December 5, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Chris Lau, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Antoinette Radford, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 2:53 a.m. ET, December 7, 2023
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6:41 p.m. ET, December 5, 2023

Blinken announces policy to restrict visas to US for extremists in West Bank

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media in Dubai on Friday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media in Dubai on Friday. Saul Loeb/AFP/Pool via AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new policy on Tuesday to prevent extremist Israeli settlers responsible for violence in the West Bank from coming to the United States.

"Today, the State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities," Blinken said in a statement. "Immediate family members of such persons also may be subject to these restrictions," he added.

The State Department will be able to apply the policy to both Israelis and Palestinians who are responsible for attacks in the West Bank, Blinken said.

Blinken did not name any individuals who would be subject to the visa restrictions, nor did he say how many would be included in the initial tranche of restrictions.

The new policy is expected "to impact dozens of individuals and potentially their family members," State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Tuesday.

"Any Israeli citizen who currently has a visa to enter the United States will be notified that that visa has been revoked," Miller said.  

"Any other Israeli citizen who is designated as a result of this program, but does not currently have a visa, will not be notified. If they want to travel to the United States and they apply through ESTA, which is the way that it works if you're currently a Visa Waiver Program Country, that application will be rejected," he said.

The background: Administration officials have signaled for weeks that they would take such action as violence in the West Bank has intensified in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack. 

In his engagements with Israeli officials since that attack, Blinken has called on the Netanyahu government to do more to hold the settlers responsible for the violence accountable.

"As President Biden has repeatedly said, those attacks are unacceptable. Last week in Israel, I made clear that the United States is ready to take action using our own authorities," the top US diplomat reiterated in his statement Tuesday.
"We will continue to seek accountability for all acts of violence against civilians in the West Bank, regardless of the perpetrator or the victim," Blinken said. 

Blinken said that the US will continue to engage with Israeli leadership to "make clear that Israel must take additional measures to protect Palestinian civilians from extremist attacks."

The secretary of state also said the US will continue to "engage the Palestinian Authority to make clear it must do more to curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis," he said, noting that leaders in Israel and those with the Palestinian Authority "have the responsibility to uphold stability in the West Bank. Instability in the West Bank both harms the Israeli and Palestinian people and threatens Israel’s national security interests. Those responsible for it must be held accountable."

Benny Gantz, Israel war cabinet member and former defense minister, on Tuesday cautioned the US against its rhetoric referring to extremist Israeli settlers responsible for violence in the West Bank, and urged the international community not to use the term "settler violence." 

During a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, Gantz responded to a question about the US policy, saying: "Concerning the US sanctions, I repeatedly ask everyone, also from my American counterparts, not to use the term ‘settler violence,’ because it does not represent the citizens of Israel. It does not represent the residents of the communities in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], 99% of them are normative and abide the law."

This post has been updated with comments from Benny Gantz.

Tamar Michaelis contributed to this report.

12:32 p.m. ET, December 5, 2023

The White House says Israel is heeding US warnings on civilian casualties. In private, not everyone agrees

From CNN's MJ Lee

US President Joe Biden's administration has begun to stress publicly that the United States' efforts to shape Israel’s military operations to be more surgical and deliberate to limit civilian casualties in Gaza have been fruitful. 

“I do believe that they have listened,” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Sunday when asked about Israel’s receptiveness to US urgings to do more to protect civilian lives.

Two days earlier, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, “We believe that the approach that we’re taking thus far has produced effective results.”

In particular, US officials are arguing that Israel has heeded lessons that the administration has shared from its past experience with urban warfare. They are also insisting that the Israel Defense Forces’ initial incursion into northern Gaza would have been far wider in scope had it not been for warnings from the US. 

But privately, that is not a view shared by everyone inside the White House. 

One senior administration official told CNN that they did not feel comfortable using the word “receptive” to capture Israel’s response so far to the administration’s advice on its military operations. 

The White House is deeply concerned, this official said, about how Israel’s operations targeting southern Gaza will unfold. US officials’ recent conversations with their Israeli counterparts about not replicating in the southern part of the strip what it did in the north have been “hard,” “firm” and “direct,” they said. 

But administration officials are careful to avoid directly admonishing any of Israel’s tactics in public. Since the start of the war, this official said, the White House’s approach has largely been to quietly counsel Israel behind the scenes, rather than publicly shaming them.

12:26 p.m. ET, December 5, 2023

IDF is "now encircling" southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, chief of the general staff says

From Tamar Michaelis in Tel Aviv

The Israeli military is encircling the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of the general staff said on Tuesday. 

“Sixty days after the war began, our forces are now encircling the Khan Yunis area in the southern Gaza Strip,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said on Tuesday. “Simultaneously, we continue to secure our accomplishments in the northern Gaza Strip.”

Earlier Tuesday, the IDF said that its forces were operating “in the heart” of Khan Younis, the territory’s second-largest city.

In the north: Israeli troops have also "completed the encirclement" of the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, Israel's military said Tuesday, as it seeks to complete its offensive operations against Hamas militants in the north of the enclave.

Halevi said that the IDF was now entering the “third phase of the ground operations,” though he did not specify what that meant. “We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south,” he said.

In response to a journalist’s question about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Halevi pointed to the aid trickling into Gaza, saying, “We’re making great efforts, in accordance to the government’s decision and the international law.”

11:51 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

50 aid trucks entered Gaza and 7 injured people crossed into Egypt through Rafah, officials on site say

From CNN’s Asma Khalil in Rafah and Eyad Kourdi  

Fifty trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing Tuesday, including two trucks specifically carrying fuel, according to an Egyptian official.

Before the October 7 attack, about 455 aid trucks were crossing into the area each day, according to the UN. 

Meanwhile, seven injured Palestinians, along with seven accompanying individuals, have crossed into Egypt to receive medical treatment, as observed by a journalist working with CNN at the Rafah crossing.

Furthermore, seven buses transporting foreign nationals have been seen arriving in Egypt from Gaza. The exact number of foreign nationals on these buses is currently unclear.  

This post has been updated with the number of aid trucks to cross into Gaza.

11:47 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

"Any minute now is our last": One Gazan woman says her only option is to "accept death"

From CNN’s Sana Noor Haq and Antoinette Radford

As Israel expands its ground offensive into the south of Gaza, a woman who is living with dozens of her family members in the center of the territory says she feels like they are living through a “famine.”

“No aid or food is being provided, prices are skyrocketing — and that’s an extreme understatement,” said Tarneem Hammad, an advocacy and communications officer with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). “A kilo of salt used to be $0.25; now it’s $4.25. (A kilo) of flour is now $60; it used to be $7.”

Hammad’s testimony was shared with CNN by MAP. 

She has stayed in her home, where 45 of her family members are also sheltering, including 15 children.

“We’re a couple of miles away from Israeli tanks separating us from the south. We hear bombs and tank shelling from both Salah Eddin Street (Gaza’s main north-south route) and the seaside,” Hammad added. 

Israel blocked access to water, food and electricity in the strip on October 9, though resumed the delivery of some water at the end of October.

Earlier on Tuesday, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, said the organization had been forced to halt nearly all aid operations in Gaza “due to the bombardment, the chaos, and the panic.”

The “pulverizing of Gaza now ranks amongst the worst assaults on any civilian population in our time and age,” Egeland said in a Tuesday statement.

Almost 16,000 people have been killed in Gaza during the war, according to the enclave's Hamas-run Ministry of Health. 

Hammad anticipates this may soon become the reality for her and her family. 

“I think, here in the middle area, we’re left with one option, to accept death. Like it does not matter whether we move or relocate. Any minute now is our last!”
12:01 p.m. ET, December 5, 2023

FBI director says bureau is working "around the clock" against potential attacks inspired by Hamas

From CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before a House Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 12.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before a House Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 12. Patrick Semansky/AP

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau is working "around the clock" to pinpoint and stymie potential attacks by individuals inspired by the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

"Given the steady drumbeat of calls for attacks by foreign terrorist organizations since October 7, we’re working around the clock to identify and disrupt potential attacks by those inspired by Hamas’ horrific terrorist attacks in Israel," Wray said in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. 

There is currently no information to indicate that Hamas “has the intent or capability to conduct operations inside the US,” Wray said in a written statement separate from his opening remarks, “though we cannot, and do not, discount that possibility.”

Wray also warned of the increase in hate crimes, including the "troubling trend" of increased antisemitic threats in the months since October 7. His comments echo previous warnings of threats to the United States, and he has made similar remarks to other congressional committees.

The FBI director added that just since the October 7, “we are opening I think 60% more hate crimes investigations.”

Wray said he has never seen a time during his decades-long career when so many threats against the US were all as elevated as they are now.

“While there may have been times over the years where individual threats could have been higher, here or there, than where they might be right now, I’ve never seen a time where all the threats – or so many of the threats – are all elevated all at exactly the same time,” Wray told the committee.

“That’s what makes this environment that we’re in now so fraught,” Wray said, adding that this is why the FBI should continue to be funded.

11:33 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

Sole remaining major telecoms operator in Gaza announces gradual return of power following blackout

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Celine Alkhaldi 

Power has been returning gradually to Gaza following Monday's blackout, according to the only remaining major telecommunications operator in the strip.

PalTel announced the "gradual return" of communication services — fixed, cellular, and internet — to the central and southern regions of the Gaza Strip. 

On Monday evening, London-based internet monitoring firm Netblocks pointed to live metrics that showed the enclave was "in the midst of a near-total internet blackout.”

Other telecom operators, Jawwal and Ooredoo, posted similar statements after 1 a.m. ET, announcing the restoration of their respective networks in Gaza.

"You can now communicate with the beloved Gaza Strip after our services are back in operation, which have been disrupted since yesterday," Ooredoo announced. 

11:30 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

CNN team witnesses 2 outgoing rockets from southern Lebanon toward Israel

From CNN's Ivan Watson, Mohammed Tawfeeq, and Thomas Booth in South Lebanon

A CNN team in southern Lebanon counted at least five outgoing rockets fired from Lebanon toward Israel on Tuesday evening local time.

The rockets were launched not far from the town of Marjayoun, in the direction of the Israeli border town of Metula. 

The CNN team witnessed at least two Israeli interceptors apparently hitting some of the projectiles.

Hezbollah said on Telegram on Tuesday it targeted IDF troops near the border with Lebanon in various locations.

Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire across the border for two months.

10:53 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

Lebanese army reports apparent first soldier death as Israel and Hezbollah engage in crossfire

From CNN's Ivan Watson, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tom Booth in southern Lebanon, and Mia Alberti in Beirut

A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5.
A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5. Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images

A Lebanese soldier was killed and three others were wounded in an Israeli attack on Tuesday, the Lebanese army said on social media.

It appears to be the first death of a Lebanese soldier as Israel and Hezbollah, Lebanon’s powerful militant group, have been exchanging frequent fire across the border for two months, using rockets, artillery, drones and airstrikes. 

CNN has reviewed Lebanese army statements so far, and this is the first mentioned fatality. In addition, a security source with knowledge of the military situation in Lebanon confirmed the first death of a Lebanese Ministry of National Defense member.

The attack happened near Lebanon's border with Israel, according to the Lebanese National News Agency (NNA). 

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli forces shelled areas in southern Lebanon, NNA reported.

A CNN team in the Marjayoun area of southern Lebanon reported hearing loud booms in the morning and filmed a suspected Israeli drone over the area.  

NNA reported a drone strike in the central-southern sector near the Lebanese-Israeli border, plus shelling in the southeastern, central and western areas of the border. 

What Israel is saying: Israeli Defense Forces fighter jets struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including infrastructure and weapons storage military posts, the IDF said Tuesday morning, adding it identified several launches from Lebanon into Israel that fell into open areas. 

Hezbollah said on social media it had targeted IDF troops near the border with Lebanon in various locations.