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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2:13 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

Top UN officials warn of "apocalyptic" situation in Gaza with "nowhere safe to go." Here's the latest

From CNN staff

A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with Gaza shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment on December 2.
A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with Gaza shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment on December 2. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Top officials at the United Nations are warning of an “apocalyptic” situation in war-torn Gaza with “no place safe to go” for civilians, as Israel’s war with Hamas spreads into the south, where many had previously sought refuge.

“Every time we think things cannot get any more apocalyptic in Gaza, they do,” said Martin Griffiths, the top UN emergency relief official, in a statement Monday. “People are being ordered to move again, with little to survive on, forced to make one impossible choice after another,” he said.

“Such blatant disregard for basic humanity must stop,” he added.

Meanwhile, the number of civilians being killed in Gaza is "rapidly increasing," the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said.

At least 15,899 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks since October 7, including more than 375 in the previous 24 hours, a spokesperson for the Hamas-run Ministry of Health said Monday.

Here's what to know:

  • Operations across Gaza: Israel has been intensifying its aerial bombardment of southern Gaza in pursuit of Palestinian militant group Hamas and said over the weekend that it will expand ground operations to the whole of the territory. “Intense battles” are still taking place in northern Gaza, where two Israeli soldiers were killed during “close-quarter combat” with Hamas fighters, the military said on Monday.
  • "Nowhere safe": Tens of thousands of internally displaced Palestinians have arrived in Gaza's southernmost governorate of Rafah over the past two days, the UN's humanitarian agency said Tuesday, as it warned of overcrowding and the spread of disease. Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday appealed to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to spare civilians from more suffering, noting that despite evacuation orders, “there is nowhere safe to go in Gaza.”
  • Hundreds of thousands displaced: A recent evacuation order to move civilians from Khan Younis into Rafah in southern Gaza "created panic, fear and anxiety," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said. And Marwan Alhams of the Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah said the facility was overwhelmed. "We do not know where to put those refugees." UNRWA previously said almost 1.9 million people, more than 80% of the enclave's total population, have been displaced since the beginning of the war.
  • Humanitarian crisis: Scores of wounded people were seen being taken from rubble and to hospitals in southern Gaza, according to footage from the scene. The World Health Organization said Israeli military activity in southern Gaza could deprive thousands of Palestinians of health care, describing the conditions around Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis as catastrophic.
  • Pressure to protect civilians: US officials have ramped up their warnings about protecting civilian lives as Israel expands its offensive, but US national security adviser Jake Sullivan declined to weigh in on whether Israel has been more precise in its military operation. He did say Israel asked people to leave areas identified for strikes.
  • Internet blackout: Gaza is in a "near total blackout," according to London-based internet monitoring firm, Netblocks. The last remaining major telecommunications operator in the enclave, PalTel, also said all telecom services in the strip have been completely cut off. This means Palestinian civilians caught in the line of fire are unable to check on each other or call for help, and emergency and medical workers can’t coordinate their responses, an activist trying to help Palestinians skirt telecommunication blackouts said.
  • Hostages still in Gaza: Negotiations over the release of additional hostages from Gaza that broke down Friday appear highly unlikely to resume any time soon, multiple US administration officials said. The major reason is that Hamas is refusing to release a remaining group of young women hostages, and Israel will not accept the suggestion of moving on to discuss the release of other categories of people, like men, a US official said.
11:17 p.m. ET, December 4, 2023

Tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians arrive in Rafah, UN agency says

From CNN's Kareem El Damanhoury

Displaced Palestinians who fled from Khan Younis, sit outside makeshift shelters at a camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 4.
Displaced Palestinians who fled from Khan Younis, sit outside makeshift shelters at a camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 4. Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of internally displaced Palestinians have arrived in Gaza's southernmost governorate of Rafah over the past two days, the United Nations' humanitarian agency said Tuesday.

It comes after the Israeli military said Sunday it was expanding its ground operations to the whole of Gaza.

"Given that shelters in Rafah city have exceeded their capacity by far, most newly arriving IDPs [internally displaced persons] have settled in the streets and in empty spaces across the city, where they erected tents and makeshift shelters," a statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. 

Out of about 1.8 million displaced people across Gaza, almost 1 million are sheltering in the 99 facilities run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the south, including in Khan Younis and Rafah, OCHA said as it warned of the spread of diseases in shelters. 

"Due to the overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions at UNRWA shelters in the south, there have been significant increases in some communicable diseases and conditions such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, skin infections and hygiene-related conditions like lice," the statement added. 

On Monday, OCHA said it had received reports of hepatitis outbreaks in refugee shelters in the strip. 

9:59 p.m. ET, December 4, 2023

"More hellish scenario" to unfold if more aid doesn’t enter Gaza, UN warns

From CNN’s Richard Roth

A “more hellish scenario is about to unfold” if more aid is not allowed to enter Gaza, UN humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings said Monday.

The current amount of aid is insufficient and the conditions required to deliver aid to Gaza do not exist, according to Hastings, the Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and United Nations Resident Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold, one in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond,” Hastings said in a statement. 

The use of only the Rafah crossing to bring aid trucks does not work, the UN said, despite the efforts of its agencies, the Egyptian and Palestine Red Crescent Society, and other partners. 

The international body added Gaza’s health system is “on its knees” with a lack of clean drinking water, no proper sanitation and poor nutrition for people, and shelters with no capacity.

The situation amounts to a “textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster,” Hastings said. “Humanitarian operations cannot be kept on a drip feed of fuel,” she said, adding that fuel is required for hospitals, clean drinking water, sanitation, social services and UN operations, among others.  

The UN said fuel must be allowed to enter Gaza in a “manner which ensures Israel’s security.”  

Hastings said the UN and NGOs alone can’t support the population of Gaza, stressing that commercial and public sectors must be allowed to bring supplies into the strip.  

The UN said it stands ready to work with all parties to “expand the number of UN-managed safe shelters and to deliver assistance where it is needed.”

1:50 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

Ratio of 2 civilians killed for every Hamas member "tremendously positive" in circumstances, IDF says

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

A ratio of two Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza for every Hamas militant is a “tremendously positive” given the challenges of urban combat, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told CNN on Monday.

It comes after the Agence-France-Presse news agency, citing a briefing for foreign media by senior Israeli military officials, reported Monday that the IDF believes about two civilians have been killed in Gaza for every Hamas militant.

Asked by CNN’s Erin Burnett about that report, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said: “I can confirm the report.”

“And I can say that if that is true, and I think that our numbers will be corroborated — if you compare that ratio to any other conflict in urban terrain between a military and a terrorist organization using civilians as their human shields, and embedded in the civilian population, you will find that that ratio is tremendous, tremendously positive, and perhaps unique in the world.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told journalists at a news conference Saturday that the military has killed “thousands of terrorists.” The Israeli military has not officially published any estimates of those killed.

AFP reported that the unnamed Israeli military official, when asked to confirm reports that around 5,000 Hamas militants had been killed, replied: “The numbers are more or less right.”

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza says 15,899 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israeli attacks since October 7. It does not distinguish between civilians and militants.

A top US State Department official told Congress last month that while it was difficult to assess casualty figures while the conflict was ongoing, she believed the true death toll could be even higher than what is being publicly discussed.

“It is very difficult for any of us to assess what the rate of casualties are,” said Barbara Leaf, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. “We think they’re very high, frankly. And it could be that they’re even higher than are being cited. We’ll know only after the guns fall silent.”

10:27 p.m. ET, December 4, 2023

Southern Gaza ground operations likely to cut thousands off from health care, WHO warns

From CNN's Kareem El Damanhoury 

Israeli military ground operations in southern Gaza could deprive thousands of Palestinians of health care, the World Health Organization warned Monday.

Israel is expanding its ground operations to all of Gaza, with ground forces now operating in the southern part, according to a video geolocated by CNN.

"Intensifying military ground operations in southern Gaza, particularly in Khan Younis, are likely to cut thousands off from health care — especially from accessing Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital, the two main hospitals in southern Gaza — as the number of wounded and sick increases," WHO said in a statement.

Only 18 out of 36 hospitals are still functioning in Gaza, but only providing partial services, WHO said, adding that the 12 operational hospitals in the south are "the backbone of the health system."

"Gaza cannot afford to lose another hospital as health needs continue to soar," WHO's statement said, calling on Israel to take the necessary measures to protect civilians and hospital infrastructure.

A WHO team that recently visited the Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis said the conditions were "catastrophic."

"[T]he building and hospital grounds [are] grossly overcrowded with patients and displaced people seeking shelter," the statement said. "The emergency ward is overflowing with patients...Many patients are being treated on the floor."

In a voice message posted Monday, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder also spoke of the harrowing conditions at one of Nasser Hospital's crowded rooms after a blast had hit less than 100 meters away.

"There must be a hundred people, children now have been woken up by the bombs and explosions," he said, as babies' cries can be heard in the background. "Parents just have that look of.. the feeling no parent ever wants to experience, which is helplessness." 
9:50 p.m. ET, December 4, 2023

Map showing unsafe areas of Gaza isn't perfect, but it's "the best thing that we can do," IDF says

From CNN's Mick Krever

The system implemented by the Israel Defense Forces in recent days to designate unsafe areas of Gaza is not perfect, but is “the best thing that we can do,” an IDF spokesperson said Monday, as civilians search for shelters amid Israel's expanded ground operations.

The IDF on Friday distributed leaflets in Gaza with a QR-code linked to an online map that divided Gaza into thousands of parcels. Since then, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman has posted maps on his X account, formerly Twitter, warning Gazans to leave large swaths of the territory.

But electricity and internet supply have been extremely intermittent in Gaza. Netblocks, the London-based internet monitoring firm, reported a near-total internet blackout in Gaza on Monday. 

“We’re trying to reach out to Palestinians,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, IDF spokesperson, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday. “We’re trying to inform them ahead of time where fighting is going to be in order for them to be able to take precautions and move from where there is going to be fighting. I don’t know how else we can square that circle of defeating Hamas where Hamas is and minimizing civilian casualties.”

CNN’s attempts this weekend to contact people in Khan Younis to ask if they had seen the map were unsuccessful, due to the poor communication links. 

Some context: Israel expanded its ground operations to all of Gaza, with ground forces now operating in the southern part of the enclave. A recent evacuation order to move civilians from Khan Younis into Rafah in southern Gaza "created panic, fear and anxiety," with a United Nations agency warning that 1.9 million people, more than 80% of the enclave's total population, have been displaced since the beginning of the war.

11:08 p.m. ET, December 4, 2023

"Nowhere safe to go," in Gaza for people ordered to evacuate, UN chief says

From CNN’s Richard Roth

António Guterres delivers an address in Dubai on December 1.
António Guterres delivers an address in Dubai on December 1. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Gaza residents ordered to evacuate have nowhere safe to go in the enclave, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday, as he urged Israeli forces to spare civilians from more suffering.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told civilians to leave large swaths of the strip, including several neighborhoods in the south, after it resumed its military offensive over the weekend.

"For people ordered to evacuate, there is nowhere safe to go and very little to survive on," Guterres said in a statement released by Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the secretary general. 

The UN chief said he was extremely alarmed by the resumption of hostilities between Israel, Hamas, and other armed Palestinian groups in Gaza.

He urged Israeli forces to avoid action that would worsen the "catastrophic humanitarian situation," according to the statement.

“Civilians — including health workers, journalists and UN personnel — and civilian infrastructure must be protected at all times,” the statement said. 

Guterres also said he was gravely concerned about the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank, including a high number of fatalities and arrests, intensified Israeli security operations and settler violence, and attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, the statement said.

11:08 p.m. ET, December 4, 2023

Situation in Gaza becoming "more apocalyptic," top UN relief official warns

From CNN’s Kareem El Damanhoury  

Martin Griffiths speaks during a press conference in Geneva, on November 15.
Martin Griffiths speaks during a press conference in Geneva, on November 15. Jean-Guy Python/AFP/Getty Images

The situation in Gaza keeps getting “more apocalyptic,” the United Nations' top humanitarian relief official said Monday.

“Every time we think things cannot get any more apocalyptic in #Gaza, they do,” Martin Griffiths said in a statement. “People are being ordered to move again, with little to survive on, forced to make one impossible choice after another.” 

Griffiths, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, added that no one and nowhere is safe in Gaza. 

“Such blatant disregard for basic humanity must stop,” he said, calling for an end to the fighting. 

Some background: The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday announced it is expanding its ground operations to all of Gaza, following the collapse of a truce with Hamas on Friday.

"The IDF is resuming and expanding the ground operation against Hamas’ strongholds across the whole Gaza Strip," IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari told a news conference.

"Our policy is clear — we will forcefully strike any threat posed against our territory."

The IDF told civilians to leave large swaths of the enclave, including some neighborhoods in the southern part where many Gazans had fled to after the Israeli operation began in northern Gaza.

6:18 a.m. ET, December 5, 2023

More than 80% of Gazans have been displaced since Israel's war with Hamas began, UN agency says

From CNN's Mia Alberti

Almost 1.9 million people, more than 80% of Gaza's total population, have now been displaced since the beginning of the war between Hamas and Israel, the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) said on Monday.

Near 1.2 million internally displaced people (IDP's) were sheltering in 156 UNRWA facilities across the Gaza Strip. A large majority, almost one million people, are sheltering in facilities in central and south Gaza, in places including Khan Younis and Rafah.

"The average number of IDPs in UNRWA shelters is 10,326, more than four times their capacity", UNRWA said.

Thomas White, director of UNRWA affairs in Gaza, said "another wave of displacement" is taking place and the humanitarian situation is worsening as the Israel Defense Forces steps up operations in southern Gaza, including in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced.

"People are pleading for advice on where to find safety. We have nothing to tell them," White said on "X" — formerly Twitter — on Monday.

"The roads leading South towards Rafah are clogged with cars and donkey carts packed with people and their meagre possessions," he said.

The UN agency said 218 internally displaced people have been killed and 901 injured while sheltering at UNRWA facilities. The organization also said 111 of its staff have been killed since October 7.

As of December 2, the UNRWA "has been able to verify that 117 incidents have occurred at 85 UNRWA premises since the beginning of the war. 30 installations were hit directly and 55 sustained collateral damage. In addition, UNRWA has received reports of the military use of its facilities," the organization said.

Between November 20 and December 2, nine out of 22 UNRWA health centers were operational in central and southern Gaza, where 284 health workers attended to more than 30,000 patients.