October 14, 2023 Israel-Hamas war news

By Kathleen Magramo, Andrew Raine, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sana Noor Haq, Peter Wilkinson, Tori B. Powell, Kaanita Iyer and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 0412 GMT (1212 HKT) October 15, 2023
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12:50 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

Hamas welcomes Russia's offer for mediation, praises Putin's position

From CNN's Kareem El Damanhoury

Hamas, the militant Islamic group that governs Gaza, said in a statement Saturday morning (local time) that it welcomes "Russia's tireless efforts" aimed at stopping Israel's aggression against the territory.

"[We] appreciate Russian President Vladimir Putin's position regarding the ongoing Zionist aggression against our people and his rejection of the Gaza siege, the cutting of relief supplies, and the targeting of safe civilians there," the statement read.

What Putin has said: On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged both sides in the fighting between Israel and Hamas to "minimize or reduce to zero" civilian casualties, and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow made similar calls for calm on Friday.

His comments come as Russia continues a ruthless war campaign against Ukraine and is being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. That case includes, among other things, allegations of targeting civilians.

In addition to Putin's comments, the Russian envoy to the UN circulated a resolution calling for a ceasefire Friday.

Remember: Israel has ordered a “complete siege” on the crowded Gaza Strip — including halting supplies of electricity, food, water, and fuel — while also bombarding the densely populated territory in retaliation for Hamas' devastating October 7 terror attacks. At least 1,900 Palestinians have been killed by near-constant shelling in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry, including journalists, medics and other civilians. The dead include 614 children and 370 women, says the ministry.

12:51 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

White House says it discussed humanitarian situation in Gaza with UN, but offers few details

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal and Kayla Tausche

The White House says national security officials held calls with United Nations officials on Thursday and Friday about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but declined to offer details about progress on getting foreign nationals out of the area. 

On Thursday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and UN Secretary-General António Guterres “discussed Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack against Israel and the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” the White House said in a readout of the calls. 

On Friday, principal deputy national security advisor Jon Finer and USAID Administrator Samantha Power spoke with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland about the crisis, and ongoing efforts with Egypt, Israel, and other regional players to help civilians move around Gaza safely and facilitate humanitarian assistance — including water, food and medical care, the statement said.

Separately, the National Security Council declined to comment to CNN about whether the calls secured the ability for foreign nationals to cross from Gaza into Egypt.

Remember: Israel has ordered a “complete siege” on the Hamas-run enclave — including halting supplies of electricity, food, water and fuel — while also bombarding the densely populated territory in retaliation for Hamas' devastating October 7 terror attacks.

Americans in Gaza: US officials have said they are working on "potential options for departure" for American citizens living in Gaza but have not provided further details. Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said the US was in talks with Egypt and Israel about establishing a humanitarian corridor at the Egypt-controlled Rafah border crossing for Americans and other civilians in Gaza to leave amid Israel's day-after-day airstrikes.

Palestinian-Americans previously told CNN that they feel trapped in Gaza and have received little help from the US Embassy.

12:00 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

Biden: "We're working like hell" to get missing Americans back

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

President Joe Biden says the US is “working like hell” to get Americans missing from Israel back to the United States.

“I say we're going to do everything in our power to find them,” Biden said in a CBS News interview clip that aired Friday.

While Biden said he can't disclose details of the efforts, the president said his message to those holding Americans hostage is that the US is doing "everything in our power."

When asked why he felt so strongly about speaking personally to the families of the missing Americans, Biden said it's because "they have to know that the president of the United States of America cares deeply about what's happening."

"We have to communicate to the rest of the world, this is critical," Biden added. "This is not even human behavior. It's pure barbarism.” 

12:53 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

A Russian diplomat is circulating a draft resolution calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza

From CNN's Richard Roth

Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, comments following a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters Friday, October 13, 2023.
Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, comments following a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters Friday, October 13, 2023. Craig Ruttle/AP

Vassily Nebenzia, the permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, is circulating a draft resolution at the UN Security Council which calls for a ceasefire in the "Israel-Gaza" war.

Nebenzia called for de-escalation in the conflict and said the resolution received a mixed reaction from the other 14 member countries.

When asked why the resolution doesn’t mention Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza and staged the deadly October 7 attacks on Israel, the diplomat said it’s because his proposal is a humanitarian resolution.

The envoy said his country condemns any violence against residents of Israel and Gaza. Nebenzia said Israel has the right to defend its territory, but that the day-after-day shelling of Gaza by Israel recalls the siege of Leningrad during World War II. He also said Israel’s plan to move over a million people in northern Gaza to the south is similar to creating a ghetto.

Nebenzia blamed the United States for over the years blocking action by the Quartet on the Middle East, which consists of United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. The group was established in 2002 to help mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Some context on Russia's response: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday urged both sides in the fighting between Israel and Hamas to "minimize or reduce to zero" civilian casualties, and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow made similar calls for calm on Friday.

These comments come as Russia wages a ruthless war campaign against Ukraine and is being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. That case includes, among other things, allegations of targeting civilians.

Commentators on Russian state TV have mocked the US and Israel after the Hamas attack, and Putin has framed the brutal assault as a failure of US policy in the Middle East.

12:56 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

Some Palestinian-Americans told by State Department that Rafah Crossing "may be open" Saturday afternoon

From CNN's Yahya Abou-Ghazala 

The closed gates of the Rafah Crossing Point, Gaza's border crossing with Egypt, on October 10, 2023.
The closed gates of the Rafah Crossing Point, Gaza's border crossing with Egypt, on October 10, 2023. Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

Some Palestinian-Americans stuck in Gaza have received their first set of instructions that family members may be able to evacuate Gaza into Egypt on Saturday afternoon, according to emails shared with CNN.

The US State Department's Consular Affairs Crisis Management System told family members that on Saturday the Rafah Crossing "may be open."

"We understand the security situation is difficult, but if you wish to depart Gaza you may want to take advantage of this opportunity," the CACMS email said.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN they “are actively discussing this with our Israeli and Egyptian counterparts.”

“We support safe passage for civilians,” they said.
“We are working with our Israeli and Egyptian partners to establish a safe humanitarian corridor both for Gazans trying to flee this war and to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those in need within the territory.”

Anas Alfarra, a lawful permanent resident of the US living in the San Francisco area trying to get family members out of Gaza, says the email falls short of what the US Embassy needs to be doing.

"Two 'mays' and a 'wish' in a situation that warrants much more," Alfarra told CNN.

Mai Abushaaban, a 22 year-old from Houston who also received the email, has been desperately trying to evacuate her mother and sister from Gaza this week.

"I’ve had to put a lot of pressure on the embassy," Abushaaban said. "It feels almost as though we were forgotten, I personally feel like we’re second-class citizens."

This comes after the United States has continued to press the Egyptian and Israeli governments on “the importance of the Rafah Crossing being open for American citizens and foreign nationals of other countries who want to leave and have the right to leave to be able to do so,” a senior State Department official said Friday.

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.

The United Nations on Thursday said it was informed by the Israeli military that “the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours,” but IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN Friday that any deadline “may slip.”

The State Department official told the press traveling with Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the US focus has been “on American citizens, but other countries you could presume are engaged in trying to get their foreign nationals out as well.”

There are an estimated 500-600 Palestinian-Americans in Gaza.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report. 

12:57 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

The last remaining exit for Gazans is through Egypt. Here’s why Cairo is reluctant to open it

Egypt is facing mounting pressure to act as neighboring Gaza gets pummeled by Israeli airstrikes after last weekend’s brutal assault on Israel by Hamas.

In the wake of the Hamas attacks, Israel closed its two border crossings with Gaza and imposed a “complete siege” on the territory, blocking supplies of fuel, electricity and water.

That has left the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt as the only viable outlet to get people out of the enclave and supplies into it. But it’s unclear if even that crossing is operational.

The Egyptian side of the crossing is open, but the Palestinian side is “non-functional” following multiple Israeli airstrikes earlier this week, a senior Jordanian official told CNN Thursday, adding that “the Jordanians and Egyptians are waiting for security clearance from the Israelis to allow (aid) trucks to cross without threat of another airstrike.”

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday denied reports of the crossing being closed, saying it has sustained damage due to repeated Israeli airstrikes on the Palestinian side. CNN could not independently verify whether the crossing is open.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the Biden administration is in talks with Israel and Egypt about creating a humanitarian corridor through which civilians can cross.

But Egypt is uneasy about the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees crossing into its territory. More than 2 million Palestinians live in the densely packed coastal enclave that is under intense Israeli bombardment.

Read more on why Egypt’s ability to help has limits.

11:59 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

Journalists hit as Israel fired at Lebanon were clearly marked as press, CNN analysis shows

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi, Sarah El Sirgany, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Allegra Goodwin and AnneClaire Stapleton

The journalists were wearing body armor clearly labeled as “press” when Israeli forces struck Lebanon on Friday; the sudden blast killed one Reuters journalist and wounded at least six others, according to official statements and videos analyzed by CNN.

Journalists from international news organizations Al Jazeera, Agence France Presse, and Reuters were among the victims, according to statements from their outlets.

Roughly around the same time – about 5 p.m. local – the Israeli military said that it had fired artillery at Lebanese territory after a border fence exploded near the Israeli kibbutz of Hanita. The Israeli military has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Hanita is just across the border from the Lebanese town of Alma Chaab, where the group of journalists was covering the exchange of fire, CNN’s video analysis shows.

A Reuters livestream showed smoke rising from the area, according to CNN’s geolocations, before a thud is heard.

In the next instant, the camera lens is suddenly covered with dust, and a woman can be heard screaming in the background.

“Oh god. Oh god. What’s happening? … I can’t feel my legs,” she cries.

Christina Assi, a journalist for Agence France Presse, was later seen in video of the aftermath lying on the ground with leg wounds.

Reuters videographer Issam Abdullah was found dead after the attack. He had been operating the live signal that recorded the fateful moment, Reuters said.

Read more on what happened here.

2:12 a.m. ET, October 14, 2023

Israel denies using white phosphorus in Gaza and Lebanon after Human Rights Watch claim

From CNN Staff

Israel is denying claims it used white phosphorus munitions after the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israeli forces of using them during military operations in Gaza and Lebanon this week.

According to a HRW report published Wednesday, the rights group said it verified one video taken on October 10 in Lebanon and another video in Gaza on October 11 that it claims shows "multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border."

White phosphorus is intended to provide illumination or to create a smokescreen in battle, but it is known to burn flesh down to the bone, according to earlier CNN reporting.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza on Friday reported the evacuation of Durra children's hospital in eastern Gaza after they said it was targeted by "white phosphorus bombs," according to Dr. Ashraf Alquedra, ministry spokesperson. 

Asked if Israeli forces had used white phosphorus this week in Gaza and Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces strongly denied the claims. In a live interview earlier on Friday, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN “categorically, no," it had not.

HRW said it interviewed two individuals from the al-Mina area in Gaza City, who described seeing strikes “consistent with the use of white phosphorus" and "both described ongoing airstrikes before seeing explosions in the sky followed by what they described as white lines going earthward,” they said.

The rights group said it reviewed the video and confirmed that it was taken in the port of Gaza City and “identified that the munitions used in the strike were airburst 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles. Other videos posted to social media and verified by Human Rights Watch show the same location," the group said. "Dense white smoke and a garlic smell are characteristics of white phosphorus,” the statement said. 

The rights group also reviewed two videos on October 10 that occurred near the Israel-Lebanon border. “Each show 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles being used, apparently as smokescreens, marking, or signaling,” the release explained. 

CNN has reached out for comment to authorities in Lebanon.

Is white phosphorus illegal? Under an international protocol ratified by Israel in 1995, the use of such incendiary weapons is allowed when "not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons," CNN previously reported.

There is no prohibition, per se, against white phosphorus in conflict. But the timing and location of its use are restricted.

For example, it is illegal under the protocol to use white phosphorus against any personnel, civilian or military. It can be directed only against military targets. International law says incendiary weapons cannot be used where civilians are concentrated.

Israel's history with white phosphorus: Israel previously faced widespread criticism for firing white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas during a Gaza offensive that began in late 2008. HRW said in a 2009 report that Israel's white phosphorus munitions had killed and injured civilians and damaged civilian structures, including including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse, and a hospital. HRW claimed that Israel's use of the weapons in crowded neighborhoods "violated international humanitarian law (the laws of war), which requires taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm and prohibits indiscriminate attacks."

In response, the nation pledged to limit the use of white phosphorus and make greater efforts to protect civilians during conflicts. Still, the government said that it had used white phosphorus lawfully.

11:58 p.m. ET, October 13, 2023

US officials believe Israel was complacent and failed to recognize signs of Hamas' operation

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.”