November 8, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Tara Subramaniam, Sophie Tanno, Adrienne Vogt, Dakin Andone, Mike Hayes and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, November 9, 2023
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9:28 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

IDF claims to have destroyed Hamas tunnel near UNRWA school

From CNN's Tamar Michaelis in Jerusalem and Duarte Mendonca in London.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claims to have destroyed a Hamas tunnel near a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) sponsored school in the Beit Hanoun area of northern Gaza.

The IDF made the claim in a statement released Wednesday and also shared a video allegedly showing the destruction "near the school" through a drone camera.

CNN cannot verify the IDF’s claims. CNN has also reached out to UNRWA for comment.

9:25 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

IDF claims it has destroyed 130 Hamas tunnel shafts in Gaza as ground operation continues

From CNN's Tamar Michaelis in Jerusalem

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed it has destroyed 130 Hamas tunnel shafts since the start of the war, as Israel continues the "expansion" of its ground operation in Gaza. 

"Combat engineers fighting in Gaza are destroying the enemy's weapons and are locating, exposing and detonating tunnel shafts. With the expansion of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the soldiers are thwarting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure," the IDF said in a press release on Wednesday.

CNN cannot verify the IDF’s claims.

The IDF said it had destroyed 130 tunnel shafts since the start of the fighting and its soldiers were still working to expose and destroy more tunnels. 

It added that Hamas' "preparation for a prolonged stay in the tunnels can be seen based on water and oxygen means found in the tunnels."

9:00 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

US has told Iran it does not seek to escalate conflict, defense official says

From CNN's Haley Britzky

The United States has taken “additional measures to communicate directly with Iran” that it does not seek to escalate conflict in the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas war, a senior US defense official said Wednesday. 

It comes after the Pentagon announced an airstrike on a weapons storage facility in Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Corps Guard in response to near-daily attacks by Iranian-backed groups on US forces in the region.

“In light of heightened tensions stemming from the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, we have undertaken additional measures to communicate directly with Iran, Iran-aligned groups in Iraq, Lebanon, and our regional partners," the official said.
"We aim to clarify that our military actions do not signal a change in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict, and we have no intentions of escalating conflict in the region.”

Meanwhile, the US has put additional Patriot batteries at its bases in the Middle East as a result of the attacks by Iranian backed groups in Iraq and Syria, according to a senior defense official.

The Pentagon previously announced the deployment of an unknown number of Patriot batteries from the US to the Middle East, but has not disclosed where specifically they were sent. 

7:42 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

Palestinians say nowhere is safe as thousands flee northern Gaza. Here's what to know

From CNN staff

Palestinians walk down a road as they flee Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza towards the south, on November 8.
Palestinians walk down a road as they flee Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza towards the south, on November 8. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people have walked from northern Gaza to the southern regions of the enclave since the establishment of periodic evacuation "corridors" by the Israel Defense Forces on November 4, according to a United Nations agency for refugees.

Doctors say they are running out of medical supplies as the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, prompting more agencies and world leaders to advocate for a pause in fighting to let aid in.

Despite the pressure, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken escalated the US' opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza.

Here's what else to know:

  • Civilians flee as Israeli offensive continues: Thousands of Palestinians are evacuating northern Gaza as Israel continues its offensive in the war against Hamas. Some of them described an unbearable reality in Gaza City, with constant airstrikes and no water. A man who did not provide his name told CNN in southern Gaza that the war "left nothing safe – not churches, not mosques or anything." Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Tuesday that IDF troops were operating in Gaza City, targeting Hamas infrastructure and commanders there.
  • Dire humanitarian situation: Doctors in Gaza are running out of medical supplies, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross's chief surgeon, while all bakeries have been forced to close in northern Gaza due to a lack of fuel, water and wheat flour. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said it was able to deliver medical supplies to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City Wednesday despite "relentless bombardments."

  • Continued calls for a ceasefire: The president of the International Rescue Committee called for a humanitarian ceasefire for at least five days, emphasizing that it was the "absolute minimum" needed to allow aid agencies to relieve some of the suffering. Other world leaders have also called for a ceasefire or a "humanitarian pause" in recent days. Blinken, however, reiterated his opposition, saying, "Those calling for an immediate ceasefire have an obligation to explain how to address the unacceptable result that would likely bring."
  • War crimes accusations: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said both Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes since the conflict erupted last month. Türk urged both sides to agree to a ceasefire on the basis of three human rights imperatives: the delivery of aid to Gaza, the release of hostages by Hamas as well and the implementation of “a durable end to the occupation."
  • Hostage negotiations: A deal to secure the release of a large number of hostages that Hamas is holding in Gaza appears elusive for now, despite active negotiations involving the US, Israel, Qatar and Hamas. The multi-party talks have been ongoing for weeks and have so far produced many ideas, but any kind of proposal involving hostages in exchange for a pause in fighting is not on the table, a US official and other diplomatic sources involved in the talks said. IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that the military’s current count of hostages being held by Hamas is 239.
  • Rafah crossing latest: The crossing between Gaza and Egypt was closed on Wednesday due to a “security circumstance,” the US State Department said. A total of 637 foreign nationals were evacuated to Egypt on Tuesday, an Egyptian official said.
  • The future of Gaza: The United States believes that the Palestinian Authority “is the appropriate place to look for governance eventually” of the Gaza Strip, a State Department official said Wednesday. It is in line with Blinken's comments that "Israel cannot occupy Gaza," but "there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict." Netanyahu said earlier this week said Israel will have the "overall security responsibility" in Gaza for an "indefinite period" after the war ends.
7:20 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

UN rights chief says war crimes have been committed by both Israel and Hamas

From CNN's Michael Rios

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said both Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes since the conflict erupted last month.

“The atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups on 7 October were heinous, brutal and shocking, they were war crimes — as is the continued holding of hostages,” commissioner Volker Türk said. “The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians.”

The UN rights chief delivered the remarks Wednesday after visiting the Rafah crossing, which he called a symbolic lifeline for the 2.3 million people in Gaza.

“The lifeline has been unjustly, outrageously thin,” he said as he called for more humanitarian aid to be delivered to the enclave.

Türk also urged both sides to agree to a ceasefire on the basis of three human rights imperatives: the delivery of aid to Gaza, the release of hostages by Hamas as well as the implementation of “a durable end to the occupation, based on the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis to self-determination and their legitimate security interests."

“Even in the context of a 56-year-old occupation, the current situation is the most dangerous in decades, faced by people in Gaza, in Israel, in the West Bank but also regionally,” he said.

The Israeli military commented on accusations of war crimes saying:

"The IDF’s strikes on military targets are subject to relevant provisions of international law, including the taking of feasible precautions and after an assessment that the expected incidental damage to civilians and civilian property is not excessive in relation to the expected military advantage from the attack."
5:49 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

Videos released by Hamas show clashes with IDF in Gaza City

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Even though IDF forces have encircled Gaza City and spent more than a month targeting Hamas positions and tunnels, videotaped attacks recently released by Hamas and analyzed by CNN help illustrate how difficult it will be to stop the Islamist militants.

CNN has geolocated a number of the clashes seen in the Hamas videos to three main locations: the Al-Shati refugee camp, Atatra and Beit Hanoun. The videos were released after the Israeli ground invasion began.

The remaining fights CNN was unable to geolocate were either in incredibly dense city streets or very rural areas — mainly olive groves. 

The overall success of the Hamas attacks depicted — whether the bulk of their fighters survive and whether they are causing IDF personnel casualties or disabling equipment — is unclear from the videos, which are heavily edited and redacted propaganda. Hamas only touts its successful missions in its videos. 

However, Hamas publishing body camera footage of its fighters carrying out an ambush does indicate that at least one of their fighters survived and brought back footage. 

CNN military analyst and retired US Lt. General Mark Hertling reviewed the videos and said that Hamas was likely utilizing shape-charge rocket-propelled grenades, which have the potential to be specifically devastating to some military vehicles, like armored personnel carriers.  

An IDF spokesperson declined to comment on the number of military vehicles that have been disabled or destroyed during the ground invasion, citing "operational security considerations." 

Clearing Hamas' tunnels with weapons stockpiles and fighters inside will likely take months. Additionally, Hamas fighters can now also use the aftermath of the Israeli military strikes — the ruins of buildings — as cover to carry out their ambushes.

Hertling said that trying to stop these ambushes would be like "whack-a-mole" unless the IDF was able to knock out every single tunnel complex, tunnel opening or shaft.

"It's going to take months to do that," he said, noting that clearing operations can't be done by vehicles.  

IDF soldiers will have to clear each building individually, which will expose them to rifle and sniper fire from Hamas and, in turn, risk a skyrocketing casualty rate.

 Hamas says the videos were taken on November 2, 3, 5, and 6. A CNN analysis could not independently confirm that time period, but the length and direction of the shadows in the videos also indicate many of the ambushes either occurred on different days or took place many hours apart.  

At most of the sites, Hamas fighters are seen carrying out multiple ambushes, at different times throughout the day.  

5:28 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

UN agency delivers medical supplies to Gaza's largest medical facility despite "relentless bombardments"

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

The main United Nations agency operating in Gaza said Wednesday it was able to facilitate and deliver medical supplies and medicines to the largest medical facility in the enclave “despite huge risks to our staff and health partners due to relentless bombardments."

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said it was the second delivery of "lifesaving supplies" from the World Health Organization to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City since the escalation of hostilities in Gaza began. 

The first WHO delivery was on October 24 "amid high insecurity," UNRWA said, stating that Al-Shifa Hospital "has traditionally been the most important health facility in Gaza."

UNRWA described disastrous conditions in the hospital and said there are about two patients for every available bed.

"The emergency department and wards are overflowing requiring doctors and medical workers to treat wounded and sick patients in the corridors, on the floor, and outdoors," UNRWA said in the statement. 
"The number of wounded increases by the hour while patients are undergoing immense and unnecessary pain as medicines and anesthetics are running out. In addition, tens of thousands of displaced people have sought shelter in the hospital's parking lots and yards," UNRWA added.

The UN agency stressed that "patients there cannot be denied the health care to which they are entitled and urgently need. Aid should reach the whole of Gaza."

No fuel has been allowed into Gaza, including to Al-Shifa hospital, since the initial attack, and medical facilities are running out of supplies, UNRWA said.

4:58 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

Palestinian Authority would be appropriate governance for Gaza, US officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

The United States believes that the Palestinian Authority “is the appropriate place to look for governance eventually” of the Gaza Strip, a State Department official said.

“The Palestinian Authority, as we all know, is the only Palestinian government that has come out of the Oslo Accords,” Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
“Whatever its shortcomings, it is the government for the Palestinians in the West Bank. We do believe that ultimately, Palestinian voices and aspirations have to be the centerpiece of post-conflict governance and security in Gaza," she added.

Leaf said that the State Department is “looking at all of these questions right now” and “would like to begin those discussions sooner rather than later.” 

The US has been urging Israel to avoid an occupation of Gaza if and when Hamas no longer governs the territory, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked concern among US officials when he said earlier this week that Israel would be responsible for Gaza’s security for an “indefinite period.” 

Leaf’s comments echo what Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, which is that a sustained peace must include “Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” 

Blinken added that peace must also include “a sustained mechanism for reconstruction in Gaza, and a pathway to Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in space of their own with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity, and dignity.” 

The US’ Arab partners, including Jordan and Egypt, have expressed concerns over the possibility that Palestinians are forcibly displaced from Gaza, officials have said, and want to focus for now on reaching a ceasefire. 

“I would say our Arab partners are very focused on the here and now,” Leaf said. “They're very focused on the issues of humanitarian crises and their focus on obtaining a ceasefire.” 

Blinken reassured those partners on Wednesday that the US believes “key elements” of a peace deal “should include no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. Not now; not after the war."

Some background on Gaza's governance: In 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections – the last polls to be held in Gaza.

Hamas is an Islamist organization with a military wing that formed in 1987, emerging out of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group that was founded in the late 1920s in Egypt.

The group considers Israel to be an illegitimate state and an occupying power in Gaza. Unlike other Palestinian groups, such as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas refuses to engage with Israel.