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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11:20 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

WHO led a "very high risk" UN mission to Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital on Saturday

From CNN’s Jo Shelley

A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows Al-Shifa hospital and surroundings in Gaza City on November 11.
A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows Al-Shifa hospital and surroundings in Gaza City on November 11. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies/AP

A group of United Nations humanitarian workers visited the Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza on Saturday, the World Health Organization said in a post on the social media platform X.

The group spent one hour inside the hospital, during which time there was heavy fighting in close proximity to the facility, the WHO said.

UN staff described the hospital as a “death zone” where “signs of shelling and gunfire” were evident.

"The team saw a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital and was told more than 80 people were buried there," it said.

The WHO said several patients had died over the past two to three days due to the lack of medical services.

"There are 25 health workers and 291 patients remaining in Al-Shifa, with several patient deaths having occurred over the previous two to three days due to the shutting down of medical services," it said.

It added: "Patients include 32 babies in extremely critical condition, two people in intensive care without ventilation, and 22 dialysis patients whose access to life-saving treatment has been severely compromised."

Staff and patients who spoke to UN workers were “terrified for their safety and health," WHO said, adding that they "pleaded for evacuation."

The WHO says it is “urgently developing plans” to evacuate staff and patients to two hospitals in southern Gaza.

"The vast majority of patients are victims of war trauma, including many with complex fractures and amputations, head injuries, burns, chest and abdominal trauma, and 29 patients with serious spinal injuries who are unable to move without medical assistance," WHO said.

"Many trauma patients have severely infected wounds due to lack of infection control measures in the hospital and unavailability of antibiotics."

Some context: Israel launched a “targeted” operation against Hamas early Wednesday morning inside Gaza’s largest hospital, where thousands of displaced Palestinians had been sheltering alongside patients and medical staff.

Israel claims Hamas is using the hospital complex for military purposes and has built a command center under the facility – allegations repeatedly rejected by both Hamas and hospital officials. CNN has not verified the claims of either Israel or Hamas.

The intervening days have seen the hospital turn from civilian sanctuary to battlefield, with heavy fighting taking place in and around the complex, amid an already rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Israel is facing mounting international pressure to prove its claims about Hamas’ infiltration of the hospital, in order to justify some of its military decisions, which could otherwise constitute a possible serious violation of international humanitarian law.

3:12 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

CNN speaks to Palestinian families fleeing northern Gaza

From CNN's Abeer Salman, Eyad Kourdi, and Jo Shelley

Palestinians fleeing Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza, carry some belongings as they walk along a road leading to the southern areas of the enclave on November 18.
Palestinians fleeing Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza, carry some belongings as they walk along a road leading to the southern areas of the enclave on November 18. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

CNN spoke to some of the hundreds of Palestinians fleeing northern Gaza for the south on Saturday. 

Crowds of people — women, children, the elderly and wounded — made their way down Salah al-Din street, carrying bags, food and water. Most were on foot. A few moved by donkey and cart.

Some said their journey would be more than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long.

Israeli tanks could be seen at the side of the road and at times the sound of gunfire sent people running, with parents separated from their children amid the chaos.

At one point, the evacuees put cardboard over blankets that appeared to cover bodies on the street.

Among the evacuees were those who had sought refuge at Al-Shifa hospital, including Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra and journalist Ibrahim Shaqoura.

“The Israeli soldiers bombed the intensive care unit at Al-Shifa hospital, and they threatened us to bomb the lower floor, so we decided to leave,” Shaqoura told CNN.

“The hospital is not a hospital anymore. It is a military station. There were not people attacking them from there.”

A woman who was carrying her child recalled the moment when the school they were sheltering in, in Jabalya, collapsed.

“My daughter was killed, [and] my nephew was martyred,” Shirin Joudeh said.

“Three [other] girls and three women also lost their lives. I managed to pull this child out from under the rubble. All my children are barefoot. I grabbed them and we just ran away."

Um Muhammad Hamada, a mother from Sheikh Radwan, sat by the roadside with her three children and two bird cages.

The crack of gunfire made her flinch and her daughter cover her ears.

"These birds mean a lot to me. They are like spirits that God saved, just like we were saved," she said.

"I couldn't leave them behind."

3:28 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Video shows dozens of bodies after blast at UN school in Gaza

From CNN's Jo Shelley, Andrew Carey and Eyad Kourdi

A still from video that first aired on Al Jazeera shows the aftermath at a UN school that was struck on Saturday. Al Jazeera did not report how they obtained the video.
A still from video that first aired on Al Jazeera shows the aftermath at a UN school that was struck on Saturday. Al Jazeera did not report how they obtained the video. Al Jazeera

The United Nations confirmed one of its schools in northern Gaza, which was being used as a shelter, was hit on Saturday.

Video from the scene shows bloodied bodies in a series of rooms on two floors of the two-story building. Many women and children are among the dead. 

One room appears to contain about a dozen bodies lying on the floor covered in dust. Desks are strewn and smashed up, and a huge hole can be seen in one of the room’s walls. In the courtyard of the building, a canopy roof across a metal structure appears to have been torn off, and there is debris on the ground as well.

A spokesperson for the main UN relief agency in Gaza, which runs the schools in Palestinian refugee camps, confirmed the building as the al-Fakhoura School in Jabalya.

The spokesperson, Juliette Touma, said the relief agency – the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – was not able to confirm the number of casualties as information was still coming in.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini, who called the images “horrifying” on X, formerly known as Twitter, said that thousands of displaced people had been sheltering there at the time of the incident. 

Touma said the UN did not know what caused the incident, nor who was responsible. 

The Israeli military told CNN it was aware of the incident and that it was under review but had no further comment to make.

Egypt and Qatar have already blamed Israel. The Egyptian foreign ministry called it a “bombing,” and said it was the latest in a series of Israeli violations against civilians in Gaza.

Qatar said independent investigators from the UN needed to go to Gaza to examine what it said was the “ongoing targeting of schools and hospitals.” The UN has already called for independent access to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Another school hit: Saturday’s incident was the second time in 24 hours an UNRWA school in northern Gaza had been hit, the agency said.

A school in Zaitoun — which was being used by 4,000 people as a shelter — had been struck multiple times on Friday, Touma told CNN. She said ambulances had reportedly been unable to get to the school, which she said was most likely due to the fighting and the communications blackout.

Lazzarini posted that dozens of people were believed to have been killed in the Friday incident.

“These attacks cannot become commonplace, they must stop. A humanitarian ceasefire cannot wait any longer,” he said

3:15 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Biden rejects ceasefire calls and condemns West Bank violence in op-ed

From CNN's Aileen Graef and Priscilla Alvarez

US President Joe Biden speaks during a bilateral meeting on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Week in San Francisco, California, on November 17.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a bilateral meeting on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Week in San Francisco, California, on November 17. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden has rejected the mounting calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying in an op-ed published Saturday that it would not achieve peace.

“As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, a cease-fire is not peace. To Hamas’s members, every cease-fire is time they exploit to rebuild their stockpile of rockets, reposition fighters and restart the killing by attacking innocents again,” he wrote in the piece for the Washington Post. “Our goal should not be simply to stop the war for today — it should be to end the war forever, break the cycle of unceasing violence, and build something stronger in Gaza and across the Middle East so that history does not keep repeating itself.”

Biden also called for Israel to respect humanitarian law and minimize the loss of civilian life, saying he counseled Israeli officials during his trip to Tel Aviv “against letting their hurt and rage mislead them into making mistakes we ourselves have made in the past.”

Biden said a two-state solution is the only solution to the enduring conflict in the region, and that, in the meantime, there should be governance under the Palestinian Authority.

“As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution," he wrote.

Eyes on the West Bank: Biden also took aim at extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank — which has been a concern among officials — saying the US is prepared to issue visa bans against the perpetrators.

"I have been emphatic with Israel’s leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable," the president wrote.

The warning came amid concerns over Israel violating the Visa Waiver Program — which allows eligible travelers to apply to enter the US without a visa, and went into effect in late October.

“I won't get into full details of our private diplomatic conversations, but we expect Israel to address those concerns,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said this week.

More background: Biden's op-ed is the latest example of efforts from the White House to remind Americans that conflicts abroad also affect US national security, as the administration’s supplemental funding request remains stalled.

Last month, the Biden administration requested more than $105 billion from Congress as part of a package it said will provide security assistance for the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. At the time, Biden made his own impassioned plea for the funding in a primetime Oval Office address to the nation, calling the moment “an inflection point” in American history.

The president closed with condemning the rising antisemitism and Islamophobia since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began.

12:00 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

There is no deal on release of hostages, Netanyahu says 

From CNN’s Michael Rios

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there is still no deal to release some of the hostages captured by Hamas during the militant group's October 7 attacks.

Netanyahu denied what he called false reports that Israel was considering a proposal for the release of at least 50 abductees. When the government has something to say, authorities will report it, he said.

The Israel Defense Forces said Friday that the military’s official estimate of hostages being held in Gaza is 237. 

Netanyahu said he has invited the representatives of the hostages’ families to a meeting with Israel’s war cabinet later this week.

On fuel tankers: The prime minister also defended the war cabinet’s decision to allow two fuel tankers to enter Gaza daily after several Israeli officials criticized the move.

He said the tankers will supply a minimal emergency amount of fuel to operate water and sewage pumps in Gaza. He also denied that the move was a change of policy, saying instead that it was a specific and limited solution to prevent diseases.

12:00 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces battles on all fronts after 6 weeks of war

From CNN's Tara John

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media in Tel Aviv on October 12.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media in Tel Aviv on October 12. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Winds have been shifting against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s war in Gaza drags past its sixth week.

Multiple opinion polls suggest national favor toward Netanyahu and his governing coalition is collapsing, despite continued overwhelming support in Israel for the war on Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza.

Opposition parties initially rallied behind Israel’s war effort, with National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz joining the wartime government ­­– but cracks have begun to emerge.

On Wednesday, the country’s opposition leader Yair Lapid said it was time for the six-term prime minister to resign, and called for Netanyahu’s Likud party to oust him. But Lapid did not go as far as to call for new elections, saying instead that Likud should put forward an alternative leader.

Hostage negotiations drag on: Israel, Hamas and the United States, with the Gulf state of Qatar acting as mediator, have been struggling to reach an agreement on a number of sticking points over a pause to allow for hostages to be released.

Sticking points include how many days a potential pause in fighting would last, the number of hostages that would be released, and Hamas’ demand that Israel stop flying surveillance drones over Gaza, according to several sources familiar with the talks.

Gestures to relieve pressure on the besieged enclave’s civilian population have already drawn the ire of Netanyahu’s unruly governing cabinet — which is the most right-wing in Israel’s history.

Some families have demanded that the government should consider an “everyone for everyone deal,” which was floated by Hamas. Such a deal would involve exchanging the hostages for all Palestinians currently held in Israeli prisons – some 6,630 people, according to estimates by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.

Though such a swap might cause concern in the current environment, a 2011 prisoner exchange saw kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit swapped for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Read more here on the cracks in Netanyahu's support.

12:00 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Two fuel tankers a day “far from enough” for Gaza aid operation, says UN agency

From CNN's Jo Shelley

The amount of fuel Israel has agreed to allow into Gaza each day is “far from enough,” the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency said Saturday.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini said the amount approved – which Israel said Friday was two fuel tankers a day – was, “far from enough to cover the needs for desalination plants, sewage pumps, hospitals, water pumps in shelters, aid trucks, ambulances, bakeries and communications networks to work without interruption.”

It would meet “only half of the daily minimum requirements of fuel for humanitarian operations in Gaza,” Lazzarini said.

At the current rate, Lazzarini said people in Gaza would still not have enough clean drinking water, “large parts” of the enclave would “continue to be flooded with sewage” and the UN would be “forced to handle a reduced number of aid trucks crossing daily into Rafah.”

Israel’s national security advisor Tzachi Hanegbi had said on Friday the amount of fuel that would enter would be “very minimal.”

Some context: Israeli government ministers are scheduled to meet Saturday night to discuss a decision made by the emergency war cabinet to allow the daily entry of fuel trucks to Gaza.

In an interview on Israel's Channel 13 on Friday night, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he believed the decision to lift the fuel blockade, made late Thursday night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet, should be approved by the extended security cabinet.

"Personally and ideologically, I'm against the entrance of fuel [to Gaza]," Cohen said.

The UN needs 200,000 liters of fuel each day in order to “meet the minimum of our humanitarian responsibilities in Gaza,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Friday.

The lack of fuel means “communications and other essential functions such as water desalination are progressively dropping offline,” Griffiths told the General Assembly.

2:21 a.m. ET, November 19, 2023

Here's what pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators want you to know

From CNN's Zoe Sottile, Chandelis Duster and Eric Levenson

Since October 7, large, pulsing crowds have gathered at rallies around the world, holding signs and chanting to convey their simmering frustration, outrage and fear over the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas and the resulting casualties.

CNN spoke to some demonstrators at recent pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli rallies to better understand why thousands have joined marches and what those in attendance hope to accomplish.

Here’s what they said:

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators: Elizabeth Oram, a 70-year-old nurse and adjunct lecturer, waved a Palestinian flag during a pro-Palestinian event last Friday night in New York City’s Columbus Circle, her short blonde hair falling onto the top of a white KN95 mask. She said she is a longtime supporter of Palestinian rights and had seen the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories go from “very bad to absolutely barbaric.”

“I’m 70. I need to be able to tell my grandchildren that when this happened, when a genocide happened, that I did not sit still – that I spoke out,” she said. “That’s what I need them to know.”
Protesters wave Palestinian flags as they take part in a demonstration to demand a "stop to the bombings in Gaza" in Montpellier, southern France on November 18.
Protesters wave Palestinian flags as they take part in a demonstration to demand a "stop to the bombings in Gaza" in Montpellier, southern France on November 18. Sylvain Thomas/AFP/Getty Images

Sami, a 20-year-old French student at a London university, was visiting New York when he came upon the rally. He told CNN he felt inspired to stay and attend after seeing images of the violence in Gaza on social media.

“I see all the videos and the pictures, and it’s horrible – I see this every day, every time on social media, on Twitter, on Instagram,” he said. “Every day, these atrocities in front of my eyes. I feel a lot of pain for them and I want this massacre and this genocide to stop.”

Protesters criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and accused the country of apartheid and genocide, pushed for a ceasefire in Israel’s military campaign and challenged American leaders to end their support for Israel.

Pro-Israeli demonstrators: At the "March for Israel" held in DC Tuesday, Sara Blau, a student at the University of Maryland, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the face of Omer Neutra, a high school friend who was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 and is believed to be held hostage.

Blau said she wanted to join the march “to show my support for Israel. I’m a proud Zionist, a proud Jew and I wanted to be here to support my community.”

Tens of thousands of demonstrators led by families of the hostages enter Jerusalem on the fifth and final day of the March for the Hostages on November 18, in Jerusalem.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators led by families of the hostages enter Jerusalem on the fifth and final day of the March for the Hostages on November 18, in Jerusalem. Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Michal and Noam Sheps, a married couple from New Jersey, said they came to show support for the hostages and for Israel.

“We’re one nation and we’re all supporting each other, and we want the hostages to be released. It’s extremely important,” Michal said. “(We’re here) for peace, for the safety of the people that are in Israel and for the hostages.”

Several of the pro-Israeli demonstrators said they had concerns about their personal safety as Jewish Americans. They pushed for Hamas to immediately release the more than 200 hostages who were taken October 7.

Read more on what other protesters had to say.