November 17, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Alisha Ebrahimji, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, November 18, 2023
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1:58 p.m. ET, November 17, 2023

Majority of Gaza's hospitals and clinics have shut down, Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah says

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder and Eyad Kourdi 

Tents and shelters used by displaced Palestinians stand at the yard of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on November 12.
Tents and shelters used by displaced Palestinians stand at the yard of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on November 12. Ahmed El Mokhallalati/Reuters/File

Out of the 35 hospitals in Gaza, 26 have shut down due to damage from bombardment or a lack of fuel, according to a report published by the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Health in Ramallah on Friday, citing medical sources from the Hamas-controlled enclave. Of the 72 primary health care clinics, 52 have also been forced to close, it added.

At Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City: Over 40 patients, including three premature babies, have died at Gaza's largest hospital in the last six days, according to the health ministry.

At Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis: The situation is also increasingly dire as the main generator at the hospital in southern Gaza has shut down for the third consecutive day, lacking the necessary fuel to operate. The hospital is now relying on a small generator, which only supplies electricity to the labor room and the reception area's lights, the ministry added. 

“Doctors are compelled to perform surgeries without anesthesia, including for those wounded by Israeli bombardment and women undergoing C-sections,” it said.

1:36 p.m. ET, November 17, 2023

Hamas has demanded Israel stop flying surveillance drones over Gaza in hostage negotiations, sources say

From CNN's Alex Marquardt, Kaitlan Collins, MJ Lee and Oren Liebermann

Hamas has demanded that Israel stop flying surveillance drones over Gaza as part of its request that Israel pause its military operations in exchange for freeing hostages held by the terrorist group, according to two Israeli officials and third source familiar with the ongoing negotiations.

While Israel could pause its military operations for as long as several days to allow for scores of hostages to be released, the sources suggested it is unlikely to accept the drone request since it would mean losing track of the movements of Hamas operatives, including any efforts to move the hostages within the Gaza strip.

The demand by Hamas about drone overflights has not been previously reported and with the intense discussions continuing, it’s unclear whether it remains on the table or has already been formally rejected by Israel as a part of the negotiations.

A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington declined to comment on Friday.

The Israeli military has been flying drones in the skies over Gaza for hours on end virtually every day during their military operation, using them as a primary means of surveillance to monitor the battlefield.

Throughout the negotiations, Israel has been balancing its urgent desire to get hostages freed with concerns Hamas would only exploit any pause to stifle Israel’s military advantage and regroup.

A pause in the fighting that also requires Israel to keep its drones out of Gaza’s airspace would deny the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of one of its most important ways to observe Hamas movements from above. It could allow Hamas to reposition its fighters before the ceasefire expires with Israeli troops exposed on the ground, and it would offer Hamas a window to reshuffle the hiding locations for hostages.

The Pentagon has also been flying American surveillance drones over Gaza in support of Israel’s efforts to find the hostages, which include an estimated 10 Americans. US officials said the American intelligence being gathered is not being used to conduct lethal strikes.

More background on negotiations: The negotiating parties — Israel, Hamas and the US, with Qatar mediating between them — continue to grind away, as they try to reach an agreement on a number of sticking points. These include how many days a potential pause in fighting would last and the number of hostages that would be released, according to sources familiar with the talks.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden spoke with Qatar’s leader, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, according to a person familiar with the call. Qatar has hosted hostage talks that have included the heads of Israeli and US intelligence. It was the second call between the two men this week.

The hostages expected to be released first are women and children. Hamas has also asked for women and children in Israelis prisons to be freed at the same time. Other demands made by Hamas during the negotiations are more aid and fuel into Gaza, sources say, as well as allowing Palestinians who have fled south for safety to return to northern Gaza, where Israel now has control.

Read more here.

2:55 p.m. ET, November 17, 2023

Israel will allow 2 fuel tankers a day into Gaza to support water and sewage systems, official says

From Tamar Michaelis and CNN's Lauren Kent

Israel's war cabinet approved a measure on Friday allowing two fuel tankers a day to enter Gaza for water and sewage system support, according to Israel's national security adviser.

Those systems are "on the verge of collapsing, considering the lack of electricity and ability to operate the sewage and water systems," Tzachi Hanegbi said in a Friday briefing.

The deliveries will amount to 140,000 liters of fuel entering Gaza every 48 hours, a US State Department official told CNN.

The vast majority will be deposited into a depot in Rafah, where — in addition to the water and sewage uses — it will be used by United Nations relief agency trucks and for waste disposal, bakeries and hospitals in southern Gaza, according to the US official.

A smaller portion, about 20,000 liters every 48 hours, will be used to power Paltel generators for cell phones and internet, the official said.

In consulting with the Israel Defense Forces and Israel's International Security Academy about whether the decision damaged operational objectives or supported Hamas, the answer "was that the American request can be accepted," Hanegbi said. 

The decision to allow two fuel tankers per day into Gaza, "was taken due to (Israel’s) willingness to avoid the spread of pandemics," Hanegbi added.

"We don’t need pandemics that might hit civilians there, our combat troops, and if there will be pandemics, the fighting will cease. We will not be able to continue fighting under the conditions of a humanitarian crisis and a global outcry."

The decision, which was reported by Israeli media earlier on Friday, has already been criticized by members of the Israeli government. 

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich sent a letter, which he also released on X, to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking for the policy to be reversed and for the government to continue to prevent fuel from entering the Gaza Strip.

"That decision is extremely odd. This decision is a spit in the face of IDF soldiers, bereaved families, the hostages and their families," Smotrich said. "This is not how you win a war, that’s not how you destroy Hamas and that’s not how we’ll return the hostages."

Remember: While some aid has reached Gaza through Egypt, those deliveries included food, water and medicine – but not fuel. Israel had refused to allow fuel to enter Gaza since Hamas’ brutal October 7 attack, saying it would only be used by the militant group to fuel its fight against Israel.

According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), roughly 70% of people in Gaza are now drinking “salinized and contaminated” water. Raw sewage has also started flowing through the streets in some areas as UN waste disposal systems are also impacted by the fuel shortages.

Allowing fuel to enter Gaza was a key topic of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's meetings in Tel Aviv earlier this month. In the two weeks since, the US had been pushing Israel to actually make it happen, according to an official. The Israeli government delayed in part because it claimed there was still fuel in southern Gaza, and it had also tied the fuel issue to that of hostages held by Hamas. The US did not see the two issues as being linked, the official said, noting that Hamas does not care about the humanitarian plight of the people of Gaza.

This post has been updated with further details on the fuel deliveries from a US official.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting to this post.

1:31 p.m. ET, November 17, 2023

UN emergency relief chief: "International humanitarian law appears to have been turned on its head"

From CNN's Shirin Zia Faqiri and Richard Roth 

Griffiths speaks during a press conference on the situation in Gaza in Geneva on Wednesday.
Griffiths speaks during a press conference on the situation in Gaza in Geneva on Wednesday. Jean-Guy Python/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations' Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths outlined what support is needed — including a ceasefire and continuous aid — to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“In many respects, international humanitarian law appears to have been turned on its head. … It is without doubt a humanitarian crisis that, by any measure, is intolerable and cannot continue,” Griffiths said as he addressed the General Assembly on Friday.

“Call it what you will, but the requirement, from a humanitarian point of view, is simple. Stop the fighting to allow civilians to move safely. Do it for as long as possible, to facilitate an unimpeded humanitarian response. Give the people of Gaza a breather from the terrible, terrible things that have been put on them these last few weeks. And, without condition, release all the hostages,” he said.

Griffiths also spoke about the number of hospitals which have ceased operations since the beginning of the conflict on October 7, and how fuel and a “continuous flow of aid” is needed to help as many people as possible in Gaza.

“There is little to no medical care available in northern Gaza,” Griffiths told the General Assembly. “Eighteen hospitals have shut down and evacuated since the start of hostilities. Another five hospitals, including (Al-Shifa), are providing extremely limited services to patients who have already been admitted. These hospitals are not reliably accessible because of insecurity, do not have electricity or essential supplies, and are not admitting new patients.”

The humanitarian chief also requested that there also be “more crossing points into Gaza,” along with an increase in humanitarian aid and resources to help expand shelters and “establish relief distribution hubs.”

“We are not asking for the moon. We are asking for the basic measures required to meet the essential needs of the civilian population and stem the course of this crisis,” Griffiths said. “We need the full leverage of the UN membership to achieve these objectives.”

12:49 p.m. ET, November 17, 2023

UN experts warn of "genocide in the making" in Gaza. Israel condemns the statement

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London and Richard Roth in New York

Israel's actions in Gaza "point to a genocide in the making," a group of independent United Nations human rights experts said Thursday, in an allegation rejected by the Israeli foreign ministry. 

The experts — many of whom are known as UN special rapporteurs — said “grave violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in the aftermath of 7 October, particularly in Gaza, point to a genocide in the making,” according to a news release from the UN Human Rights Special Procedures group.

The experts described Israel's actions as “the use of powerful weaponry with inherently indiscriminate impacts, resulting in a colossal death toll and destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure,” and argued in the statement that these actions could not be justified as self-defense.

“In order to be legitimate, Israel’s response must be strictly within the framework of international humanitarian law,” the experts said. “The presence of underground tunnels in parts of Gaza does not eliminate the civilian status of individuals and infrastructure that cannot be directly targeted nor suffer disproportionately.” 

Israel responds: The Israeli foreign ministry rejected the assessment in a statement Friday.

"Israel rejects all allegations made by the Special Rapporteurs. Those who signed the statement insult the victims of genocide throughout history," the ministry said. "Israel is committed to international humanitarian law and will continue to take measures to prevent civilian harm in Gaza."

It was Hamas that put Gazans "in harms way," the statement continued, adding that the "only genocidal acts during this conflict are those of Hamas when they slaughtered, raped and tortured innocent people in Israel on October 7th."

UN chief declines to comment: The office of UN Secretary-General António Guterres will not comment on statements made by independent experts, spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said Thursday.

"These experts … are independent from the secretary-general," Dujarric said. "On the issue of genocide, we are very clear on our position, which is that a genocide can only be labeled by a competent court."

10:17 a.m. ET, November 17, 2023

Families of hostages march along highway to Jerusalem, demanding government ensure return of loved ones

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

Relatives and friends of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas take part in a march to Jerusalem calling for their release on November 17.
Relatives and friends of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas take part in a march to Jerusalem calling for their release on November 17. Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance/Getty Images

Families of those missing and kidnapped by Hamas during the October 7 attack are marching from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Friday, demanding that the government guarantees hostages are returned safely. 

A large crowd is walking along a highway toward Jerusalem, according to Reuters video, with some people holding signs of pictures of missing people captioned “Bring them home now.”

One of the participants in the march, Shelly Shem Tov, told CNN that Hamas abducted her son. She said the march had started three days ago in Tel Aviv and that the group was on the way to Jerusalem to demand that the government “bring our families back home safely, alive.”

“This is the situation. We are 42 days from October 7. We don’t know what about our families. I don’t know (anything) about my son, if he is OK," she said. "I know that he was kidnapped by Hamas, and from that day I don’t know anything about him."
“It’s a nightmare. Forty-two days of nightmare,” she added.

Shem Tov said that she has heard "nothing" from the Israeli government since it told her that Hamas had kidnapped her son.

As of 9 a.m. ET, the march is in Sho'eva, Israel, according to a map posted by the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum.

More background: The Israel Defense Forces said on Friday that the military’s official estimate of hostages being held in Gaza is 237. The IDF has previously said that the number can fluctuate based on updated intelligence. 

A senior US official familiar with the talks told CNN on Tuesday that Israel and Hamas are moving closer to a deal to secure the release of hostages taken during the Hamas attacks on Israel in exchange for a sustained, days-long pause in fighting. The official stressed that while the parties have inched closer to striking a deal, the talks remained volatile and could still break down, saying that “it’s closer but it’s not done.”

9:52 a.m. ET, November 17, 2023

Majority of ICU patients at Gaza's largest hospital have died, Al-Shifa doctor says

From CNN’s Eyad Kourdi and Kareem Khadder

A makeshift operating theater area is seen inside Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, on November 12.
A makeshift operating theater area is seen inside Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, on November 12. Ahmed El Mokhallalati/Reuters

Most of the intensive care unit patients, who were on ventilators due to the lack of fuel and oxygen at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, have died, the doctor who leads the burns department at the hospital told Al-Jazeera over the phone from inside the facility on Friday. 

Dr. Ahmad Mofeed Al-Mokhalalati noted a significant decrease in the number of premature babies in their care, with little hope for the survival of the remaining infants under the current conditions. 

The hospital, which is Gaza's largest, is grappling with a severe shortage of basic necessities — no water and no electricity in the main buildings of the compound, the doctor said.

As a result, surgical operations have come to a halt due to the lack of electricity. This has led to an increase in suffering, especially among children who are now facing severe intestinal infections, a direct consequence of the unavailability of clean water, Al-Mokhalalati added. 

And although he noted that Israeli forces promised to provide food, the supply delivered was grossly insufficient, catering to for only 40% of those inside the hospital, he said.

The situation escalated when the Israeli forces stormed two buildings within the medical compound, with tanks still present in the area, the doctor said. Snipers have been deployed around the hospital, adding a layer of fear and uncertainty according to Al-Mokhalalati.

9:40 a.m. ET, November 17, 2023

Weeks into the war between Israel and Hamas, there's no clear post-war plan for Gaza

From CNN's Nadeen Ebrahim

The Israeli military is tightening its grip on northern Gaza, as its war on the Hamas militant group is showing no signs of abating.

Almost six weeks into the conflict, however, Israel is yet to offer a clear post-war plan for the territory.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last week said the Israel Defense Forces has effectively cut the strip in two, and on Tuesday claimed Hamas had lost control in northern Gaza, including in Gaza City.

But what is Israel’s plan for Gaza if and when it achieves its aim of eliminating Hamas? Some experts say Israel may not have a clear idea.

“Israel has clearly stated security objectives and imperatives for post-war Gaza, but so far they have not offered anything like a viable plan for the aftermath,” Frank Lowenstein, who worked as special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under US President Barack Obama during the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, told CNN.

“They (Israel) would argue they have time to figure that out after the military operation,” Lowenstein said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered little information about his post-military operation plan for Gaza. The 74-year-old leader, who has been at the forefront of several Israel-Gaza conflicts, told CNN his military operation has two goals: to destroy Hamas and retrieve the more than 200 hostages kidnapped on October 7 by the group, which also killed some 1,200 people in Israel during its unprecedented assault.

Beyond those vague hints, Netanyahu has not provided a defined strategy for the territory, where more than two-thirds of its 2 million inhabitants are now internally displaced, and where more than 40% of all housing units have been either destroyed or damaged, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, citing the Ministry of Housing in Gaza.

“Israel went into this without a clear plan for the morning after,” said Daniel Levy, president of the US-Middle East Project, a London and New York-based organization focusing on finding resolutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Netanyahu said that Gaza could ultimately be governed by some form of Palestinian civilian government, albeit one that fully cooperated with Israel’s security objectives, which he described as “over-riding, over-reaching military envelope.” He did not provide details of what exactly that meant.

Read more about Israel's military tightening of its grip on northern Gaza, as its war on Hamas is showing no signs of abating.

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9:42 a.m. ET, November 17, 2023

UN official calls on Israel to stop using water as "weapon of war"

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London and Pierre Bairin 

Palestinian children fill containers with water in Bureij, Gaza, on November 14.
Palestinian children fill containers with water in Bureij, Gaza, on November 14. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

A UN human rights official has called on Israel to stop using water as a “weapon of war” in Gaza, emphasizing on Friday that the enclave’s lack of fuel is hindering the provision of clean water

"Every hour that passes with Israel preventing the provision of safe drinking water in the Gaza strip, in brazen breach of international law, puts Gazans at risk of dying of thirst and diseases related to the lack of safe drinking water," Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, said in a Friday statement. 
 “These frequently invisible casualties of war are preventable, and Israel must prevent them,” he said. “Israel must stop using water as a weapon of war.”

Arrojo-Agudo said he wanted to “remind Israel that consciously preventing supplies needed for safe water from entering the Gaza Strip violates both international humanitarian and human rights law.” 

For days, humanitarian organizations including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have emphasized the necessity of fuel to operate desalination stations and water pumps in Gaza. 

According to UNRWA, roughly 70% of people in Gaza are now drinking “salinized and contaminated” water. Raw sewage has also started flowing through the streets in some areas as UN waste disposal systems are also impacted by the fuel shortages.

Dehydration and waterborne diseases are now surging in Gaza due to “salinated and polluted water consumption from unsafe sources,” Arrojo-Agudo warned Friday. 

“Coupled with the massive displacement of thousands of people in recent days, this is the perfect scenario for an epidemic that will only punish innocents, once again.”