October 13, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Kathleen Magramo, Adam Renton, Christian Edwards, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Alisha Ebrahimji, Elise Hammond, Kaanita Iyer, Zoe Sottile and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 7:44 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
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1:32 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

US officials believe Israel became complacent about Hamas and failed to recognize threats

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Zachary Cohen, Alex Marquardt and Natasha Bertrand

US officials and lawmakers are generally coming to believe that Israel’s failure to predict the explosion of simmering rage from Gaza was primarily due to a lack of imagination, according to conversations with dozens of current and former intelligence, military and congressional officials.

Hamas likely 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. But US officials also believe Israel had become complacent about the threat Hamas posed and failed to recognize key indicators that the group was planning for a large-scale operation.

For example, Israeli officials failed to recognize routine Hamas training exercises as a sign that the group was preparing an imminent attack. The militants trained for the onslaught in at least six sites across Gaza, a CNN investigation found, including at one site less than a mile from Israel’s border.

“There were numerous indicators of a change in posture generally by Hamas and then pivoting both in public rhetoric and posture more towards violence and attacks generally,” said one source familiar with US intelligence.  

In general, the Biden administration’s public posture in the lead up to the attack also did not reflect a heightened sense of alarm about the potential for violence. The intelligence community’s annual assessment of worldwide threats, released in February, does not mention Hamas. 

“The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades,” national security advisor Jake Sullivan said at The Atlantic Festival on Sept. 29.

“Challenges remain,” Sullivan said, citing “tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. “But the amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced.”

Hamas had refrained from entering two smaller cross-border skirmishes within the last year between another Palestinian militant group and Israel. Israel believed that its policy of offering work permits to Gazans and allowed Qatari money into the country had given Hamas something to lose — and lulled the group into quiescence. 

“Hamas is very, very restrained and understands the implications of further defiance,” Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s national security adviser, told an Israeli radio channel six days before the assault.

It’s also possible that the Hamas operation was more successful than the group anticipated, one former intelligence official and another source familiar with current intelligence said. 

“I think that it’s very possible, if not probable, that Hamas vastly exceeded its own expectations,” the second person said. “They thought, 'We would mount this assault and there would be a couple dozen killed,' but never did they think it would rise to the level it did.”
1:28 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

Israeli conducting drone attacks on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, IDF says

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali

Israel is currently conducting drone attacks on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. 

“Initial report – An IDF UAV is currently striking terror targets belonging to the Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon. Details to follow,” the IDF said in a statement on Friday evening.

Some context: The northern border between Israel and Lebanon remains one of the most important, and dangerous, fault lines in this volatile region.

Following the surprise Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, this frontier – largely calm since the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war – is even more charged with consequence.

Any conflict erupting here could pour fuel on the raging fire of the current Hamas-Israel war by drawing in the most powerful paramilitary group in the Middle East: Iran-backed Hezbollah.

1:13 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

Israel did not consult with US before issuing Gaza evacuation warning, White House says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Israel did not consult with the United States ahead of issuing an evacuation warning to more than a million civilians in northern Gaza, the White House said Friday.  

“There was no prior consultation that I'm aware of before the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) issued that evacuation warning,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said.

The US is “concerned” about civilian losses as it works “aggressively” on safe passage options, he said.

“We want to make sure that those who want to leave have the ability to leave. And so we are working very aggressively with the Israelis and the Egyptians to try to find a safe passage out of southern Gaza. And we also want to preserve the ability to get humanitarian assistance in,” Kirby said. 

He declined to provide details on the ongoing diplomatic conversations on those efforts. 

Kirby later said that the US is “routinely” talking to Israeli counterparts “about issues regarding the law of armed conflict and respect for human life.”

“That’s a conversation we have had and will continue to have with them,” he said.

1:14 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

US intelligence warned of potential for Gaza clash in days before attack

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Zachary Cohen, Alex Marquardt and Natasha Bertrand

The US intelligence community produced at least two assessments based in part on intelligence provided by Israel warning the Biden administration of an increased risk for Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the weeks ahead of Saturday’s seismic attack on southern Israel, according to sources familiar with the intelligence.

One update from September 28 warned, based on multiple streams of intelligence, that the terror group Hamas was poised to escalate rocket attacks across the border. An October 5 wire from the CIA warned generally of the increasing possibility of violence by Hamas. Then, on October 6, the day before the attack, US officials circulated reporting from Israel indicating unusual activity by Hamas — indications that are now clear: an attack was imminent.

None of the American assessments offered any tactical details or indications of the overwhelming scope, scale and sheer brutality of the operation that Hamas carried out on October 7, sources say. It is unclear if any of these US assessments were shared with Israel, which provides much of the intelligence that the US bases its reports on.

“The problem is that none of this is new,” said one of the sources familiar with the intelligence. “This is something that has historically been the norm between Hamas and Israel. I think what happened is everyone saw these reports and were like, ‘Yeah of course. But we know what this will look like.’” 

But the assessments were among a wave of high-level warnings given to the Biden administration by both its own intelligence community and Middle Eastern allies over the past year, raising questions about whether the US and Israel were appropriately attuned to the risk. 

A senior official from an Arab country in the region said the country repeatedly raised concerns with US and Israeli officials that Palestinian anger was reaching a dangerous pitch. “But they never listened every time we warned them,” the official said.

A Middle Eastern ambassador in Washington, DC, also told CNN that their government had repeatedly warned the White House and US intelligence officials of a buildup of Hamas weapons and anger among Palestinians that was set to explode.

“The arms that exist in Gaza is beyond the imagination of anybody's thinking,” they warned, the ambassador said. “The arms that exist in the West Bank, via Hamas, are also becoming a real problem and Hamas control of the West Bank is a real issue.”

“This in every meeting, every meeting in the last year and a half,” the ambassador added.

Read more about the intelligence warnings

1:04 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

Israeli troops conduct local raids as Gaza braces for possible ground incursion. Here's what to know

From CNN staff

Israeli army tanks and vehicles deploy along the border with Gaza in southern Israel on Friday.
Israeli army tanks and vehicles deploy along the border with Gaza in southern Israel on Friday. Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli troops have carried out local raids over the past day in the Gaza Strip, searching for hostages and collecting evidence to find people taken by Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.

It came after the Israeli military ordered the population to evacuate northern Gaza ahead of a potential Israeli ground operation. Many Palestinians packed their belongings and began to evacuate their homes on Friday.

Here's where things stand:

Evacuations: According to the UN, Israel had ordered some 1.1 million people — half of the population of Gaza — to move to the southern half of the densely packed enclave. CNN footage showed many families had taken heed of the IDF’s warning. Some had strapped several mattresses to the top of their cars. Others drove with the trunk and doors open, to take as many people and possessions as possible. Some were even seen sitting on the hood as families drove through the city. Others simply walked, carrying in bags as much as they could.

Claims hostages were killed: Hamas claimed that 13 Israeli hostages held in Gaza have been killed by “random” Israeli bombings on parts of Gaza over the past 24 hours. The IDF said it could not confirm or deny the claim. Hamas said six of the 13 were killed in the north of Gaza and seven were killed elsewhere in the strip. The militant group captured as many as 150 people during its attack on southern Israel last weekend, and is holding them hostage in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.

Humanitarian situation: Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is deepening, with warnings people are at risk of starvation after Israel ordered a “complete siege” of the blockade in response to Hamas’ attacks. Israel dropped about 6,000 bombs on Gaza between October 7 and 12, according to the Israeli Air Force. Palestinian officials said at least 1,799 people have been killed in the strikes.

Fire and smoke rise above Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on Friday.
Fire and smoke rise above Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on Friday. Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

No safe place: With no air raid sirens or bomb shelters, the more than 2 million Palestinians living in the besieged territory are relying on rare phone calls or text messages from the Israeli military to alert them of imminent Israeli strikes. In Gaza, the call or text alerts are far from guaranteed and – at most – give residents a few minutes to evacuate.

Negotiating a border crossing: US officials have been engaged in discussions for days to try to secure a humanitarian corridor that would allow Americans and other civilians to safely leave Gaza ahead of an expected Israeli military incursion. There are an estimated 500-600 Palestinian-Americans in Gaza.

What other world leaders are saying: Jordan's King Abdullah II “warned against attempts to displace the Palestinians” and emphasized the need to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis, the Jordanian Royal Hashemite Court said. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said in a post on social media that Hamas "is like ISIS." Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani condemned the killing of civilians in Israel and Gaza and called for the release of hostages.

Strikes at the Lebanese-Israeli border: The Israeli military shelled southern Lebanon in response to an explosion at a security fence near the border, the IDF said. There are rising fears of the Lebanon-based Shia militant faction Hezbollah entering the conflict, prompting the IDF to add tens of thousands of additional troops to its northern border with Lebanon in anticipation of an attack by the Iran-backed group. Hezbollah already claimed responsibility for attacks on four Israeli locations in a statement Friday.

Sign up for CNN’s Meanwhile in the Middle East, a three-times-a-week newsletter that explores the region’s biggest stories. 

1:01 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

Israel's hostage coordinator says every piece of information being investigated

From CNN’s Matthew Chance, Florence Davey-Attlee and Lottie Beilin in Tel Aviv

Israel’s hostage coordinator said his team is “investigating every piece of information” to help find those being held captive in Gaza.

Gal Hirsch said that “searches in the field are continuing and the difficult work of identifying the bodies continues" and his staff is working "around the clock" for those still missing and their families.

"Together, we will overcome and we will win," he said in a statement to CNN Friday.

Hirsch was appointed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to coordinate searches for people that are missing following Saturday’s attacks. According to Israeli authorities, Hamas captured as many as 150 people during its attack on southern Israel.

Earlier Friday, Hirsch attended a meeting in Tel Aviv of relatives of the missing, according to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

12:56 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

More than 80 German nationals will evacuate from Israel on military plane

From CNN’s Inke Kappeler in Berlin

The plane that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock used to travel to Israel will be used to evacuate more than 80 German nationals from Israel, the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Airbus (plane) of the Air Force, on which the Foreign Minister flew from Berlin to Tel Aviv, will return to Germany with more than 80 German nationals who want to leave Israel," a ministry press release said. 

Baerbock will travel onward in a smaller aircraft from Tel Aviv to the Egyptian capital city of Cairo, a foreign ministry spokesperson told CNN. In Cairo, she will engage in crisis talks focused on securing the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas, the ministry said.

The evacuating German nationals will be accompanied by the foreign ministry's crisis management officer on the plane, the statement added.

1:15 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

Biden speaks with families of Americans believed to be held hostage by Hamas

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden on Friday held a call with the families of Americans believed to be held hostage by Hamas.

The White House confirmed the call included the families of 14 Americans “who are still unaccounted for.”

“President Biden participated in a call with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, Undersecretary of State John Bass, National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk, and family members of the 14 Americans still unaccounted for following this week’s horrific attacks on Israel,” the White House said in a statement.

The call lasted just over an hour.

John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters that the president “conveyed directly to these families that they have been in his prayers and we affirmed for them that the United States government is doing everything possible to locate and bring home their loved ones.”

The call was led by special presidential envoy for hostage affairs Roger Carstens, Kirby said.

“Several of the family members,” he added, “shared information about their loved ones — personal stories and experiences that they have gone through as they endure this, quite frankly, unimaginable ordeal.”

Ahead of the call, the president said in an interview with CBS' Scott Pelley that he wanted the families to know that he deeply cares about their situation.

“I think they have to know that the president of the United States of America cares deeply about what’s happening. Deeply. We have to communicate to the world (that) this is critical. This is not even human behavior. It’s pure barbarism,” Biden said in a clip of a “60 Minutes” interview that was released Friday morning.

He added: “We’re going to do everything in our power to get them home if we can find them.”

12:35 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

Israeli troops have carried out local raids in Gaza, IDF says

From CNN's Richard Greene

Israeli troops have carried out local raids over the past day in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.

The raids involved "infantry and armored forces," the IDF said.

Troops searched for hostages and collected evidence that would help them find the captives, according to the IDF statement. The military also said it "thwarted terrorist cells and infrastructure located in the area, including a Hamas cell that fired anti-tank missiles toward Israeli territory."

The IDF said it has also continued strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.