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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4:01 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Israeli military claims it killed Hamas commander in strike on Jabalya camp in Gaza; Hamas denies claim

From CNN's Kyle Blaine, Tamar Michaelis, Ibrahim Dahman and Hamdi Alkhshali

The Israeli military claimed Tuesday that it had taken out a top Hamas commander — who was one of the leaders of the October 7 attack on Israel — in a strike on the Jabalya refugee camp.

"A short while ago, IDF fighter jets, acting on ISA intelligence, killed Ibrahim Biari, the Commander of Hamas' Central Jabaliya Battalion. Biari was one of the leaders responsible for sending 'Nukbha' terrorist operatives to Israel to carry out the murderous terror attack on October 7th. Numerous Hamas terrorists were hit in the strike," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said earlier that the IDF was targeting “a very senior Hamas commander" in the area around the camp.

The IDF said Biari oversaw all military operations in the northern Gaza Strip since it began its ground operation and was also involved in multiple attacks on Israel going back decades.

The IDF said it had carried out a wide-scale strike on terrorists and terror infrastructure belonging to the Central Jabalya Battalion, which it said had taken control of civilian buildings. As part of the strike, Hamas’ command and control and its ability to direct military activity against IDF soldiers in Gaza were damaged.

The IDF also said "a large number of terrorists" were killed in the strike, which also led to the collapse of the underground infrastructure they were using. 

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it “condemns in the strongest terms the new massacre committed by the occupation against our people in the Jabalya camp,” referencing “chilling documented scenes” of children and women. 

What Hamas is saying: Hamas, however, denied Israeli assertions regarding the presence of one of its leaders in the camp, spokesperson Hazem Qassem said in a statement.

Qassem accused Israel of attempting to justify what he described as a "heinous crime against safe civilians, children, and women in Jabalya camp."

Jabalya is the largest of the Gaza Strip's eight refugee camps, according to the main United Nations agency supporting Palestinians in the territory. Photos of the site showed multiple large craters in the ground, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed and damaged buildings.

2:24 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

US will send 300 more troops to Middle East, Defense Department spokesperson says

From CNN's Michael Conte 

The US is sending 300 more troops to the US Central Command region, which covers the Middle East and parts of Africa, in the wake of the current Israel-Hamas conflict, according to a Defense Department spokesperson. 

“These additional troops will provide capabilities and explosive ordnance disposal, communications and other support enablers for forces already in the region,” said Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder at a news briefing Tuesday.

Ryder said that the Defense Department would not disclose where specifically the additional forces will be sent, except to “confirm they're not going to Israel.”

“They are intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster US force protection capabilities,” said Ryder.

 

2:13 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

IDF spokesperson says Hamas target of strike in refugee camp was hiding among civilians

From CNN's Richard Greene

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday the Hamas commander who was the target of an airstrike at the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza was “hiding, as they do, behind civilians.”

The strike caused many casualties at Jabalya, the largest refugee camp in Gaza, according to authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

When Blitzer asked the spokesperson about innocent civilians in the refugee camp, Hecht responded, “This is the tragedy of war, Wolf.”

He reiterated the IDF call to evacuate: “Civilians (who) are not involved with Hamas, please move south.”

Hecht said the Hamas commander who was the target of the strike “killed many Israelis.”

“It's a very complicated battle space,” Hecht said of the area the IDF struck. “There could be infrastructure there, tunnels there. We're looking into it and (will) give you more data as the hour moves ahead.”

2:17 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Islamophobic incidents are on the rise in the US, nation's largest Muslim advocacy group says

From CNN's Rikki Klaus

Family members of Wadea Al Fayoume, a six year-old who was stabbed to death, bring out his casket from Mosque Foundation to the hearse in Bridgeview, Illinois, on October 16.
Family members of Wadea Al Fayoume, a six year-old who was stabbed to death, bring out his casket from Mosque Foundation to the hearse in Bridgeview, Illinois, on October 16. Nam Y. Huh/AP

The United States' largest Muslim civil rights organization said reports of assault, intimidation and harassment against Muslims in the country are on the rise since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas. 

In a report published last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it received 774 complaints from October 7 through October 25, compared to an average 16-day period of about 225 complaints last year.

The nonprofit said this is the largest wave of reports logged since late 2015 — but cautioned the true number of incidents was likely much higher.   

“Last time we saw a wave of Islamophobia like this was December 2015. Donald J. Trump had announced his plan to ban Muslims from the country. And as a result that opened a wave of bias incidents, other acts of intimidation on the Muslim community,” Corey Saylor, CAIR national research and advocacy director, told CNN Tuesday. 

In October, CAIR documented anti-Muslim incidents that range from the killing of a six-year old Palestinian-American Muslim boy to people driving vehicles into pro-Palestinian demonstrators. 

Saylor said his team has also documented incidents of doxxing and bosses threatening to fire employees over pro-Palestinian statements. 

“What I'm hearing is that a lot of Muslims are very conscientious of their surroundings and increasingly more concerned about what they say being used against them,” Saylor said.

5:20 p.m. ET, October 31, 2023

Israel strikes Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder and Abeer Salman in Jerusalem and Niamh Kennedy in London

Palestinians search for casualties at the site of a strike at the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza on Tuesday.
Palestinians search for casualties at the site of a strike at the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza on Tuesday. Fadi Whadi/Reuters

An Israeli strike targeting a Hamas commander in the densely populated Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza has left catastrophic damage and killed a large number of people, according to eyewitnesses and medics in the enclave.

According to a statement by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the airstrike targeted and killed Ibrahim Biari, whom it described as one of the Hamas commanders responsible for the October 7 attack on Israel, which left than 1,400 people dead and hundreds taken hostage.

The IDF also said “numerous other Hamas terrorists” were hit in the strike, and claimed the Central Jabalya Battalion had taken control of civilian buildings.

Hamas however has strongly denied the presence of one of its leaders in camp. Hazem Qassem, a spokesperson for the militant group, accused Israel of attempting to justify what he described as a “heinous crime against safe civilians, children, and women in Jabalya camp.”

The Ministry of Interior in Gaza reported that “20 homes were completely destroyed in the Israeli bombing that targeted a residential neighbourhood" in the Jabalya camp.

The director of Gaza's Indonesian hospital, Dr. Atef al-Kahlout, told CNN that “hundreds” of dead and injured people arrived at the hospital. “Many are still under the rubble,” he added. 

“What you see is a scene no one can imagine: injured martyrs, charred bodies in the hundreds,” said Dr. Mohammad alRann of the Indonesian hospital, one of the largest in Gaza, which received many of the casualties from the strike. “The patients and injured are on the floors, beds, corridors and reception area.”

“All we can do is keep taking them in. Most of the injuries are from explosives and head injuries and amputations," he added.

Photos of the site showed multiple large craters in the ground, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed and damaged buildings.

What to know about the camp: The Jabalya refugee camp is the largest of the Gaza Strip's eight refugee camps, according to the main UN agency supporting Palestinians in the territory, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).    

Located north of Gaza City, Jabalya is the nearest camp to the Erez border crossing that – in more peaceful times – linked Gaza to Israel.

Many Palestinian refugees settled in the camp in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, after fleeing villages in what became the state of Israel, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). At last count in 2023, there were 116,011 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in the camp.

The camp is spread out across 1.4 square kilometers and has long grappled with overcrowding. According to UNRWA, many of the camp’s shelters are “built in close proximity” with many residents forced to add “extra floors to their shelters to accommodate their families.”

Clean water supply has also been a challenge in the camp with “with 90 percent of the water being unfit for human consumption,” according to UNRWA. In a UNRWA situation update dated October 27, the UN agency said that water wells were functional in the camp.

This post has been updated with new details about the airstrike on Jabalya.

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.”