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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12:05 a.m. ET, October 22, 2023

Our coverage of the Israel-Hamas war has moved here.

11:39 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

Canadian intelligence has "high degree of confidence" Israel was not behind strike on Al-Ahli Hospital

Independent analysis by the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command indicates with "a high degree of confidence that Israel did not strike the Al-Ahli hospital" in Gaza City on October 17, according to a statement released by Canada's Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces Saturday.

"Based on analysis of open source and classified reporting, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces assess that the strike was more likely caused by an errant rocket fired from Gaza," the statement said.

"This assessment is informed by an analysis of the blast damage to the hospital complex, including adjacent buildings and the area surrounding the hospital, as well as the flight pattern of the incoming munition," the statement added.

"Reporting from Canada’s allies corroborates DND/CAF’s findings. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available."

The blast that ripped through the packed Al-Ahli Hospital killed hundreds of people. Palestinian militants and the Israeli government have dueling accounts over who is culpable.

11:04 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

IDF flyers warn Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate south or possibly be considered “a partner for the terrorist organization” 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has dropped flyers in the Sabrah neighborhood of Gaza City that urgently warn residents to evacuate to the south or face the possibility of being considered "a partner for the terrorist organization,” according to a CNN translation. 

The flyer reads in Arabic:

Urgent warning!
To the residents of Gaza Strip
Your presence north of Wadi Gaza puts your life in danger
Everyone who choses not to evacuate from the north of the strip to the south of Wadi Gaza might be considered as a partner for the terrorist organization.
Israel Defense Forces

The IDF confirmed it had dropped the flyers in a statement, adding there was "no intention to consider those who have not evacuated from the affected area of fighting as a member of the terrorist group."

The IDF "treats civilians as such, and does not target them," the statement said.

The IDF told CNN that the translation of the flyer from Arabic that “has spread online” was imprecise, but it did not elaborate.

The United Nations has said that the Israeli order to evacuate the entire population of northern Gaza, which is approximately 1.1 million people, is "impossible" without causing major humanitarian consequences.

There are currently 2.2 million people in Gaza. 

The IDF said they continue to urge residents in northern Gaza to evacuate “for their own safety.” 

10:46 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

US sends additional missile defenses to Middle East and orders more troops to prepare to deploy

The US military is sending more missile defense systems to the Middle East and placing additional US troops on prepare-to-deploy orders in response to escalations throughout the region in recent days.

The Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Saturday he had “activated the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery as well as additional Patriot battalions to locations throughout the region to increase force protection for US forces." 

The order for troops to prepare for deployment is meant “to increase their readiness and ability to quickly respond as required,” he said.

Both the THAAD and Patriots systems are air defense systems designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles.

“Following detailed discussions with President Biden on recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East Region, today I directed a series of additional steps to further strengthen the Department of Defense posture in the region," Austin said in a statement.

"These steps will bolster regional deterrence efforts, increase force protection for US forces in the region, and assist in the defense of Israel,” he added.

10:41 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

Israeli airstrike on West Bank mosque meant to thwart "imminent terror attack," IDF says

People inspect the damage after an Israeli airstrike hit a mosque in Jenin, West Bank, on Sunday.
People inspect the damage after an Israeli airstrike hit a mosque in Jenin, West Bank, on Sunday. Mohammad Ateeq/Reuters

The Israeli military said it launched an airstrike early Sunday local time against a mosque in the West Bank city of Jenin to thwart what it called "an imminent terror attack."

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CNN the IDF had new intelligence that "suggested there was an imminent attack coming from a joint Hamas and Islamic Jihad squad" making preparations from an underground command center in the Al-Ansar mosque.

A few months ago, there was significant fighting in Jenin for about two days, and Conricus said during an IDF operation there, they discovered the "terrorist" tunnel system inside the mosque.

The IDF and Israel Securities Authority (ISA) also put out a statement Saturday confirming the strike on the tunnel.

"In a joint IDF and ISA activity, the IDF conducted an aerial strike on an underground terror compound in the Al-Ansar mosque in Jenin; The mosque contained a terror cell of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror operatives who were organizing an imminent terror attack," the statement said.

The statement said Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives had been responsible for several "terror attacks" over the past few months and were plotting a new, "imminent" attack.

"The terrorist cell also carried out a terror attack on October 14 in the area of the security fence, where an explosive device was detonated by a cellular activation of terror forces who arrived at the scene. No injuries were reported," the statement added.

"Intel was recently received which indicated that the terrorists, that were neutralized, were organizing an imminent terror attack. The mosque was used by the terrorists as a command center to plan the attacks and as a base for their execution," the statement said.

9:16 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

Family of Israeli man abducted by Hamas live in hope that he will be released

From CNN's Rhea Mogul

A family member of an Israeli man who remains missing after being kidnapped by Hamas from an Israeli kibbutz two weeks ago said they live with hope that he will be released soon and reunited with his two young daughters.

Omri Miran was taken by Hamas militants in front of his wife and daughters, who survived the brutal attack, his brother-in-law, Moshe Lavi, told CNN.

"It has been a very difficult time for our family," Lavi said from New York. "I was supposed to head back home this week, but my family urged me to stay here and serve as a voice for my sister, our family and the victims of this tragedy that fell upon us."

It has been a "dreadful" two weeks, Lavi said, adding he worries for his sister and her two children, a two-year-old and six-month-old.

He said that his two-year-old niece has been asking about her father and when he is coming home.

"Before falling asleep, she screams every night, 'goodnight, father,' because she hopes he will hear her," Lavi said.

During the October 7 attack, Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 people, including civilians and soldiers, according to Israeli authorities, and abducted around 200 more. It was the most deadly attack by militants in Israel’s 75-year history and has been described as the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

Lavi, who served in a special unit for the Ministry of Defense, said the trauma his two-year-old niece has experienced will likely stay with her for a long time.

"I am sure she will remember for the rest of her life the hours she spent with guns pointed at her face, with a body of a teenage girl lying next to her, with blood covering the adults who were next to her," he said.
"But I know our family is strong. We come from a strong community. And we will be there for them, and we will do everything we can so that we will live a normal life."

Hamas released two American hostages, Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, on Friday, giving Lavi's family hope that Miran will soon return home.

"I'm a realist normally," he said. "But I have to have hope in these moments. I have to have it for my family and I have to have it for my own sanity."
8:50 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

At least 13 killed in airstrikes in West Bank refugee camp, UN agency says

From CNN's Nic Robertson

At least 13 Palestinians, including five children, were reported killed in an Israeli security forces' operation that lasted 28 hours in a West Bank refugee camp, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The operation took place in Nur Shams, the UNRWA director in the West Bank, Adam Bouloukos, said.

The statement added that the UNRWA has suspended schools, health services, and solid waste collections in the camp. 

Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that at least 84 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7. 

7:38 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

Israel says it will step up its airstrikes on Gaza. Here's what else you should know

From CNN staff

The Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, told IDF commanders Saturday that the military is readying an operation to enter Gaza and take out Hamas.

“We’ll enter the Gaza Strip. We’ll embark on an operational and professional task to destroy Hamas operatives and infrastructures,” the chief said in comments to the Golani Brigade of the IDF. He did not provide a specific timeframe.

Meanwhile, the IDF will increase airstrikes on Gaza, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Saturday. “We will increase our strikes, minimize the risk to our troops in the next stages of the war, and we will intensify the strikes, starting from today," Hagari told reporters during a briefing in Tel Aviv.

Airstrikes have killed at least 4,385 people in Gaza since Hamas launched its October 7 attack on Israel, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

Here are other headlines you should know:

  • Gates briefly open for aid to Gaza: A convoy of Egyptian trucks unloaded humanitarian aid after crossing into southern Gaza using the Rafah crossing, which was briefly opened Saturday, according to a CNN stringer on the ground. The crossing is now shut again. A satellite photo taken Saturday morning captured the aid trucks returning from Gaza while a long line of others still waited on the Egyptian side of the crossing. Palestinian officials warned that the volume of aid that reached Gaza is "not enough" to relieve the deteriorating humanitarian situation. A group of United Nations aid organizations called the convoy "a small beginning and far from enough" in a joint statement.
  • Rising death tolls: The death toll in Gaza since October 7 has risen to 4,385, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. That figure includes 248 people who have been killed in Gaza over the past 24 hours, including 56 people in the southern Gaza Strip, which civilians have been asked to relocate to, according to the Hamas-run government media office in Gaza. Meanwhile, at least 84 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank by "Israeli occupation forces," according to a statement from the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah.
  • Peace summit: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said he gathered world leaders in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Saturday to find a "roadmap" to end the "humanitarian tragedy" unfolding in Gaza. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was defiant in remarks to world leaders at the summit, telling them, "We will not leave, we will remain on our land." King Abdullah II of Jordan specifically addressed European and Western leaders in English to say that "our region came with a message of peace." A final joint statement won't be issued following the summit due to "differences" between the delegations on the wording, an official and a diplomat with knowledge of the matter confirmed to CNN on Saturday. Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was "unfortunate" that some of those attending the summit "had difficulty condemning terrorism or acknowledging the danger."
  • Developments on the ground: One member of the Palestinian Civil Defense emergency services agency was killed and another four were wounded in shelling on Saturday morning, officials from the Palestinian Authority said in a statement. And a "large fire" broke out in the Bani Suhaila area in Khan Younis following an Israeli airstrike on a house, according to a statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Interior in Gaza on Saturday afternoon.
  • Protests: Up to 100,000 people joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London on Saturday, according to estimates by the city's Metropolitan Police. Protests have erupted globally this week, particularly around the Arab world, with thousands of demonstrators taking the streets in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and the West Bank after Islamic Friday prayers yesterday to protest Israel’s actions in its war on Hamas.
  • Back-and-forth on hostages: Israel says it will not respond to the Hamas claim that the militant group was “prepared” to release two more hostages, characterizing it as “lying propaganda.” The military wing of Hamas had said in a statement Saturday that it was prepared to release two “detained individuals” on Sunday, who were identified by name, using the “same procedures” that saw the release of two Americans Friday. But Israel has dismissed the claim as “false Hamas propaganda.” CNN has reached out to Qatar to inquire about the status of mediation efforts underway to release additional civilians taken hostage by Hamas but has not yet heard back.
5:27 p.m. ET, October 21, 2023

Analysis of images and videos suggests rocket caused Gaza hospital blast, not Israeli airstrike

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Katie Polglase, Benjamin Brown, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Eliza Mackintosh

Palestinians assess the aftermath of the blast at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City on October 18.
Palestinians assess the aftermath of the blast at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City on October 18. Abed Khaled/AP

In the days since a blast ripped through the packed Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, killing hundreds of Palestinians and setting off dueling claims between Palestinian militants and the Israeli government over culpability are still raging. But forensic analysis of publicly available imagery and footage has begun to offer some clues as to what caused the explosion.

CNN has reviewed dozens of videos posted on social media, aired on live broadcasts and filmed by a freelance journalist working for CNN in Gaza, as well as satellite imagery, to piece together what happened in as much detail as possible.

Without the ability to access the site and gather evidence from the ground, no conclusion can be definitive. But CNN’s analysis suggests that a rocket launched from within Gaza broke up midair, and that the blast at the hospital was the result of part of the rocket landing at the hospital complex.

Weapons and explosive experts with decades of experience assessing bomb damage, who reviewed the visual evidence, told CNN they believe this to be the most likely scenario – although they caution the absence of munition remnants or shrapnel from the scene made it difficult to be sure. All agreed that the available evidence of the damage at the site was not consistent with an Israeli airstrike.

Israel says that a “misfired” rocket by militant group Islamic Jihad caused the blast, a claim that US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday is backed up by US intelligence. A spokesperson for the National Security Council later said that analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open-source information suggested that Israel is “not responsible.”

Palestinian officials and several Arab leaders nevertheless accuse Israel of hitting the hospital amid its ongoing airstrikes in Gaza. Islamic Jihad (or PIJ) – a rival group to Hamas – has denied responsibility.

The Israel-Hamas war has triggered a wave of misleading content and false claims online. That misinformation, coupled with the polarizing nature of the conflict, has made it difficult to sort fact from fiction.

In the past few days, a number of outlets have published investigations into the hospital blast. Some have reached diametrically different conclusions, reflecting the challenges of doing such analysis remotely.

But as more information surfaces, CNN’s investigation – which includes a review of nighttime video of the explosion, and horrifying images of those injured and killed inside the hospital complex – is an effort to shed light on details of the blast beyond what Israel and the US have produced publicly.

Read the CNN investigation in full here.