November 19, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Heather Chen, Andrew Raine, Antoinette Radford and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 0600 GMT (1400 HKT) November 20, 2023
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11:57 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

CNN visited the exposed tunnel shaft near Al-Shifa Hospital. Here’s what we saw

From CNN's Oren Liebermann in Gaza City

The newly exposed tunnel shaft at the Al-Shifa hospital complex.
The newly exposed tunnel shaft at the Al-Shifa hospital complex. Oren Liebermann/CNN

Even in the darkness, the utter devastation in northern Gaza is clear as day. The empty shells of buildings, illuminated by the last shreds of light, lurch out of the landscape on the dirt roads across the Gaza Strip. At night, the only signs of life are the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) vehicles that rumble the landscape, tightening the military’s grip on the northern sector.

On Saturday night, we traveled with the IDF into Gaza to see the newly exposed tunnel shaft discovered at the compound of Al-Shifa Hospital, the enclave’s largest medical facility.

The IDF had promised “concrete evidence” that Hamas was using the hospital complex above ground as cover for what it called terror infrastructure underneath, including a command and control hub.

Standing on the edge of the tunnel shaft, it was apparent that the structure itself was substantial. At the top, the remains of a ladder hung over the lip of the opening. In the center of the round shaft, a center pole looked like a hub for a spiral staircase. The shaft itself extended down farther than we could see, especially in the meager light of our headlamps.

Video released by the IDF from inside the shaft is arguably the most compelling evidence thus far that the IDF has offered that there may be a network of tunnels below the hospital. It does not establish without a doubt that there is a command center under Gaza’s largest hospital, but it is clear that there is a tunnel down below. Seeing what connects to that tunnel is absolutely critical.

Hamas has repeatedly denied that there is a network of tunnels below Shifa hospital. Health officials who have spoken with CNN have said the same, insisting it is only a medical facility.

As is so rarely the case in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this answer truly is black and white. Either there is an underground series of tunnels below the hospital. Or there is not.

Some context: CNN reported from inside Gaza under IDF media escort at all times. As a condition for journalists to join this embed, media outlets had to submit footage filmed in Gaza to the Israeli military for review and agreed not to reveal sensitive locations and soldiers’ identities. CNN retained editorial control over the final report. 

Read more here.

11:09 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Doctors say newborns evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza are all fighting serious infections

From CNN's Jonny Hallam and Abeer Salman

Neonatal babies receive treatment after being transferred from Al-Shifa Hospital to Emirates Maternity Hospital in Rafah, Gaza, on November 19.
Neonatal babies receive treatment after being transferred from Al-Shifa Hospital to Emirates Maternity Hospital in Rafah, Gaza, on November 19. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Doctors from Al-Helal Al-Emirati Maternity Hospital in Rafah, in southern Gaza who are treating 31 neonatal babies who were evacuated from Gaza City say all the babies are fighting serious infections, according to a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday.

Eleven of the young babies are in "critical condition," the WHO said in their statement.

The WHO said the babies had fallen ill due to a lack of medical supplies at Al-Shifa Hospital and the difficulty of continuing infection control measures in Al-Shifa Hospital amid an ongoing Israeli assault.

Dr. Mohammad Salamah at the Al-Helal Al-Emirati Maternity Hospital told CNN: "We are conducting tests on all those babies and they were given fluids and needed medication according to their condition. For now, they are in a difficult, stable condition, but this condition might deteriorate, especially given that we might run out of electricity at any time now as long as fuel doesn’t get into Gaza."

"Six health workers and 10 of their family members, who had been sheltering at the hospital, were also evacuated," WHO said.

It was hoped that the parents of the newborns would be able to travel to safety with their children, but the WHO said very few of the infants were accompanied by family members.

This was because Gazan officials were not easily able to find close family members due to the intense fighting between Israel and Hamas and communications blackouts.

CNN spoke to one father, Ali Sbeiti, who managed to be reunited with his young son, Anas, who was born three days before the war. 

"Thank God. We now feel that our son is safe after not seeing him for more than two weeks. We didn’t know whether he was dead or alive, especially when communications were disconnected with the doctors," Sbeiti said.

8:40 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Israel releases CCTV video it says shows 2 hostages in Al-Shifa Hospital on October 7

From CNN's Andy Carey and Mitchell McCluskey 

A still from CCTV video released by the Israel Defense Forces that it says shows Hamas fighters bringing hostages into Al-Shifa Hospital on October 7.
A still from CCTV video released by the Israel Defense Forces that it says shows Hamas fighters bringing hostages into Al-Shifa Hospital on October 7. Israel Defense Forces

The Israel Defense Forces has released CCTV videos and still images it says show Hamas fighters bringing hostages into the Al-Shifa Hospital on October 7.

IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari presented two short videos, along with several still images, which he said show Hamas fighters moving the hostages – one Nepali, one Thai – through the hospital, Gaza's largest.

One of the CCTV videos shows a hostage being brought into the hospital through the main entrance, Hagari said. The hostage is being marched by force through the building.

Hagari, at a news conference Sunday, said the second CCTV video shows a second hostage – who has a bandaged hand and is clearly bleeding – being pushed on a gurney down a hallway and into a room.

Hagari did not spell out how the IDF had acquired the videos, although he did say Israeli intelligence officers were part of the operation inside the hospital to try to locate the hostages.

CNN cannot independently verify the content of the videos and the stills.

Opposing narratives: The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry responded to the IDF briefing by questioning the authenticity of the videos and stills — but went on to say that, if true, the pictures showed that hospitals were providing medical care to anyone who needed it.

The IDF spokesman dismissed suggestions the hostages had been brought to the hospital because they were wounded, claiming one of the two hostages was not injured and did not need medical treatment. They had been brought to the hospital first, before being later moved to hiding spots, like nearby apartments, he said.

“If medical care had been given at the hospital, if the hostages had remained there, then the Red Cross would have come, and the people would have been released. None of these things happened,” he said.

In a statement issued Saturday before the release of the CCTV videos, Hamas said it had brought several hostages to hospitals for medical treatment after they were injured in Israeli airstrikes.

Hagari said the latest videos had been shared with diplomats of the hostages’ countries of origin, adding the IDF has not yet located the Nepali and Thai hostages in Gaza.

The Nepali Embassy in Israel and Nepal’s Foreign Ministry had confirmed with CNN before the publication of the video that one Nepali citizen remained missing after the October 7 attack and was believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas.

Ten Nepali citizens were killed and several others injured when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, Nepal's ambassador to Israel told CNN after the attack.

More context: After raiding Al-Shifa Hospital last Wednesday, the IDF is under tremendous pressure to prove its long-standing assertion that Hamas uses Gaza's largest medical center for combat and command purposes.

The military also released video Sunday from inside an exposed tunnel shaft at the Al-Shifa compound, showing an underground tunnel extending downward from the shaft opening. 

5:28 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

"How many more civilians will be killed? This must stop," UN's top human rights official says

From CNN's Michael Rios and Jomana Karadsheh

The killing of civilians in Gaza schools and large evacuations from Al-Shifa Hospital are actions that fly in the face of basic protections civilians are afforded under international law, the United Nation's top human rights official said Sunday.

“Rules of international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in carrying out the attacks must be strictly adhered to,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said. “Failure to adhere to these rules may constitute war crimes,” he said.

The Israeli military has previously pushed back against accusations of war crimes, saying its strikes on what it says are Hamas targets follow international law and that it seeks to minimize civilian casualties.

Türk called the events of the past two days horrendous, saying they beggar belief.

He said hundreds of people have fled Al-Shifa Hospital and were seen heading south, but warned, “Nowhere is safe in Gaza.”

He also said that in Khan Younis in southern Gaza — where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled — the IDF has been dropping leaflets, telling residents to go to unspecified shelters, but he stressed, “Irrespective of warnings, Israel is obliged to protect civilians wherever they are.”

Türk again called for an immediate ceasefire on humanitarian and human rights grounds.

“The pain, dread, and fear etched on the faces of children, women and men is too much to bear,” he said. “How much more violence, bloodshed and misery will it take before people come to their senses? How many more civilians will be killed? This must stop.”

5:20 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Israel releases video from hospital compound and US investigates blast at Gaza school. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

The Israel Defense Forces released video from inside an exposed tunnel shaft at the Al-Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza City, showing an underground tunnel extending downward from the shaft opening. 

For weeks, the IDF has said Hamas uses Gaza’s largest hospital as cover for what they call terror infrastructure underneath, which Hamas and hospital leaders deny.

But having entering the hospital itself, the IDF is under significant pressure to prove the long-standing assertion with its promise of “concrete evidence.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Israel releases video from beneath Al-Shifa Hospital compound: The IDF lowered a camera into a shaft to see what was below. The video — which runs for 3 minutes and 27 seconds — shows a set of spiral stairs. The camera then advances along the tunnel, takes a turn, and comes to a closed metal door with what appears to be a small viewing window. The IDF says it has not yet opened the door because the military fears it may be booby-trapped.
  • CNN visits exposed tunnel shaft: CNN's Oren Liebermann went to the scene of what the IDF says is an exposed Hamas tunnel shaft at the Al-Shifa Hospital compound. CNN reported from Gaza under Israel Defense Forces escort at all times.
  • White House investigates blast at UN school: Washington confirmed it is gathering information about strikes on a United Nations-run school that was used as a shelter in Gaza, the deputy national security adviser has confirmed. The exact number of deaths is not known, but video from al-Fakhoura School in Jabalya shows bloodied bodies across a series of rooms on two floors of the two-story building. Many women and children were among the dead.
  • Palestinian evacuees flee northern Gaza: Crowds of people – women, children, the elderly and wounded — made their way mostly by foot down an evacuation path to southern Gaza on Saturday. The sound of gunshots sent people running, with Israeli tanks positioned at the side of roads.
  • Washington warns Israel to account for displaced Gazans: The White House has warned Israel against carrying out offensive operations in southern Gaza until it has accounted for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled south.
  • WHO confirms “very sick” newborns evacuated from Gaza: Thirty-one neonatal babies have been evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, alongside six health workers and 10 staff family members, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed Sunday. The babies are now being cared for in the Emirates Maternity Hospital in Rafah.
  • Yemeni rebels hijack cargo ship: Israel says a cargo ship carrying 25 crew members was hijacked in the Red Sea on Sunday. The alleged Houthi capturing of the ship comes after a spokesperson for the Houthi forces earlier on Sunday threatened to target ships passing through the Red Sea that are operated or owned by Israeli companies, citing a “religious, national and moral responsibility” in light of Israel’s military operation in Gaza. The group is among the Iran-backed proxies that have raised concerns of a broader conflict in the region.
8:32 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Negotiators nearing a deal for initial release of dozens of hostages held in Gaza, sources say

From CNN’s Alex Marquardt and MJ Lee

People look at pictures of Hamas' hostages during a demonstration calling for their release in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 11.
People look at pictures of Hamas' hostages during a demonstration calling for their release in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 11. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

A recent draft of a possible deal to secure the release of hostages that Hamas is holding in Gaza proposes a four- to five-day pause in fighting for the initial release of 50 hostages, two sources familiar with the talks tell CNN.

An agreement has yet to be struck, and the text of a deal has been traded back and forth for weeks. But negotiators hailing from various countries, including senior officials in US President Joe Biden's administration, are expressing rare optimism about the progress.

While the talks could still break down and sticking points remain, an agreement may now be days away, sources say.

In a sign of how tenuous the talks have been, two sources told CNN Hamas has at least once abruptly put the negotiations on hold recently over various objections, one of which is Israel’s raid of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. But the discussions eventually picked back up. 

Sticking points: There are still details to be worked out over aid, with Israel expressing concern that aid could go to help Hamas, rather than civilians. Hamas initially requested 500 trucks of aid per day, one of the sources said. One source said that, while discussions are ongoing, a deal involving more than 200 trucks would be logistically challenging.  

There are also questions about how to inspect the trucks and which points of entry to use. The aid would include fuel and cooking oil for bakeries, and continue to flow in after the initial pauses for hostages.

Staggered releases: The most recent discussions involve plans for staggered releases of the hostages, with pauses potentially increasing after an initial release of a significant number of civilians, according to the sources.  

Israel has presented a list of about 100 names of civilian hostages that it wants included in the agreement, one source told CNN. Israel has publicly demanded that all hostages be released.

Hamas has indicated it would be willing to release 50 hostages over a multi-day pause. More hostages, around 20 to 25, could be released after that, as the pauses are extended. 

Hamas has said it needs pauses in fighting to gather the hostages who are being held in different places and by different Hamas-allied groups in Gaza. 

The US National Security Council and Israeli Embassy to the US declined to comment for this story. The Qatari Embassy to the US didn’t respond immediately for comment.

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed reporting to this post.

1:56 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

CNN visits exposed tunnel shaft that Israeli military believes is part of larger network under hospital

Israel Defense Forces show CNN's Oren Liebermann what they claim to be an entrance to a Hamas tunnel at Al-Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza. 
Israel Defense Forces show CNN's Oren Liebermann what they claim to be an entrance to a Hamas tunnel at Al-Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza.  CNN

CNN's Oren Liebermann went to the scene of what the Israel Defense Forces says is an exposed Hamas tunnel shaft at the Al-Shifa Hospital compound.

For weeks, the IDF has said Hamas uses Gaza’s largest hospital as cover for what they call terror infrastructure underneath. Hamas and hospital officials have repeatedly denied that the hospital, which the IDF raided last Wednesday, is anything other than a medical complex.

CNN reported from Gaza under Israel Defense Forces escort at all times. As a condition for journalists to join the embed with the IDF, media outlets must submit footage filmed in Gaza to the Israeli military for review.

Watch Liebermann's report from the hospital compound below:

1:28 p.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Israeli military releases video of underground tunnel at Al-Shifa Hospital compound

From CNN's Oren Liebermann in Tel Aviv

The Israeli military has released video from inside an exposed tunnel shaft at the Al-Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza City, showing an underground tunnel extending downward from the shaft opening. 

The video, which runs 3 minutes and 27 seconds and was filmed on Friday, Nov. 17, begins outside the tunnel shaft with several Israel Defense Forces soldiers visible in the opening shot. The video then shows the soldiers preparing to lower equipment into the shaft to examine the interior. There is no audio throughout the clip. 

As the camera is lowered into the shaft, a set of spiral stairs becomes visible around a central pole. The camera then begins advancing along the tunnel before coming to a sharp left turn. The walls of the tunnel appear to be made of vertical slabs of concrete, with an arched concrete roof.

After the turn, the tunnel continues before coming to a closed metal door with what appears to be a small viewing window. The IDF says it has not yet opened the door because the military fears it may be booby-trapped. The IDF says the tunnel shaft extends 10 meters (just over 30 feet) underground and the tunnel itself continues for 55 meters (180 feet). 

“This type of door is used by the Hamas terrorist organization to block Israeli forces from entering the command centers and the underground assets belonging to Hamas,” the IDF and the Israel Security Agency claimed in a statement Sunday evening. 

Hamas and hospital officials have repeatedly denied that the hospital is anything other than a medical complex. 

Key context: For weeks, the IDF has said Hamas uses Gaza’s largest hospital as cover for what they call terror infrastructure underneath. IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Hamas has a command and control center or headquarters underneath the hospital, which other senior Israeli officials have also insisted on. 

But having entering the hospital itself, the IDF is under tremendous pressure to prove the long-standing assertion with its promise of “concrete evidence.” The exposure of the tunnel shaft and video of the tunnel underground is part of the IDF trying to build its case that Hamas uses the hospital for its own purposes. 

The IDF’s ability to continue its operation in Gaza, and the credibility of Israel, are at stake as the number killed in Gaza surpasses 12,000, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza. 

The IDF says one of its missions in Gaza is to destroy Hamas, but with international criticism mounting, Israel has to show conclusively that the terror organization is using Gaza’s civilians and infrastructure as cover in order for Israel to justify an ongoing war.