November 16, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Kathleen Magramo, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Lauren Mascarenhas, Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Matt Meyer and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 2:48 p.m. ET, November 17, 2023
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7:31 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

Hamas calls Israeli claims of finding tunnel shaft at Al-Shifa Hospital "baseless lies" 

From CNN's Abeer Salman 

An image of the alleged Hamas tunnel that was released by the Israel Defense Forces on November 16.
An image of the alleged Hamas tunnel that was released by the Israel Defense Forces on November 16. IDF

The Hamas-run government media office on Thursday denied it was using Al-Shifa Hospital as a command and control center — calling the Israeli claims "baseless lies." 

Hamas accused Israel of giving "false scenarios, fabricated narratives, and distorted information" about the Al-Shifa Medical Complex," in a written statement.

Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli army released a video to back up its claim of uncovering a "tunnel shaft" in the grounds of Gaza's main hospital. 

The video showed what appeared to be a hole in the ground surrounded by exposed sandy soil, broken bits of metal, and concrete scattered around it a short distance from a hospital building.

Calling the tunnel shaft claim a "ridiculous scenario," Hamas said it was all "part of a continuous campaign of incitement and deception that has been promoted for years" to justify Israel's wars against Gaza. "It is a failed attempt to escape future accountability and legal pursuit," the statement said. 

The statement added that the Palestinian Ministry of Health "has repeatedly requested dozens of times from all institutions, organizations, international bodies, and relevant parties to form technical teams to visit and inspect all hospitals, in order to refute the false incitement narrative."

5:37 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

Israel’s invasion of Gaza has set “the whole region on fire,” Jordan's foreign minister says

From CNN’s Catherine Nicholls in London

Israel’s invasion of Gaza has destroyed decades of work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and set “the whole region on fire,” Jordan's foreign minister told CNN on Thursday.

“Israel is not producing security for itself by the killing of innocent Palestinians,” Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said. “It's putting the whole region on fire again, and it has destroyed the hard work that many had made over the decades to make sure that we come to a peaceful conclusion to this conflict.” 

Israel had “killed any embrace of peace in the region” and its war against Hamas had pushed regional relations back more than 30 years, Safadi said.

The Jordanian government had been in talks with Israel about exchanging solar power for energy but these discussions have now stopped because people “don’t see any value” in dealing with Israel as its ground offensive in Gaza continues, Safadi said. 

He said he thought the evidence Israel had offered to back its claim that Hamas had a “command node” under the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City was “just ridiculous” and an “insult to intelligence.”

He also pushed back on Israel’s claim that its military operations in Gaza were self-defense.

“Any other country in the world that would have done a fragment of what Israel is doing would have been under sanctions by now,” Safadi said. “This is not self-defense. This is raw, ugly, vengeance, and the world has a responsibility to stop it.”
5:51 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

IDF claims it found a tunnel shaft inside Al-Shifa Hospital complex and releases photo and video

From CNN's Andrew Carey

Israel claims it found an “operational tunnel shaft” inside the Al-Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City.

“Today, Hamas's tunneling infrastructure was exposed inside the hospital,” the Israeli military said in a statement, which also included a photo and video.

Israeli special forces raided the hospital — Gaza’s largest — in the early hours of Wednesday after saying for weeks it was the site of an underground command and control center for Hamas. Doctors and health officials in the Hamas-run enclave have consistently denied the accusation.

CNN cannot independently verify claims by Israel or Hamas.

The video provided by Israel shows exposed earth revealing a hole in the ground. The side of the shaft appears to be reinforced with concrete. Exposed pipes and cabling can also be seen close to the surface. 

At one point the video — which has been geolocated by CNN — tilts up to reveal one of the hospital’s main buildings about 30 meters away from the hole.

The army statement said troops had also found what they said was a booby-trapped car close by containing a large amount of weapons and ammunition.

In a televised briefing Thursday evening, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said army engineers were working to expose the tunnel infrastructure.

Hagari also said soldiers had unearthed an operational tunnel at the Al-Rantisi hospital in northern Gaza. 

3:12 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

IDF chief of staff says Israel is close to destroying Hamas' "military system" in northern Gaza

From Tamar Michaelis in Tel Aviv

IDF soldiers move along the border with Gaza on Thursday.
IDF soldiers move along the border with Gaza on Thursday. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Israel is getting close to destroying Hamas’ “military system” in northern Gaza, an Israel Defense Forces official said.

“We’re quite close to destroying the military system that (Hamas) had in the northern Gaza Strip,” IDF Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi said Thursday while visiting troops fighting in the strip.

His statement comes after Israeli leaders earlier in the week said the northern part of Gaza, including Gaza City, was under Israel’s control

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel’s ground operations “will last for many months — and will include both the north and the south (of the Gaza Strip),” vowing to “dismantle Hamas wherever it is.” 

3:17 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

US has not determined whether Israel has violated international humanitarian law, official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States has not made any assessment if Israel has “violated international humanitarian law,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Thursday.

“We constantly are monitoring facts as they develop,” Miller said at a briefing.

Israeli forces have been conducting operations in the Gaza Strip that have led to the deaths of more than 11,000 people, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The forces have been active in and around Al-Shifa hospital after claiming that there is a Hamas command and control center in tunnels under the complex.

Under the Geneva Convention, medical facilities must not be attacked, but they can lose that protection if “they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy.”

Miller said on Tuesday that the US government had not made a formal assessment about whether Israel was adhering to international humanitarian law, but said he was “not going to speak to internal deliberations inside the department.”

Miller also said the US has pressed for all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law “to take feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians, and we urge all possible steps to mitigate civilian harm.”

Even as he said that the US has not formally assessed Israel to be in violation of the law, Miller reiterated comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken “that in his (Blinken’s) judgment, far too many Palestinian civilians have been killed as a result of this conflict.”

“Far too many children have been killed as a result of this conflict,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, the UN's humanitarian agency chief said "carnage in Gaza reaches new levels of horror every day" and called for a ceasefire.  

2:46 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

Ambulance crews trapped in Gaza City hospital due to fighting say they cannot respond to wounded people

From CNN’s Abeer Salman and Eyad Kourdi 

Medics trapped inside the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City say they are unable to reach wounded people outside because of intense fighting in the area, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said in a statement Thursday. 

From inside the hospital, ambulance crews can hear explosions and heavy gunfire, according to the group, which provides humanitarian and medical assistance.

“There are a number of martyrs and wounded in the hospital courtyard, about 30 meters away, that our teams are unable to reach,” the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.

Al-Ahli is the only hospital in northern Gaza that is operational and able to admit patients, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said late Wednesday.

The hospital can no longer conduct surgeries, a British-Palestinian surgeon working there said on Thursday. “The hospital is now effectively a first aid station,” Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah said in a statement. 

Hundreds of wounded people are at the hospital with no access to surgery, Abu-Sittah added.

“They will die from their wounds,” Abu-Sittah said.

2:58 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

US has expressed concerns to Israel about violations of Visa Waiver Program

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Priscilla Alvarez

The US government has expressed concerns to the Israeli government that American passport holders from the West Bank have not been able to transit through Israel as is required under the Visa Waiver Program, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Thursday.

“I won't get into full details of our private diplomatic conversations, but we expect Israel to address those concerns. We expect them to be in full compliance with the Visa Waiver Program and there are remedial measures that we that are available to us if they are not,” Miller said at a briefing.

“There are a full range of remedial measures that can be taken before ultimate suspension” from the program, Miller added.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, the department and its “interagency partners continually monitor implementation of program requirements by all countries in the Visa Waiver Program to ensure full implementation.”

“U.S. Government officials are working with the Government of Israel to address reports of Americans facing issues in traveling to and flying out of Ben Gurion Airport. DHS expects all countries in the Visa Waiver Program to fulfill all program requirements,” according to the spokesperson. 

More background: The Biden administration announced in September that Israel would join the Visa Waiver Program, which allows eligible travelers to apply to enter the US without a visa, and it went into effect in late October.

2:36 p.m. ET, November 16, 2023

Lack of supplies is forcing staff at Al-Shifa Hospital to make "harrowing" decisions, director says

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder and Eyad Kourdi

The lack of medical supplies at the Al-Shifa Hospital is forcing staff to make “harrowing” decisions, the facility’s director, Dr. Mohammad Abu Salmiyah, told Al-Jazeera Arabic in a phone interview from inside the complex Thursday.

Medics have had to amputate patients’ limbs to prevent the spread of infection from wounds that go untreated due to the lack of resources, he said, and there is no medicine for children suffering from diarrhea and vomiting.

Damage from raid: Al-Shifa is at the center of an ongoing Israeli military raid that started in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Abu Salmiyah said medical equipment in the MRI, CT and X-ray departments had been destroyed in the raid, as had the pharmacy, and the hospital was still completely dark due to the lack of electricity. More than 7,000 people were still trapped inside, he added.

2:48 p.m. ET, November 17, 2023

Body of Israeli hostage found near Al-Shifa Hospital, IDF says

From Tamar Michaelis in Tel Aviv

Yehudit Waiss is seen in an undated photo.
Yehudit Waiss is seen in an undated photo. Hostages and Missing Persons Forum

The Israeli army says soldiers near Al-Shifa Hospital have found the body of Yehudit Waiss, who was kidnapped from the kibbutz of Be’eri on October 7. 

The body was recovered from what the army called a "structure" near the medical facility.

The statement offered no details of how she died, and it is not clear what condition the structure was in when the soldiers found the body. No details have been given about when she is believed to have died.

The Hostages and Missing Person’s Families Forum said Waiss was a 65-year-old grandmother. Her husband, Shmuel, was killed in Hamas' attack on October 7.

Waiss has been brought back to Israeli territory, the army added, and the family is aware.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said Waiss was killed by Hamas, without giving details on the cause of death.

“Unfortunately, Yehudit was murdered by the terrorists in the Gaza Strip, and we didn’t reach her on time,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a televised briefing.

This post has been updated with the latest reporting.