October 31, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Eric Levenson, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, November 1, 2023
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1:47 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Blinken: It would make the most sense for a "revitalized Palestinian Authority" to have governance over Gaza

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that it would “make the most sense” for an “effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority to have governance and ultimately security responsibility for Gaza.”

Blinken noted during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing: “Whether you can get there in one step is a big question that we have to look at. And if you can't, then there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region."

The PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, has recognized Israel and engaged in multiple failed peace initiatives with it. But its credibility among Palestinians has suffered over the years.

The top US diplomat has repeatedly said that there cannot be a return to the “status quo” with Hamas, and Israeli officials have said it is their aim to eliminate the group from Gaza.

"We also can't have, and the Israeli start with this proposition themselves, Israel, running or controlling Gaza. That's not their intent. It's what they want to do. And it's not something that would be supported," Blinken said.

2:10 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Israel announces first 2 troop deaths in Gaza since ground operation began

From CNN’s Amir Tal in Jerusalem

Two Israeli troops were killed in Gaza on Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said, in the first announcement of IDF troop deaths in the territory since the military ground operation ramped up on Friday night.

The IDF named them as Staff Sgt. Roei Wolf and Staff Sgt. Lavi Lipshitz, both 20. They were both killed in battle in the north of the Gaza Strip, the IDF said.

1:26 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

US House speaker hoping for a vote on Israel aid package later this week

From CNN's Haley Talbot and Kristin Wilson

US House Speaker Mike Johnson said he expects the House's Israel aid package to go to the floor on Thursday, he told Fox News in an interview that was taped Monday. 

“I'm hoping Thursday,” he told Fox News' Kayleigh McEnany in a clip that aired Tuesday afternoon.

Johnson also met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. Blinken was on Capitol Hill testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the need for an emergency supplemental that would include Ukraine as well as Israel. 

Johnson has opposed linking Israel and Ukraine aid, a contrast with Democrats as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Blinken said very little as he left the nearly half-hour meeting with Johnson. 

“It was a very good meeting. I really appreciate the opportunity. I'll leave our conversation at that,” he said. 

He would not answer questions about packaging Ukraine funding into the Israel supplemental funding bill.

12:51 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

US "in a heightened threat environment" following attacks in Israel, Homeland Security secretary says

From CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Washington on Tuesday.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Washington on Tuesday. Win McNamee/Getty Images

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers Thursday that the United States is in a “heightened threat environment” following Hamas' October 7 attacks in Israel.

Mayorkas listed a series of actions that President Joe Biden's administration is taking to assist communities and law enforcement, including providing information and intelligence, issuing a joint intelligence bulletin in the immediate aftermath of the attack, distributing funding to help secure places of worship and communicating with faith communities.

“We are engaging extensively with faith communities, speaking with them about the steps that they can take to ensure that the individuals who practice, continue to practice, their faith, which is so foundational are able to do so with a sense of security,” Mayorkas said.

Possible threats at "historic levels": FBI Director Christopher Wray echoed those actions during the Senate hearing, saying that his agency is also involved in outreach and tackling hate crimes.

“This is a threat that is reaching, in some way, sort of historic levels,” Wray said.

“The reality is that the Jewish community is uniquely, uniquely targeted by pretty much every terrorist organization across the spectrum. And when you look at a group that makes up 2.4% roughly of the American population, it should be jarring to everyone that that same population accounts for something like 60% of all religious-based hate crimes, and so they need our help,” Wray said.

Wray said that propaganda may encourage violent extremists or other lone-wolf actors within the United States.

“Lone actors, homegrown violent extremists inspired by foreign terrorist organizations, are in many ways the biggest threat we face here in the homeland,” Wray said.

He continued, “To have this many foreign terrorist organizations this explicitly calling for attacks significantly … takes the threat level, the threat environment, the risk to a whole other level here.”

12:12 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Approximately 400 Americans and their family members are stuck in Gaza, US secretary of state says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Approximately 400 American citizens and their family members – about 1,000 people total – are stuck in Gaza and are seeking to leave, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday.

The top US diplomat said he and the State Department are “focused on this intensively.”

“We've been in close communication, as best we can, with Americans who are stuck in Gaza. We've had about 5,500 communications that we've initiated — phone calls, emails, WhatsApp — to be in touch with them, to try to guide them as best we can, and to work for their ability to leave,” he said.

There are about 5,000 other third-country nationals in Gaza who also want to get out, Blinken said.

Blinken echoed other US officials in blaming Hamas for Americans being unable to leave Gaza. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said last week that Cairo is ready to process Americans and other foreign nationals if they are able to reach the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.

“We've not yet found a way to get them out by whatever, through whatever, place and by whatever means that Hamas is not blocking,” he said, adding the US is “working that with intermediaries.”

On Sunday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Hamas has been “making a series of demands” to allow departure, but he would not go into details.

11:47 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Israel says it thwarted drone and missile attack by Iran-backed Houthis near Red Sea

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali and Kyle Blaine

The Israel military said Tuesday it thwarted an aerial threat in the area of the Red Sea — an attack that the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen claimed credit for.

In a statement aired on the Houthi-owned Al-Masirah TV, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a spokesperson for Houthi forces, announced the launch of ballistic missiles and drones by Yemeni Armed Forces against targets in Israel.

“Our armed forces launched a large batch of ballistic and winged missiles and a large number of drones at various targets of the Israeli enemy,” the spokesperson said, referring to all of Israel as “occupied territories.”

Saree said it is the third operation in support of the Palestinian people, with plans for more strikes until the “Israeli aggression” ceases.

The Houthis are an Iran-backed Shia political and military organization in Yemen that have been fighting a civil war in the country against a coalition backed by Saudi Arabia.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement earlier Tuesday that it had used its Arrow aerial defense system for the first time to successfully intercept a surface-to-surface missile that was fired from the area of the Red Sea. The use of the Arrow defense system, which is designed to intercept high altitude missiles, indicates the Houthis used a more advanced, long-range missile in its attempted attack. 

Israeli jets also intercepted what the IDF described as “aerial threats” that flew in the area. The IDF said all threats were intercepted outside of Israeli territory. 

The attempted strikes on Israel mark an escalation by the Iran-backed Houthis, as fears intensify that the Israel-Hamas war will lead to a wider conflict in the region

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Tuesday an "expansion of conflicts in the region" was happening and that resistance group members would "not remain silent against America's full support" of Israel and "will not wait for anyone's advice." 

"We need to use the last political opportunities to stop the war and if the situation gets out of control, no side will be safe from its consequences," he said, according to a readout from the Iranian foreign affairs ministry.

US warship incident earlier in the month: On October 19, a US warship near the coast of Yemen shot down four cruise missiles and 15 drones over a period of 9 hours as they were heading north along the Red Sea, according to a US official familiar with the situation. Their trajectory left little doubt that the projectiles were headed for Israel, the official said.

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the missiles were fired by Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen and were launched “potentially towards targets in Israel.” US interceptions of Houthi launches are exceedingly rare.

12:07 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

CNN team reports: Significant number of Israeli tanks moving through the northeastern part of Gaza

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

A CNN team on the ground in Israel near the Gaza perimeter is seeing and hearing evidence of a significant number of Israeli tanks moving through the northeastern part of the Gaza Strip.

What sounds like tank fire can be heard too.

The number of Israeli military vehicles inside the perimeter appears to be considerably higher than just a few hours ago, as the IDF appears to have expanded the ground operation once again.

Sporadic machine gun fire is also heard from the area, indicating close-range combat within the strip. At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued to fire artillery rounds from outside the perimeter.

11:16 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

US Senate leaders push for Israel and Ukraine aid in one package

From CNN's Michael Conte and Kristin Wilson

In back-to-back speeches, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated the need to pass a national security supplemental that funds both Israel and Ukraine. 

Schumer derided the House of Representatives bill that funds Israel as a standalone supplemental while also including a matching amount in rescissions to the Internal Revenue Service enforcement funding in the Inflation Reduction Act, calling it “insulting.”

“The new speaker knows perfectly well if you want to help Israel, you can’t propose legislation that is full of poison pills,” he said. “This House GOP proposal is clearly designed to divide Congress on a partisan basis.”

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson has led the effort, opposing the bipartisan effort in the Senate, to decouple Israel and Ukraine funding.

McConnell said the threats around the world are intertwined, and to ignore one is detrimental to US security.

"At the risk of repeating myself, the threats facing America and our allies are serious and they're intertwined. If we ignore that fact, we do so at our own peril,” he said. 

Democratic Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray and Republican Vice Chair Susan Collins have also emphasized the importance of passing aid for Israel and Ukraine in one package.

“Make no mistake, we need to address all of these priorities as part of one package because the reality is these issues are all connected and they are all urgent,” said Murray in opening remarks at a hearing with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the Biden administration’s supplemental budget request for Israel and Ukraine.

Collins echoed Murray, saying, “If we fail to thwart these efforts, there will be dire consequences that will jeopardize our national security.”

Murray pointed to both China and Russia as watching how the US would respond to both the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Hamas’ attack on Israel.

“All of our adversaries are watching closely to see whether we have the vision to recognize how these crises are related and the resolve to come together and respond forcefully to them,” said Murray.

  

11:10 a.m. ET, October 31, 2023

US trying to get 100 aid trucks a day to enter Gaza this week, Blinken says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States is trying to get 100 trucks a day with humanitarian aid to be able to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday.

“That is the bare minimum of what's needed, but we've got to do it,” Blinken said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, where he was making the case for billions in supplemental funding, some of which will be used for humanitarian aid.

Prior to the war, 500 to 800 trucks a day with assistance were entering the strip, Blinken said. Now it’s “almost 60.”

Blinken spoke about the system set up at Rafah, where the trucks are “verified by Israel as well as by the Egyptian authorities.”

“To date, we don't have reports either from the UN or from Israel that this assistance has been diverted from its intended recipients but it's something that we're going to track very closely,” Blinken said.

“Can I promise you in this committee that there'll be 100% delivery to the designated recipients? No. There will inevitably be some spillage. We haven't seen it to date, but I think we have to anticipate that,” he continued.

“But the overwhelming, overwhelming majority of the assistance thus far is getting to people who need it, and we need more,” Blinken said.

More on Rafah crossing: Located in Egypt’s north Sinai, the Rafah crossing is the sole border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. It falls along an 8-mile (12.8-kilometer) fence that separates Gaza from the Sinai desert.