00 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024
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7:00 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Our live coverage for the day has ended. Follow the latest Israel-Hamas war news or read through the updates below.

5:32 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Palestinians say they had to walk over "people’s body parts" while escaping Israeli raid on Al-Shifa Hospital

From CNN’s Mohammad Al Sawalhi, Abeer Salman and Sana Noor Haq

Palestinians who fled Al-Shifa Hospital say they were stripped, interrogated, blindfolded and forced to leave injured relatives behind, in a desperate attempt to escape Israel’s raid on the medical complex in Gaza City.

CNN spoke to women and children who fled south along the coastal Al-Rasheed Street on Thursday, days after the Israel Defense Forces laid siege to Gaza’s largest hospital. Eyewitnesses recounted terrifying scenes of running from the facility under the thunderous blast of Israeli snipers, gunshots and tank fire – after they say the IDF told them to leave the vicinity.

“They shot at us, and they fired missiles from the tanks ... They interrogated us, they stripped us naked,” said Ibrahim Shamala, a teenage boy who fled the hospital.

Another Palestinian, Yasmin Hamdan, said she could not catch her breath as she escaped the besieged health complex. “We couldn’t stop for a second because it was horrific, there were many dead and injured people on the way, no one could reach and rescue them,” Hamdan said.

“We have no one left, not our husbands, nor our families or neighbors. We are all separated and lost, we are walking but we don’t know where we are going,” added Hamdan.

Rawand Abu Hassan, a woman who fled her home near Al-Shifa, told CNN: “We were walking on bodies of martyrs, there are people's body parts in the streets. Where is religion and conscience? We are so tired, what did children do to deserve this?”

What Israel says: The Israeli military raided Al-Shifa after it claimed “senior Hamas terrorists” were using the facility to “conduct and promote terrorist activity.” It claims to have detained a senior Hamas operative during the operation. CNN cannot independently verify the IDF’s statements. Hamas has previously denied using hospitals for their operations.

5:23 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

CNN videos show large groups of people fleeing violence at Gaza's largest hospital

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder, Abeer Salman and Celine Alkhaldi

Videos filmed by CNN along Gaza’s coast, west of the Al-Shifa Hospital, show large groups of people fleeing the violence as the Israeli military continues its raid of the complex.

Nuzha Awad, a displaced woman carrying her 8-month-old triplets, told CNN that the route away from Al-Shifa was “full of tanks, and Israeli snipers on buildings shooting towards people.”

“Tanks are shelling the houses where people are sheltering to force people to leave, and they’re not allowing people to take blankets, pilots or even a bottle of water,” she said.

"The situation at Al-Shifa is catastrophic, no food, no water. It is besieged and getting bombed. Even the graveyard that was dug at the hospital was struck. They (Israeli soldiers) surrounded us. I counted 15 tanks other than the bulldozers," she said.

The Government Media Office in Gaza accused the Israeli military of deliberately killing 13 patients inside the hospital by depriving them of medicine, medical supplies and electricity. The figure includes four patients on ventilators in intensive care who died after their oxygen was cut off, according to the media office statement. CNN has reached out to the Israel Defense Forces for comment about the allegations. 

Earlier Friday, the IDF said that together with the Israel Security Agency, their forces are “continuing to conduct precise operational activity in the Shifa Hospital area while preventing harm to civilians, patients, medical teams, and medical equipment.”

6:27 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Israeli raid on Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital continues for a fifth day

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder, Abeer Salman and Celine Alkhaldi

Smoke rises during an Israeli raid at Al-Shifa hospital and the area around it in Gaza City on March 20.
Smoke rises during an Israeli raid at Al-Shifa hospital and the area around it in Gaza City on March 20. Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters

The Israeli military’s raid at Al-Shifa medical complex in Gaza City continued for a fifth day on Friday, with Palestinian health officials reporting that hundreds of patients are still trapped in the hospital and dozens of medical personnel forcibly detained. 

The Gaza health ministry accused the Israeli military of detaining about 240 patients and their companions, as well as 10 health care personnel inside the hospital’s radiology department. Dozens of medical workers were also arrested and taken away from the hospital, a ministry statement added.

What Israel says: The Israel Defense Forces said Friday it has killed 150 Palestinian militants in or around the hospital and arrested hundreds of suspects since the raid began on Monday. CNN cannot independently verify these claims.

Allegations of violence: Hamas has accused Israeli soldiers of detaining and abusing civilians sheltering in and around Al-Shifa, including medical personnel.

Umm Rami, a Palestinian woman living close to the hospital, told CNN Friday that Israeli soldiers had raided her family home in the early hours of Monday and took away her 78-year-old father-in-law, Freij Hallaq, and a number of his male grandchildren. Rami found out Thursday afternoon that her father-in-law had died after sustaining gunshot wounds and bleeding to death. He was among several men who were detained from their homes in the area surrounding Al-Shifa.

“Yesterday, we received information in the afternoon that my father-in-law’s corpse was found lying on a chair in a room,” she said, adding that he was not wearing any clothes.

The IDF did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on Freij’s death.

4:37 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Israeli offensive in Rafah would be devastating, says US nurse who cared for Palestinians in southern Gaza

From CNN’s Sana Noor Haq 

An American nurse who treated Palestinians in the coastal town of Al-Mawasi warned a looming Israeli ground assault on the nearby southern Gaza city of Rafah would be “the ultimate demise." 

In February, Amy Leah Potter set up an improvised primary health care clinic in the coastal town with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). She told CNN that children displaced in tents sustained burns while crowding around fires for warmth in cold winter conditions. Others were treated for upper respiratory infections because they were inhaling smoke. 

“We'd have burns from children who aren't used to living with fire around them,” said Potter. “We would see a lot of skin infections because hygiene is nonexistent through no fault of the population.” 

Some background: Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has forcibly displaced about 1.7 million Palestinians, according to the UN. Many of those forced to flee are crammed in sprawling tent camps that cannot offer basic sanitation – leading to the spread of disease. Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7 have killed at least 32,00 Palestinians, according to the health ministry in the strip.   

Potter recounted working under the constant whine of Israeli drones and ringing blasts. “There was not a day that went by that I didn't hear an explosion,” she said. “The Palestinian people, their resilience is unbelievable.” 

“The only thing that's going to save these people is a ceasefire,” said the nurse. “They are the definition of innocent civilians. And unfortunately, they're often referred to as collateral damage. That's tragic.” 

3:26 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Israel says it's investigating video of Israeli airstrike on 4 apparently unarmed Palestinian civilians

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq, Celine Alkhaldi, Kareem Khadder, and Mitchell McCluskey

Video footage apparently retrieved from a downed Israeli drone in Gaza and released by Al Jazeera on Friday purportedly shows the killing of four unarmed Palestinian civilians in a targeted Israeli air attack.

Al Jazeera said the incident occurred in the area of Al-Sikka, Khan Younis, in early February without providing a precise date.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the incident has been "transferred for examination" by the General Staff’s Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism. 

In the video, four men are seen walking down a bulldozed dirt road lined with rubble and destroyed buildings. The men appear to be unarmed and carrying nothing in their hands. Al Jazeera reported they were in search of their homes to determine what remained following Israeli bombardment of the area.

Suddenly, the four men are hit by an apparent airstrike, instantly killing two of them. The other two men continue moving after the initial attack — one slowly walks while other crawls — when they are both hit by successive follow up direct hit missile strikes.

The remains of the men have been blurred in the video published by Al Jazeera, which stated that "it is not possible to show the full pictures after the first missile fell due to its brutality."

No other drones or military equipment are visible in the video.

CNN cannot verify the video's authenticity or Al Jazeera's account of what it depicts.

In a statement, the IDF claimed that forces had often encountered terrorists who were disguised as civilians in the area.

2:51 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Netanyahu doubles down on plan for Rafah offensive after meeting with top US diplomat. Catch up here

From CNN staff

A boy holds a tray with food as he walks near destroyed houses, in Rafah, Gaza, on March 22.
A boy holds a tray with food as he walks near destroyed houses, in Rafah, Gaza, on March 22. Mohammed Salem/Reuters

US Secretary of State Blinken traveled to Israel and met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday, as part of an intensive diplomatic push to reach a “sustained and immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and deter an Israeli offensive into the southern city of Rafah.

However, following the meeting, Netanyahu publicly doubled down on his commitment to carry out an offensive — with or without US support. Blinken said this offensive would risk “further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters she doesn’t see a safe way for civilians to evacuate Rafah ahead of the possible offensive. “There is nowhere for those people to go,” Harris said. “One and a half million people of a population of 2.2 million people who are now in that area — and let's remember why they are there, because they were told to go there.” 

Here are some other top headlines:

  • US ambassador calls for immediate ceasefire: The US proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for “an immediate and sustained ceasefire … in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.” Analysts said it was a major departure from US policy on Israel during the war, as the resolution included phrasing that the US was unwilling to use before as Israel’s most prominent defender on the world stage.
  • Russia and China veto US resolution: Still, Russia and China vetoed the draft resolution. Algeria also voted against it. Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the US decision to propose a resolution now is "sluggish," as the US has previously vetoed ceasefire proposals.
  • Death toll surpasses 32,000 in Gaza: The total death toll in Gaza since October 7 now stands at 32,070, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, which reported that 82 people were killed the over the past 24 hours in the strip. An additional 74,298 people have been injured, the ministry said. CNN cannot independently verify the casualty figures in Gaza.
  • More funding resumes for UNRWA: Finland will restart donations to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), according to the Finnish public broadcaster Yle. Several Western countries had suspended funding after Israel alleged that 12 out of 13,000 employees participated in the October 7 attacks. CNN cannot confirm the allegations. Finland's decision to resume funding for UNRWA comes after Canada, Australia, the European Union and others also resumed funding.
1:10 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Nurse treating Palestinians in southern Gaza says Israeli strikes have "decimated" the health care system 

From CNN’s Sana Noor Haq 

Amy Leah Potter will never forget the 9-year-old girl who wailed in pain from her unhealed broken leg. She first met the displaced Palestinian orphan in February, at a primary health care center in the coastal town of Al-Mawasi, in southern Gaza.  

“She was crying and screaming,” said Potter, an American nurse working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “She kept saying, ‘I want to die. Just let me die.’” 

The young child broke her leg in an Israeli strike that killed her parents and siblings in Gaza City, in northern Gaza, in October. Her surviving relatives had no access to crutches or physical therapy – leaving her severe injury swollen and in excruciating pain.

Potter, who set up an MSF-led clinic treating displaced patients in Al-Mawai and visited Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, told CNN that Israel’s bombardment and besiegement has "decimated” the medical system.  

Severely injured Palestinians cannot access life-saving care or rehabilitation because there is barely enough equipment or medication. Loved ones desperately scrambled to keep wounded relatives alive, while health care workers are forced to care for patients on the floor. Others are unable to make emergency calls to ambulances because Israel’s offensive has crushed communication lines.  

“The paramedics are unbelievably overwhelmed. There's also no real reliable ability to call for help,” added Potter. “The whole health system is gone. It doesn’t exist ... It feels sometimes like we're putting a Band-Aid on a decapitation.”
12:16 p.m. ET, March 22, 2024

Blinken says Israeli offensive into Rafah risks "further isolating Israel around the world"

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media, before departing from Ben Gurion International airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 22.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media, before departing from Ben Gurion International airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 22. Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that a looming Israeli ground offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah would risk “further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing.”

The top US diplomat’s blunt message comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — following a meeting with Blinken — doubled down on his vow to carry out the military campaign with or without US support.

Blinken said he had “candid conversations” with Netanyahu and the Israeli war cabinet, and told them the US “shares Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas” — but that “a major military ground operation in Rafah is not the way to do it.”

“It risks killing more civilians; it risks wreaking greater havoc with the provision of humanitarian assistance,” Blinken said.

Blinken would not give details on the ongoing negotiations to secure an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages.