November 2, 2023 Israel-Hamas war news

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

Updated 1:55 a.m. ET, November 3, 2023
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11:14 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

Israel's military is in "very significant" areas of Gaza City, says IDF chief of staff

From CNN's Amir Tal in Jerusalem

The Israeli military is surrounding Gaza City and "deepening" its operations there, the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff said in a TV interview Thursday.

“Our soldiers have been operating in Gaza City for the past few days, surrounding it from several directions, deepening the operation,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said. “Our forces are in very significant areas of Gaza City.”

Halevi said Israel has not delivered any fuel into Gaza. "We check the situation every day," he said. "When fuel runs out, fuel will be delivered under supervision to the hospitals."

Nearly half of all hospitals in Gaza are out of service due to bombardments and fuel shortages, including the leading cancer hospital in the strip, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah. It warned on Wednesday that Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, could be forced to stop operating soon.

More background: The Israeli army began its full ground operation in Gaza on Friday, moving tanks, bulldozers, infantry and combat engineer units into the strip.

This map shows some of the areas where IDF troops have been operating in the days since:

11:28 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

A Palestinian American family that was stuck in Gaza has safely crossed into Egypt, their attorney says

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Abood Okal, Wafaa Abuzayda and their 1-year-old son Yousef
Abood Okal, Wafaa Abuzayda and their 1-year-old son Yousef Abood Okal

A Palestinian American family from Medway, Massachusetts, have safely arrived in Egypt after leaving Gaza via the Rafah crossing early Thursday morning, their attorney told CNN in a statement.

Abood Okal, Wafaa Abuzayda and their 1-year-old son Yousef arrived in Egypt just after 11:30 a.m. local time, the lawyer, Sammy Nabulsi, said.

“The Okal Family is overwhelmed with the love and support they have received from home and abroad, but they are also exhausted, physically and emotionally drained, and have a long journey ahead of them back to the United States,” Nabulsi said in the statement.

“The Okal Family expresses its deepest gratitude to their family and friends around the world, the Medway community, the media for sharing their plight and the plight of the hundreds of other Americans trapped in Gaza, their elected officials who fought hard for their return, and the State Department for providing them with safe departure,” he added.

Okal — a cancer researcher for a pharmaceutical company — and his family had traveled to the region in late September to visit family. The first week of their trip was spent in the West Bank, but they became stranded in Gaza after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, fearing for their lives.

At this time, the family is asking for privacy until their safe return to Medway, Nabulsi said.

They're also asking for “the immediate and safe departure of the remaining American citizens and their families in Gaza, and compassion and prayers for the innocent civilians in Gaza, who gave them shelter, who helped them find food and water, but who continue to be without their own supply of food, water, fuel, or medicine to live,” Nabulsi added.
9:54 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

Israeli Air Force says it intercepted cruise missile "launched from the southeast"

From Amir Tal in Jerusalem

Israel’s Air Force said that “in recent days” it intercepted a cruise missile fired at the country “launched from the southeast.” 

The military also released footage it said showed the cruise missile being destroyed.

The Israeli Air Force did not indicate where the cruise missile was launched. But last month, the US Navy said that it intercepted multiple projectiles near the coast of Yemen. And on Wednesday, Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed to have successfully launched a barrage of drones against Israel.

“In recent days, a cruise missile was detected by the control and detection systems of the Air Force, which was launched from the southeast towards the airspace of the State of Israel,” the Israeli Air Force said. “The systems followed the trajectory of the cruise missile and launched fighter jets from the ‘Adir’ [F-35] formation, which successfully intercepted it.”

It said that later the same day, the Air Force “intercepted a surface-to-surface missile in the Red Sea using the long-range defense system ‘Arrow.’”

10:03 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

Israel's military responds to white phosphorus accusations with carefully worded statement

From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi, Florence Davey-Attlee and Sarah Sirgany

A shell that appears to be white phosphorus explodes over a house in al-Bustan, south Lebanon, on October 15.
A shell that appears to be white phosphorus explodes over a house in al-Bustan, south Lebanon, on October 15. Hussein Malla/AP

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Thursday responded to accusations about Israel’s use of white phosphorus in Lebanon with a carefully worded statement, dismissing reports that the incendiary substance has been used for setting fires but conceding that it does use it in some circumstances. 

On Tuesday, Amnesty International accused the Israeli army of firing white phosphorus at the southern Lebanese town of Dhayra, injuring civilians.

On the same day, Lebanese interim Agricultural Minister Abbas Al-Hajj Hassan accused Israel of burning more than 40,000 olive trees in southern Lebanon using “white phosphorous bombs.”

The IDF denied that.

The “smoke-screen shells containing the white phosphorus in the IDF are not intended or used for setting fire, and any claim that these shells are used for that cause is baseless,” the IDF said in a statement to CNN. 

The IDF also said it does not use the incendiary weapon in densely populated areas, but added that “certain exceptions” applied.  

“This complies and goes beyond the requirements of international law,” the IDF said. 

What is white phosphorus? It's an incendiary weapon, which is used to set fire to military targets, but its use is restricted under international humanitarian law. It is considered lawful in some cases but cannot be fired at or near civilian areas or civilian infrastructure. 

White phosphorus can provide illumination or create a smokescreen in battle, but it is known to burn flesh down to the bone, according to previous CNN reporting.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “The use of ... white phosphorous weapons against any military objective within concentrations of civilians is prohibited unless the military objective is clearly separated from the civilians.”

Human Rights Watch has also accused Israel of repeatedly firing white phosphorus at Lebanon since the escalation between the two countries began on October 8, sparked by the Hamas-Israel war. 

Last month, the IDF strongly denied the claims. In an interview, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN “categorically, no," it had not used white phosphorus.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented the use by Israel of white phosphorous in civilian areas in Gaza during previous rounds of fighting there. CNN also documented its use.

A CNN team on the ground in southern Lebanon has seen fires, burning trees and billowing smoke in the aftermath of Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon over the past two weeks. The CNN team filmed abandoned olive fields during the ongoing harvest season.

9:58 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

New US ambassador will travel to Israel with secretary of state

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Jacob Lew looks on during his nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be US Ambassador to Israel on October 18, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
Jacob Lew looks on during his nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be US Ambassador to Israel on October 18, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Newly confirmed United States Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew will travel with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel Thursday.

Lew will take up his post in Jerusalem at a time when the stakes could not be higher: Israel’s expanding ground operations and the resulting toll on civilians has seen increasing condemnation by the Arab world, evidenced in part by Jordan's decision to recall its own ambassador to Israel.

Blinken's visit: President Joe Biden's administration has ramped up its public rhetoric about the need for Israel to abide by international humanitarian law, but it has not condemned the country's actions in Gaza. That is expected to be a key aspect of Blinken’s conversations with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as will the need for Israel not to become an occupying force in Gaza.

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Wednesday that Blinken "wants to get an update from Israel on their military objectives and their plans for meeting those objectives" and "to talk about ways that we can increase the flow of humanitarian assistance and get to the point where it’s a sustained, continuous flow getting in every day that meets the needs of innocent civilians in Gaza."

“He wants to talk about preventing the conflict from spreading. He wants to talk about the ability to get hostages back,” Miller said. “And as I said, he will talk directly with the Israeli government, as he has previously, as the president has previously, about our expectation that ... in conducting this military campaign, that they do it – do so in full compliance with international humanitarian law and the laws of war, and we will be very direct about that.”

The growing Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank is also expected to be a major topic of conversation.

“We have made quite clear to the government of Israel that we are very concerned about settler violence in the West Bank,” Miller said Wednesday. “We find it incredibly destabilizing. We find it counterproductive to Israel’s long-term security in addition to, of course, being extremely harmful to the Palestinians living in the West Bank.”
“And we have sent a very clear message to them that it’s unacceptable, it needs to stop, and those responsible for it need to be held accountable,” he said.
9:22 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

Gaza evacuations continue, as Biden supports humanitarian "pause" in fighting. Here’s what you need to know

From CNN's Christian Edwards

More foreign nationals and injured Palestinians have arrived in Egypt from Gaza, a day after the Rafah crossing opened to allow the first evacuations since Israel’s siege of the enclave began nearly four weeks ago. At least 400 foreign nationals and 60 injured people are expected to leave the strip over the course of the day.

Meanwhile, Israel bombed the densely-populated Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza for the second time in two days Wednesday, prompting the United Nations' Human Rights Office to express concerns that the strikes "could amount to war crimes." The Israeli military said the actions targeted Hamas commanders and the militant group’s infrastructure.

And, as the global outcry against the suffering of Gazans grows, US President Joe Biden – who has offered full-throated support for Israel but increasingly raised concerns about the situation in Gaza – also called for a humanitarian “pause” in the Israel-Hamas war, to allow aid to reach civilians and help facilitate the release of hostages.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Rafah evacuations: Egypt has said it will help evacuate nearly 7,000 foreign citizens from more than 60 countries via the Rafah crossing, according to a statement from its foreign ministry. The first foreign nationals were able to cross from Gaza to Egypt Wednesday. Evacuations resumed Thursday and are expected to continue over the coming days. Six US citizens were among those evacuated Thursday. They are believed to be among some 400 American citizens plus their family members – about 1,000 people total – to be stuck in Gaza amid the deepening humanitarian crisis. A convoy of ambulances arrived at the crossing Thursday and were waiting to pick up injured Palestinians, an Egyptian border official told a CNN reporter on the ground.
  • Jabalya strikes: The Israeli airstrike that again rocked the Gazan refugee camp of Jabalya on Wednesday killed at least 80 people, the director of Gaza’s Indonesian hospital Dr. Atef Al Kahlout told CNN. He said the majority of casualties were women and children, and that hundreds more people were injured. Video from the blast site showed catastrophic damage surrounding a deep crater in the neighborhood and people digging through the rubble searching for bodies. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that the blast in the Falluja neighborhood of the camp was due to an airstrike, which had “eliminated” Hamas terrorists.
  • Biden comments: US President Joe Biden said Wednesday evening that he supports a humanitarian “pause” in the war to allow for the release of more hostages held in Gaza, responding to a protester who called for a ceasefire. As Biden was speaking at a fundraiser in Minneapolis, he was heckled by an audience member demanding a ceasefire – which prompted the president to explain his own position: “I think we need a pause. A pause means give time to get the prisoners out,” Biden said. Many Western leaders have stopped short of calling for an outright ceasefire, stressing Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas, but have appealed for a humanitarian “pause” to allow aid to get into Gaza and hostages to get out.
  • UN concern over "disproportionate attacks:" The United Nations Human Rights Office warned that Israeli airstrikes on the Jabalya refugee camp “could amount to war crimes.” In a post on social media Wednesday, the office said: “Given the high number of civilian casualties and the scale of destruction following Israeli airstrikes on the Jabalya refugee camp, we have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes.” Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has lasted nearly four weeks and killed at least 8,700 people, according to figures released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, drawn from sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
  • Diplomatic backlash: Israel’s strikes on Jabalya have further strained its diplomatic relations with its Arab neighbors and a number of other countries across the world. Bolivia cut diplomatic ties with Israel on Tuesday, citing “crimes against humanity” against Palestinians. In the wake of Wednesday’s strike, Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel. Bahrain did the same on Thursday, adding that the Israeli ambassador had departed the country and that economic relations with Israel had been suspended.
9:00 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

At least 33 journalists killed in Israel-Hamas conflict since war began, Committee to Protect Journalists says

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

Relatives and colleagues of Palestinian journalists Saeed Al-Taweel and Mohammad Sobh, who were killed in Israeli airstrikes, perform funeral prayer in Gaza on October 10.
Relatives and colleagues of Palestinian journalists Saeed Al-Taweel and Mohammad Sobh, who were killed in Israeli airstrikes, perform funeral prayer in Gaza on October 10. Ashraf Amra/Anadolu/Getty Images

At least 33 journalists have been killed since the latest Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7, according to a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) statement released Thursday. 

The death toll among journalists includes 28 Palestinians, four Israelis and one Lebanese, the CPJ said.

Eight journalists have been reported injured, and nine others have been reported missing or detained, CPJ said.

9:22 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

US pediatrician is "relieved" to be out of Gaza, she says. But her thoughts remain with the people still there

From CNN’s Amy Simonson

An American pediatrician who crossed into Egypt Wednesday after being stuck in Gaza told CNN she is "doing pretty well," but her thoughts remain with Gazans who remain in the enclave.

"I think I’m in a halo of just relieved to be here," Dr. Barbara Zind said Thursday, speaking to CNN's Poppy Harlow from Cairo. "But I’m just feeling awful for the devastation that the Gazan people are going through right now.”
"There is really no safe place for the Gazan people,” she said.

Zind, a pediatrician from Grand Junction, Colorado, and Ramona Okumura, another aid worker, were among the Americans who left Gaza via the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday.

Zind said she and others from her group were staying in United Nations facilities that were filled with Gazans seeking refuge, adding the amount of toilets and water “inadequate for the tens of thousands of people who showed up.” 

"We kept running out of water, and that was water to flush the toilet," Zind said. "We were always fortunate to have drinking water which was not true of the Gazans that were just outside the fence from us. They were running out of drinking water.”

The experience of the last several weeks has yet to fully sink in, Zind indicated. But after the "long process" of leaving Gaza and arriving in Cairo, she said, "I really enjoyed the shower last night."

8:22 a.m. ET, November 2, 2023

Biden says he supports humanitarian "pause" in Gaza conflict, after heckler demanded ceasefire

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Kyle Feldscher, Nikki Carvajal and Christian Edwards

President Joe Biden speaks at Dutch Creek Farms in Northfield, Minnesota, on November 1.
President Joe Biden speaks at Dutch Creek Farms in Northfield, Minnesota, on November 1. Andrew Harnik/AP

US President Joe Biden said Wednesday evening he was supportive of a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas conflict to allow for the release of more hostages held in Gaza, responding to a protester who called for a ceasefire.

As Biden was speaking at a fundraiser in Minneapolis, he was heckled by a person in the audience who shouted, “As a rabbi I need you to call for a ceasefire right now,” according to a CNN reporter inside the room.

The president responded by saying he supported a break in fighting to allow for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Biden and other administration officials have not endorsed a ceasefire.

I think we need a pause. A pause means give time to get the prisoners out,” Biden said.

Biden administration officials have previously called for a pause, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the United Nations. Biden himself addressed the idea of humanitarian pauses during his news conference last week and suggested he raised the idea directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So far, Israel has appeared to reject the idea. 

Many Western leaders, stressing Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas following its attack on October 7, have stopped short of calling for an outright ceasefire in Gaza, and instead have appealed for a humanitarian “pause” to the fighting.

Reporters accompanying the president said the heckler was escorted out by security as she was singing “ceasefire now.” The fundraiser audience responded by chanting “four more years.” The demonstrator told reporters her name was Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg.

“I understand the emotion,” Biden said as he continued his remarks. “This is incredibly complicated for the Israelis. It’s incredibly complicated for the Muslim world as well,” he said. “I supported a two state solution, I have from the very beginning.” 

“The fact of the matter is that Hamas is a terrorist organization. A flat-out terrorist organization,” Biden said.

"Ceasefire" or "pause:" The deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza has sparked huge international concern but, more than three weeks since the outbreak of violence, the world has so far failed to unite around a common position.

Those advocating a “pause” say it would allow aid to reach the more than 2 million civilians living in the besieged enclave, and might help facilitate the release of more than 200 hostages captured by Hamas. The term also implies that fighting could resume once more aid has reached civilians.