October 25, 2023 Israel-Hamas war news

By Kathleen Magramo, Andrew Raine, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Alisha Ebrahimji, Adrienne Vogt, Tori B. Powell, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Steve Almasy, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, October 26, 2023
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11:59 p.m. ET, October 24, 2023

UN secretary-general: Hamas attacks on Israel "did not happen in a vacuum"

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Richard Roth

Antonio Guterres attends a press conference at the United Nations headquarters on September 13, in New York City.
Antonio Guterres attends a press conference at the United Nations headquarters on September 13, in New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel “did not happen in a vacuum” during his remarks to the Security Council on the Middle East Tuesday.

“It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Guterres said, adding that Palestinians “have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence.”

At the same time, Guterres noted that “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.” He added that Palestinian people should not be collectively punished for Hamas' attacks, either. 

Therefore, according to Guterres, all parties of the conflict should “take constant care in the conduct of military operations to spare civilians” as well as “respect and protect hospitals and respect the inviolability of UN facilities which today are sheltering more than 600,000 Palestinians.”

Guterres called the intensified strikes on Gaza by Israel “deeply alarming” as “the level of civilian casualties, and the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods continue to mount."

At least 35 of Guterres' UN colleagues working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees were killed in the bombardment of Gaza over the last two weeks, according to the secretary-general.

He said “the clear violations of international humanitarian law” are witnessed in Gaza, offering Israel's order for more than one million people to evacuate earlier this month as an example.

Guterres emphasized that the aid delivered to Gaza does not correspond to its enormous needs, including the fuel supplies that are about to run out “in a matter of days.”

He reiterated his appeal for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and an immediate release of all hostages “without conditions.”

11:59 p.m. ET, October 24, 2023

The Biden administration is "working tirelessly" amid Middle East conflict, vice president says

From CNN's Donald Judd

Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledged the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the most detailed comments she’s made on the subject since war broke out earlier this month.

“I do want to also acknowledge this very difficult moment that we are in, in the context of the world. In particular what’s happening in Israel, with the attack by Hamas, the Palestinians and all who suffer in that region of the world," Harris said Tuesday during remarks to the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference in Washington.

The vice president pointed to what she said has been “countless hours with our president, be it in the Oval Office, in the Situation Room, in classified briefings he has with everyone in our intelligence community and military leaders to civil society leaders."

"The one thing I can report back to all of you is that we are working, and our president is working tirelessly and around the clock," she said.

Harris also went on to detail the administration’s priorities in the conflict.

“One, we stand with Israel's right to defend itself, that we stand for the importance of understanding that we must prioritize humanitarian values, that the rules of war are abided, that there would be no intentional attack of civilians, that humanitarian aid be administered, that we do all that we can to ensure that there will not be an escalation, in particular by Iran's proxies in that region of the world," she said.

Harris also pledged that she and the president “hold on to the responsibility that I think we uniquely have — to represent the values that are about stability in the interest of peace, and we have not abandoned, and are still profoundly committed to a two-state solution.”

11:59 p.m. ET, October 24, 2023

Israeli official says Hamas will not let Americans leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan

Hundreds of Americans who are stuck on the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing are not able to leave because “Hamas won’t let them out,” Mark Regev, senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told CNN.

“In many ways Hamas is keeping them hostage. I remember (Secretary of State Antony Blinken) raised that issue over a week ago before the (US) president was here and it was one of the issues that came up and we said from our point of view, we'll do everything we can to facilitate their immediate release.” Regev said.

Regev emphasized that the Rafah crossing is the only way out for Americans stuck in Gaza since the crossings on the Israel side “have been destroyed” and are “a war zone.”

Blinken previously confirmed that there are an estimated 500 to 600 Americans in Gaza.

11:59 p.m. ET, October 24, 2023

US joins Gulf nations to target "secret" Hamas investment portfolio worth up to $1 billion 

From CNN's Matt Egan

The United States is stepping up efforts to target a “secret” Hamas investment portfolio believed to be worth at least hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The US Treasury Department is working with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations to target the Hamas investment portfolio, a US official said Tuesday. The other four members of the GCC are Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. 

In the wake of Hamas' terror attacks on Israel, US and Saudi officials on Tuesday in Riyadh convened an emergency meeting of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), which includes the United States and the GCC nations. 

There has been a redoubling of efforts to use the TFTC, which was created in 2017, to go after Hamas, Hezbollah and other Iranian-aligned militant groups, including by sharing relevant, timely and actionable information, the US official said. 

Last week, the US Treasury leveled sanctions on people that officials say are managing assets in a “secret” Hamas investment portfolio

That Hamas investment portfolio is likely valued at between $400 million and $1 billion, according to a US official. The portfolio is generating significant amounts of revenue for Hamas, the official said. 

The US Treasury has said the global portfolio of investments includes companies operating “under the guise of legitimate businesses” in Sudan, Algeria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and other nations. 

“We cannot tolerate a world in which Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ fundraisers live and operate with impunity, abusing the financial system, to sustain their terror. The United States will not tolerate that world,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said during prepared remarks at the emergency TFTC meeting. 

Nelson urged the Gulf nations to share more information on the parts of the Hamas financial ecosystem “vulnerable to disruption” and called on member countries to take action. 

“From our perspective, not acting against Hamas and its terrorism is a disservice to the Palestinian people,” Nelson said. “From a financial standpoint, we can clearly see that Hamas has exacerbated economic hardships for decades in the Gaza Strip by diverting humanitarian assistance to support its campaign of terror, and we must publicly condemn these actions.”

11:59 p.m. ET, October 24, 2023

"No fuel to enter Gaza," IDF spokesperson says — contradicting earlier comments

From CNN’s Tamar Michaelis in Jerusalem and Eve Brennan

Israel's military will not allow any fuel to enter Gaza because Hamas needs that fuel for its operational infrastructure, the Israel Defense Forces said.

IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari claimed fuel from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was "stolen by Hamas." Hagari was responding to a question about if Israel would consider allowing fuel into the strip if it were in exchange for hostages.

"Hamas needs fuel desperately, and after stealing from UNRWA, we will discuss the fuel with the world and if the hospitals are in trouble then they should address Hamas – they [Hamas] should fill the fuel for hospitals and citizens. And the world should demand Hamas to do so," Hagari said.

The comments appear to be at odds with earlier comments from the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, who said efforts will be made to provide access to fuel in Gaza where needed to alleviate the humanitarian crisis but that the IDF would "not allow" the fuel to reach Hamas.

"We will make sure there will be fuel in places where they need fuel to treat civilians. We will not allow the fuel for Hamas so they can continue fighting against the citizens of Israel," IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said during a live TV address Tuesday afternoon.

Halevi did not provide any more details as to how the IDF could provide access to fuel to those most in need.

11:59 p.m. ET, October 24, 2023

Hamas used phone lines in tunnels under Gaza for over 2 years to plan the Israel attack, sources say

From CNN's Pamela Brown and Zachary Cohen

Intelligence shared with the United States suggests a small cell of Hamas operatives planning the deadly surprise attack on Israel communicated via a network of hardwired phones built into the network of tunnels underneath Gaza over a period of two years, according to two sources familiar with the matter. 

The phone lines in the tunnels allowed the operatives to communicate with one another in secret and meant they could not be tracked by Israeli intelligence officials, the sources told CNN.

During the two years of planning, the small cell operating in the tunnels used the hardwired phone lines to communicate and plan the operation but stayed dark until it was time to activate and call on hundreds of Hamas fighters to launch the October 7 attack, the sources said. 

They avoided using computers or cell phones during the two-year period to evade detection by Israeli or US intelligence, the sources said.

"There wasn't a lot of discussion and back and forth and coordination outside of the immediate area," one of the sources said. 

How they went undetected: The intelligence shared with US officials by Israel reveals how Hamas hid the planning of the operation through old-fashioned counterintelligence measures such as conducting planning meetings in person and staying off digital communications whose signals the Israelis can track in favor of the hardwired phones in the tunnels.

It offers new insight into why Israel and the US were caught so flat-footed by the Hamas attack, which saw at least 1,500 fighters pouring across the border into Israel in an operation that killed at least 1,400 Israelis.

CNN has not seen the specific intelligence but spoke to sources familiar with it. The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment and the Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

CNN previously reported that a series of strategic warnings from US and Israeli intelligence agencies did not lead officials from either country to anticipate the events of October 7.

The Israel Defense Forces colloquially refers to the tunnels built by Hamas over the last 15 years or so as the "Gaza metro." The tunnels make up a vast labyrinth that is used to store rockets and ammunition caches, as well as provide a way for militants to move about unnoticed. The IDF also says it contains vital Hamas command and control centers.

Read more about how Hamas planned the attack.

11:59 p.m. ET, October 24, 2023

Gazans forced to drink dirty, salty water as the fuel needed to run water systems runs out

From CNN's Laura Paddison and Rene Marsh

Finding clean water is becoming an all-consuming – and increasingly difficult – challenge for many Gazans.

Hamas’ brutal attacks in Israel on October 7 killed at least 1,400 people and the group took more than 200 hostages, according to Israeli authorities. In the wake of the assault, Israel launched an aerial bombardment of Gaza that Palestinian health officials say has killed more than 5,000 people. Israel also announced a “complete siege” on the enclave, withholding vital supplies of water, food and fuel.

Israel has since allowed some water to flow through one of the three pipelines that run into Gaza, but experts say it covers only a tiny percentage of the enclave’s needs. Most of Gaza’s water comes from local sources – but the fuel required to pump and clean it is fast running out.

As the water system collapses, some Gazans have been forced to drink dirty, salty water, sparking concerns of a health crisis and fears that people could start dying from dehydration.

Access to clean water has long been one of the hardest challenges for those living in the Gaza Strip. The 140-square-mile territory is one of most densely populated places on Earth.

Gaza has three main sources of water: desalination plants, pipelines that carry in water purchased from Israel and groundwater wells.

Most of Gaza’s water comes from a coastal aquifer, a body of underground water that stretches along the coastline of the eastern Mediterranean from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula up to Israel.

Around 97% is undrinkable; it’s salty, brackish, and contaminated by untreated wastewater and pollution.

The aquifer has been over-extracted to serve Gaza’s growing population. More than twice the amount of water is removed than is naturally replenished each year, and as the levels of freshwater drop, salty water from the Mediterranean has seeped in.

Read more on the crisis unfolding in Gaza.