October 21, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Kathleen Magramo, Andrew Raine, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Peter Wilkinson, Sophie Tanno, Tori B. Powell and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT) October 22, 2023
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11:57 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

Protests erupt across Middle East as US' Arab allies warn against pushing Palestinians out

From CNN's Nadeen Ebrahim

An aerial view of people holding banners and flags during a pro-Palestinian protest on Friday.
An aerial view of people holding banners and flags during a pro-Palestinian protest on Friday. Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

Protests erupted around the Arab world on Friday as the Gaza war raged and an Israeli ground operation with the potential to displace millions of Palestinians loomed.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and the West Bank after Islamic Friday prayers to protest Israel’s actions in its war on Hamas.

The war has so far killed 4,127 people in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. It was launched by Israel in retaliation for an October 7 attack on the country by Gaza’s Hamas rulers — Israeli authorities say 1,400 people were killed and around 200 were taken hostage.

In a sign of the growing anger over the Israeli operation in Gaza, Egypt sanctioned its first major nationwide protest in a decade. Hundreds of protesters gathered Friday near downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square in support of Palestinians, and demonstrations occurred in other Egyptian cities.

Some of the Cairo protesters chanted, “Where is the Arab army?” and, “Here they are, the Zionists,” referring to Egypt’s riot police, who pushed demonstrators into nearby Bab el-Louk Square and closed access to Tahrir.

In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, several hundred people took to the streets to denounce the Israeli offensive. Many waved the Palestinian and Lebanese flags, along with the flags of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its political ally in Lebanon, Amal. Young protesters burned the American flag, decrying Washington’s support for Israel.

Hundreds of Iraqis, mostly supporters of Iran-backed militias, staged a sit-in Friday at Iraq’s main border crossing with Jordan. Others protested in Baghdad, not far from the fortified Green Zone that houses the United States embassy.

In Jordan’s capital, Amman, some 6,000 protesters marched in support of Gazans. Some chanted slogans urging Hamas to intensify its strikes on Israel, Reuters reported.

The protests signal growing anger on the Arab street and frustration among regional leaders with the war as the Palestinian death toll climbs, and with the US’ perceived unwillingness to put restraints on Israel’s actions.

Rhetoric against Israel has been particularly heated from the governments of Jordan and Egypt, two US-allied countries that border the Jewish state and were the first Arab nations to sign peace treaties with it. Amman and Cairo have sounded alarms over what they perceive as a plan to transfer Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank to Egypt and Jordan. While Israel has not announced any such plans, both countries have warned such a move could pull them into war.

Read more about protests across the Middle East.

11:57 p.m. ET, October 20, 2023

US and its allies call for Israel to set out clear goals if and when a ground invasion of Gaza is launched

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis and Oren Liebermann

The US and its allies have been urging Israel to be strategic and clear about its goals if and when it launches a ground invasion of Gaza, warning against a prolonged occupation and placing a particular emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, US and Western officials told CNN.

In private discussions with their Israeli counterparts, Western defense officials have not tried to dissuade Israel from moving into Gaza with ground forces, the sources said.

But they have emphasized that Israel should have clear objectives when it comes to degrading Hamas and seeking to avoid a long-term occupation of the Gaza Strip.

“Our advice to them isn’t ‘Don’t do it,’ because we completely respect their right to go after Hamas and that means going after them wherever they are,” a NATO defense minister told CNN. “So it’s not ‘Don’t do it,’ but it is ‘Think about what happens and have a strategy, not just a tactical maneuver.’ We expect Israel to act within international humanitarian law, but we understand that they’re dealing with an enemy here.”

US President Joe Biden expressed a similar sentiment in an interview with “60 Minutes” last week.

While he said that “taking out the extremists is a necessary requirement” for Israel, “Hamas and the extreme elements of Hamas don’t represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza again.”

And on Wednesday, while in Tel Aviv, Biden warned in public remarks that wartime leadership “requires clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you’re on will achieve those objectives.”

An Israeli official confirmed that these discussions with the US and other allies are taking place.

A separate senior Israeli official said Friday that “Israel is well aware of the humanitarian issues and is taking steps to address it in cooperation with the US government. It’s Hamas who has turned the 2 million people of Gaza into a human shield.”

Read more.

3:44 a.m. ET, October 21, 2023

Take a closer look at the Rafah crossing, where vital humanitarian aid remains in limbo

From CNN's Staff

The US and Israel have signaled readiness for aid to begin moving into Gaza but the Rafah crossing did not open on Friday for a convoy of vital humanitarian aid to enter from the Egyptian border.

Humanitarian aid that has been stuck in Egypt should reach Gaza within "24-48 hours," US President Joe Biden said Friday.

The UN has said the trucks waiting at the southern Rafah crossing will be the "difference between life and death."

In a news conference at the Rafah crossing Friday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the critical importance of delivering aid to Gaza, saying the vehicles carrying supplies "are not just trucks — they are a lifeline."

The entire population of Gaza has been cut off from supplies of electricity, food, fuel and water for over a week under a “complete siege” ordered by Israel in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is worsening by the hour as vital aid struggles to get through. Conditions in Gaza are deteriorating as Israeli strikes pound the Palestinian enclave and aid agencies warn hospitals are nearly out of fuel.