November 1, 2023 Israel-Hamas war news

By Kathleen Magramo, Christian Edwards, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Dakin Andone, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023
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3:28 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

White House avoids criticism of Israeli strike on refugee camp

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Palestinians inspect the damage of buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on Jabalya refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City on October 31.
Palestinians inspect the damage of buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on Jabalya refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City on October 31. Abdul Qader Sabbah/AP

The White House continued Wednesday to avoid direct criticism of Israel's military actions in Gaza, including its massive airstrike on a refugee camp, saying it wouldn't respond to each development on the battlefield.

Speaking aboard Air Force One, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said instead the US was in constant conversation with the Israelis about the importance of protecting civilian lives. 

"We’re going to be cautious about reacting to each and every event on the ground," Kirby told CNN, adding the US was still gathering details on the strike.

He could not provide American estimates of causalities.

Kirby declined to elaborate on US President Joe Biden's personal reaction to the airstrike, which occurred Tuesday.

He said the US has long been concerned about the imperative to protect civilians.

"There's not a conversation we're having with our Israeli counterparts that doesn't reflect our continued concern over civilian casualties and urging them to be as careful and deliberate as possible to avoid that risk," he said.

"You'll continue to hear from the president about our significant concern over civilian harm," Kirby added later.

 

2:13 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

Why the Rafah border crossing has a critical role in the Israel-Hamas war

From CNN's Abbas Al Lawati and Mohammed Abdelbary

A small number of Palestinians and foreign nationals have finally been able to leave Gaza on Wednesday, after weeks of intense negotiations resulted in the partial opening of the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

On Wednesday, some exited Gaza through Rafah following a deal brokered by Qatar between Israel, Hamas and Egypt, in coordination with the United States.

It comes soon after aid trucks were able to start entering the enclave in greater numbers in the opposite direction — a development that also required lengthy talks.

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.

Rafah is the only Gazan border crossing that isn’t controlled by Israel, which shut its crossings with the territory following Hamas’ October 7 attack. It has emerged as a crucial location as the humanitarian situation in the territory worsens.

Before the war with Hamas that started in early October, Israel had two crossings with Gaza: Erez, which is for the movement of people, and Kerem Shalom, for goods. Both were heavily restricted and have been shut since the war began.

According to United Nations figures, an average of 27,000 people crossed the border each month as of July this year. The border was open for 138 days and closed for 74 this year until that month.

Closures often depend on the security and political situation on the ground. While Israel has no direct control over the crossing, Egypt’s closures often coincide with Israel’s own tightening of restrictions on Gaza.

Read more about the critical role of the Rafah crossing.

3:52 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

IDF confirms second Jabalya blast was the result of an airstrike

From CNN's Kevin Flower

Palestinians conduct search and rescue operations after the second bombardment at Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza City on November 1.
Palestinians conduct search and rescue operations after the second bombardment at Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza City on November 1. Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/Getty Images

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that a blast in the Falluja neighborhood of the Jabalya refugee camps was due to an airstrike Wednesday.

The IDF said in a statement its jets "struck a Hamas command and control complex in Jabaliya," adding that "Hamas terrorists were eliminated in the strike."

"Hamas deliberately builds its terror infrastructure under, around and within civilian buildings, intentionally endangering Gazan civilians," the IDF said.

The statement said the IDF has been urging people in the neighborhood to leave. It also reiterated its call for civilians in northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern part of the enclave.

The airstrike rocked the refugee camp for the second day in a row. Video from the site showed catastrophic damage and people digging through the rubble searching for bodies. 

The first Israeli strike on the Jabalya refugee camp on Tuesday killed a large number of people, according to eyewitnesses and medics there. Israel says its strike targeted and killed a top Hamas commander, while Hamas strongly denied the presence of one of its leaders in the camp.

This post has been updated with additional information about the airstrike.

2:03 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

Some US citizens have departed Gaza and are in Egypt, State Department spokesperson says 

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Aileen Graef

An initial group of foreign nationals, including US citizens, have departed Gaza and are in Egypt, US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Wednesday.

He declined to give details on the number of US citizens who have departed, citing “operational security” concerns. 

Americans are expected to leave Gaza today and others are being told to be “ready to go,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Air Force One.

“A handful of Americans are expected to depart today, and we expect to get more to come in future days. The State Department has communicated directly with American citizens and Gaza over the past 24 hours to tell them to be ready to go and to await further instruction,” Kirby said.

Kirby also pushed back on the suggestion that the United States would support a permanent settlement outside of Gaza for Palestinians.

Some context: The departures of injured Palestinians and some foreign nationals followed a deal brokered by Qatar between Israel, Hamas and Egypt, in coordination with the US, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The deal to release foreigners from Gaza into Egypt is not part of any potential deal to secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas, multiple sources emphasize to CNN. Those talks are still ongoing and one US official said they would caution against drawing any comparisons between the two parallel missions.

2:04 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

At least 361 foreign nationals have entered Egypt through the Rafah crossing from Gaza, Egyptian official says

From journalist Asmaa Khalil in Rafah and CNN’s Zeena Saifi in Jerusalem

At least 361 foreign nationals have entered Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, an Egyptian government official tells CNN.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said 76 are now on their way to Cairo, where some will catch flights back to their home countries, while the rest are still at the crossing completing the necessary paperwork.

According to the official, 491 foreign nationals were registered to arrive in Egypt today, but the remaining 130 either didn’t make it to the border crossing or refused to cross without their families, whose names were not registered on the list.  

As of Wednesday evening, the Rafah crossing remains open, and the rest of the foreign nationals registered to cross today will continue crossing through. 

The breakdown for the nationalities of the 76 individuals en route to Cairo is the following:  

  • 29 from Austria 
  • 12 from Australia
  • 1 from the United Kingdom 
  • 12 from Jordan
  • 5 from Saudi Arabia 
  • 4 from Italy
  • 13 from Japan

More context: The release of the foreign nationals is the result of a deal brokered by Qatar between Israel, Hamas and Egypt, in coordination with the US, that would allow for the release of those individuals, alongside critically injured civilians from Gaza, according to sources familiar with the talks. The agreement is separate from any hostage negotiations, the source added.

Sources close to the matter had also told CNN that up to 500 foreigners were expected to cross out of Gaza at Rafah.

2:11 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

US ambassador to Israel to be sworn in and start role this week, White House says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Jack Lew testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, on October 18.
Jack Lew testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, on October 18. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/FILE

Jack Lew is set to begin his new role as the United States ambassador to Israel by the end of the week after he was officially appointed to the post by President Joe Biden on Tuesday night.

“The president officially appointed Jack Lew last night. And tomorrow there will be a small, informal swearing-in ceremony in DC so that he can immediately get to work,” White House deputy press secretary Emilie Simons told reporters aboard Air Force One. 

She said Lew will "immediately advance our efforts to support the defense of Israel" once he is sworn in, including continuing to negotiate the release of hostages being held in Gaza and evacuating Americans from the enclave.

The ambassador will also focus on "increasing the flow of aid to civilians, leading diplomatic efforts to support our Israeli partners while stressing the need to uphold international humanitarian law, and supporting US efforts to create the conditions for a humanitarian pause to address the worsening humanitarian conditions facing Palestinian civilians," Simons said.

She thanked the Senate for their work to confirm Lew, who was first nominated in September.

1:34 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

Threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab Americans have significantly increased, US attorney general says

From CNN’s Holmes Lybrand

Attorney General Merrick Garland gives a brief statement at the Justice Department in August.
Attorney General Merrick Garland gives a brief statement at the Justice Department in August. Bonnie Cash/Reuters/FILE

There has been a “significant increase" in threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab Americans in recent weeks, the United States attorney general said, reiterating the Justice Department's commitment to prosecuting perpetrators.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday at a hate crimes forum that in his daily briefings, he has noticed an increase in the "volume and frequency" of threats against these groups. 

The attorney general cited the arrest of Cornell University Student Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old junior, for threats he allegedly posted in an online discussion forum this weekend against the university’s Jewish students.  

Patrick Dai.
Patrick Dai. Broome County Sheriff's Office

Garland said Dai was arrested and charged with threatening to kill or injure Jewish people at Cornell University.

“As this arrest shows, we are focusing our efforts on confronting and disrupting illegal threats wherever they arise. The Justice Department has no tolerance for violence, or unlawful threats of violence fueled by antisemitism or Islamophobia," Garland said.

Dai is scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

“I recognize the fear, frustration and isolation that many of you have felt over the past few weeks, and that you continue to feel as we join us here today. I want to reiterate a core principle of this Justice Department: No person and no community in this country should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence,” Garland said.

1:18 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

Connectivity in Gaza is being restored, internet monitoring site says

From CNN's Rachel Wilson

Connectivity is being restored in the Gaza Strip, the internet monitoring site Netblocks said Wednesday, after two Palestinian internet providers earlier announced a "complete interruption" of communications and internet services in the enclave.

"We can confirm connectivity is being restored. Duration of the incident is just over 8 hours," said Isik Mater, Netblocks Director of Research in an email to CNN on Wednesday.

Asked by CNN to respond to the communications outage, the Israeli military said, "There is no comment on this."

Internet and communication services have been repeatedly impacted in Gaza, with independent internet monitoring groups telling CNN that blackouts have worsened since the Hamas attack on October 7. 

1:14 p.m. ET, November 1, 2023

Biden says some American citizens will be departing Gaza today

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Jennifer Hansler

President Joe Biden departs the White House on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden departs the White House on Wednesday. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that some American citizens will be departing Gaza as soon as today and hailed US leadership in efforts to help some Gazans and foreign nationals leave amid an escalating ground offensive.

“Today, thanks to American leadership, we secured safe passage for wounded Palestinians and for foreign nationals to exit Gaza. We expect American citizens to exit today, and we expect to see more depart over the coming days,” Biden said on X
“We won't let up working to get Americans out of Gaza," he said.

CNN previously reported that, while Americans were not initially expected to be among the first batch exiting, given the fluid nature of the situation, some Americans may leave Wednesday, according to one US official.

 Approximately 400 American citizens plus 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. There are about 5,000 other third-country nationals in Gaza who also want to get out, he said.

The deal to release foreigners from Gaza into Egypt is not part of any potential deal to secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas, multiple sources told CNN. Those talks are still ongoing and one US official said they would caution against drawing any comparisons between the two parallel missions. 

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez contributed reporting to this post.