October 15, 2023 Israel-Hamas war news

By Rhea Mogul, Andrew Raine, Joshua Berlinger, Peter Wilkinson, Maureen Chowdhury and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
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7:11 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Palestinian Authority president condemns Hamas attacks on Israel

From CNN's Kareem Khadder and Hamdi Alkhshali

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, on July 25.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, on July 25. Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in his first clear and stark denouncement of Hamas' attacks on Israel, said the militant group's actions “do not represent the Palestinian people.”

“The policies and actions of Hamas do not represent the Palestinian people, and it is the policies, programs, and decisions of the Palestine Liberation Organization that represent the Palestinian people as their legitimate and sole representative,” Abbas said during a phone call with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Sunday, the official Palestinian press agency WAFA reported.

Abbas called for an end to civilian casualties, the release of prisoners and a rejection of violence, according to WAFA.

During the call, Abbas also emphasized the urgent need for Israel to stop its aggression in Gaza and to immediately protect Gazan civilians by opening a humanitarian corridor for provisions of medical supplies, water, electricity, and fuel to the citizens of Gaza, WAFA reported. 

Abbas said displacing Palestinians from Gaza would represent “a second catastrophe for the Palestinian people,” WAFA added.

Key context: Israel is at war with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza and carried out devastating terror attacks in Israel earlier this month.

Abbas is the leader of the Palestinian Authority, a government body with limited self-rule in the West Bank. It was established in the 1993 Oslo Accords, a peace pact between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that saw the PLO give up armed resistance against Israel in return for promises of an independent Palestinian state.

Hamas — which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, European Union and other countries — presents itself as an alternative to the Palestinian Authority, which has recognized Israel and has engaged in multiple failed peace initiatives with it.

You can read more about Hamas and the Palestinian Authority here.

CNN's Abbas Al Lawati and Nadeen Ebrahim contributed reporting to this post.

6:54 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

What to know about Gaza, the Hamas-run territory falling deeper into a humanitarian crisis

From CNN's Laura Paddison

An aerial view of houses and buildings destroyed by Israeli strikes in Gaza City on October 10.
An aerial view of houses and buildings destroyed by Israeli strikes in Gaza City on October 10. Shadi Tabatibi/Reuters

Israel is gearing up for the next stage of its war on Hamas, following the Palestinian militant group’s brutal October 7 attacks that killed 1,400 people.

Following a week of unprecedented airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which have killed more than 2,600 people, Israel is massing troops and military equipment on its border with the Hamas-controlled enclave. It has warned some 1.1 million people in the northern half of the strip to evacuate, according to the United Nations.

As Israel prepares for a ground offensive into Gaza, here’s what you need to know about the 140 square-mile territory – one of the most densely-populated areas on Earth.

What is Gaza? Gaza is a narrow strip of land, only about 25 miles long and seven miles wide – just over twice the size of Washington DC.

To its west lies the Mediterranean Sea, to its north and east is Israel, and Egypt is to its south.

It is one of two Palestinian territories, the other being the larger, Israeli-occupied West Bank, which borders Jordan.

Who lives there? Around 2 million people are crammed into the 140-square-mile territory. The overwhelming majority of people are young, with 50% of the population under the age of 18, according to the World Health Organization.

Muslims attend Eid al-Adha prayers in Khan Younis, Gaza, on June 28.
Muslims attend Eid al-Adha prayers in Khan Younis, Gaza, on June 28. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Nearly all of Gazans – 98-99% – are Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook, with most of the rest Christians.

More than 1 million of Gaza’s residents are refugees, with eight recognized Palestinian refugee camps, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Hamas has held the territory for years: In 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections – the last polls to be held in Gaza.

Hamas is an Islamist organization with a military wing that formed in 1987, emerging out of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group that was founded in the late 1920s in Egypt.

The group considers Israel to be an illegitimate state and an occupying power in Gaza. Unlike other Palestinian groups, such as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas refuses to engage with Israel.

The group has claimed responsibility for many attacks on Israel over the years and has been designated as a terrorist organization by countries including the United States, the European Union and Israel. The last war between Hamas and Israel was in 2021, which lasted for 11 days and killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

Israel's enduring blockade: Despite Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, since 2007 it has maintained tight control over the territory through a land, air and sea blockade. For nearly 17 years, Gaza has been almost totally cut off from the rest of the world, with severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people.

The blockade has been fiercely criticized by international bodies including the UN, which said in a 2022 report that restrictions have had a “profound impact” on living conditions in Gaza and have “undermined Gaza’s economy, resulting in high unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency.”

Israel has said the blockade is vital to protect its citizens from Hamas.

You can read much more about Gaza here, including details about Hamas, the territory's history, and living conditions in the enclave.

6:28 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Netanyahu invites Biden to visit Israel

From CNN’s Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited US President Joe Biden to visit Israel soon, and the two sides are discussing the possibility, a source familiar with the matter said.

It wasn’t clear how advanced the discussions were, or when a possible trip might occur. 

The White House said Sunday it didn’t have any new travel plans to announce.

If Biden were to visit, it would come after high-stakes shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been jetting between countries in the region for the past several days.

Elsewhere in Washington: The US Senate will receive a classified briefing Wednesday regarding the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and humanitarian situation in Gaza, according to a Senate source. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. C.Q. Brown will brief the senators.

CNN's Morgan Rimmer contributed reporting to this post.

5:39 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Confirmed US death toll in Israel rises to 30

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler

At least 30 US citizens have died in Israel, a State Department official said Sunday.

That number has risen by one since Saturday.

The State Department is "also aware of 13 American nationals who are unaccounted-for,” the spokesperson said. That number has gone down by two people since Saturday.

The spokesperson said officials have been in contact with families, and that the US government "is working around the clock to determine their whereabouts."

Americans are believed to be among the hostages taken by Hamas when it launched its October 7 surprise attack on Israel.

The US "is working with the Israeli government on every aspect of the hostage crisis," the spokesperson said, "including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to advise the Israeli government on hostage recovery efforts."

5:01 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Israel says it killed a Hamas commander as it launched dozens of strikes on Gaza

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

The Israeli military says it killed a Hamas commander as part of strikes on some 250 targets Sunday, mostly in the northern Gaza Strip.

The commander was identified in an Israel Defense Forces statement as Muetaz Eid, commander of the Hamas Southern District of National Security, who was located through intelligence from the IDF and the Israeli Security Agency, the statement said.

Hamas has not yet made a statement.

The IDF said it also hit “dozens of military headquarters, a series of military observation posts, and a number of rocket launching posts used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations.”

Some background: Israel launched its offensive in response to the devastating October 7 Hamas terror attacks that killed 1,400 people.

Hamas controls Gaza, which is home to 2.2 million Palestinians. More than 2,600 people have died there as Israel pounds the territory with strikes, the Palestinian health ministry says. The ministry has slammed Israel for killing civilians and emergency workers in its assault.

Israel has told the 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza to leave home for their safety as it gears up for the next stages of its war with Hamas.

7:54 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

UN relief agency head issues urgent plea for Gaza

From CNN's Ben Wedeman and Hamdi Alkhshali

Palestinians collect water from a tap in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Sunday, October 15.
Palestinians collect water from a tap in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Sunday, October 15. Fatima Shbair/AP

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, addressed the dire situation in the Gaza Strip Sunday, highlighting the critical humanitarian crisis. Lazzarini emphasized Gaza is rapidly running out of water and electricity, and the population faces severe shortages of food and medicine.

“Gaza is being strangled and it seems that the world right now has lost its humanity. If we look at the issue of water — we all know water is life — Gaza is running out of water, and Gaza is running out of life,” Lazzarini said.

Asked by a journalist during a news conference about the restoration of water in the southern Gaza, Lazzarini said:

"We haven't been able yet to confirm. My understanding is that if there is restoration of the water, it would primarily impact Khan Younis or half of Khan Younis. So, it would not cover to south of Khan Younis or the people in Rafah. But again, this is a report that we need to confirm. And for the time being our colleagues on the ground are not able to confirm this information."

He described an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe with thousands seeking shelter in UNRWA facilities, while resources are stretched to the limit. “The number of people seeking shelter in our schools and other UNRWA facilities in the south is absolutely overwhelming, and we do not have, anymore, the capacity to deal with them,” he added.

Lazzarini noted the blockade, which he said started 16 years before the recent conflict, had already placed a significant burden on the population, with more than 60% relying on international food assistance.

According to UNRWA, 14 of its staff members have been killed, and many others are displaced or affected by the ongoing crisis, Lazzarini said.

He called for an immediate end to the hostilities to prevent further loss of life, the lifting of the siege, and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to provide essential supplies such as fuel, water, food, and medicine.

The commissioner general stressed the importance of upholding international humanitarian law, emphasizing all wars must abide by its principles.


4:03 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

These are the areas where Israel has warned 1.1 million Palestinians to evacuate

Palestinians flee from northern Gaza to the south on Friday, October 13.
Palestinians flee from northern Gaza to the south on Friday, October 13. Hatem Moussa/AP

An estimated 1.1 million people live in Gaza City and surrounding parts of the northern Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has warned civilians to leave before a new phase in its war with Hamas.

The map below shows the densely populated areas included in Israel's advisory.

It also shows the Rafah crossing to Egypt (bottom-left) — the only option for people trying to leave Gaza entirely, as Israel has tightened its long-established blockade on the territory and completely closed its border crossings.

3:39 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Israeli military says Hamas is still holding 155 hostages

From CNN’s Richard Greene in Jerusalem and Larry Register in Atlanta

Einav Moshe Barda, the niece of Adina, who was kidnapped, hugs a woman after telling her family's story on Saturday, October 14, outside HaKirya, the government and military quarters in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Einav Moshe Barda, the niece of Adina, who was kidnapped, hugs a woman after telling her family's story on Saturday, October 14, outside HaKirya, the government and military quarters in Tel Aviv, Israel. Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Hamas is holding 155 hostages after its surprise attack on Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Efforts continue on several fronts to get the hostages released. Troops are working to get the captives back "immediately" and with "no conditions," Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Sunday.

“We are trying our best, of course, to identify their exact fate through various sources, and we are demanding from the international community unequivocal condemnation, and demand for the release of the hostages,” Herzog said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Herzog said it is a “complicated situation” because Hamas does not “obey any rules of international humanitarian law in any way or format. For years already, they’ve been holding Israeli soldiers, bodies, citizens from previous rounds, not even telling any information about their fate, whereabouts and how they’re feeling.”

He said there is “a big international effort” to bring the hostages back, and thanked the US in particular for its support.

The Israeli president said some of the hostages need special medications and treatment, calling the situation regarding their health "extremely fragile."

Read more about the hostages captured by Hamas here.

5:32 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Diplomatic efforts are intensifying around the Israel-Hamas war. Here's what world leaders are saying

From CNN’s Caroline Faraj, Jassar Al-Tahat, Hamdi Alkhshali, Nikki Carvajal, Catherine Nicholls, Xiaofei Xu and Radina Gigova

The humanitarian crisis is deepening in Gaza. The Hamas-run enclave — home to 2.2 million Palestinians — has been pounded by airstrikes in retaliation for the militant group's devastating October 7 terror attacks on Israel.

At least 2,670 people have already died in Gaza, and aid groups warn they are running out of critical supplies as Israel maintains a "complete siege" on the crowded territory. Tens of thousands of northern Gaza residents are trying to evacuate after the Israeli military warned the "next stages of the war" will bring even more airstrikes and "significant ground operations."

Diplomatic efforts are taking center stage this weekend. Here's some of the latest from world leaders:

  • United Nations: In a statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said we "are on the verge of the abyss" in the Middle East. He called for Hamas to release hostages immediately, and without conditions. And he called on Israel to allow "rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid" for civilians in Gaza. He said UN disaster supplies could be delivered "within hours" if they are granted safe passage.
  • Jordan: The country's prime minister has accused Israel of "blatant violations of international law" in Gaza, saying Jordan rejects "any measures and steps leading to the forced displacement of the Palestinian people" after the Israeli military warned 1.1 million northern Gazans to leave home before it steps up its war against Hamas. Jordanian King Abdullah also told United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “denying food, water, and electricity supplies to innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip is a war crime that the world must condemn and denounce.”
  • European Union: The bloc "condemns in the strongest possible terms Hamas and its brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks across Israel" and called for the immediate release of "all hostages without any precondition," the European Council said in a statement Sunday. The EU said it is working to provide urgent humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, and will "engage broadly with the legitimate Palestinian authorities" to ensure its assistance is not "abused" by Hamas terrorists.
  • Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called for the "immediate lifting of the siege on Gaza." He slammed the “targeting of civilians, the destruction of critical infrastructure, and the disruption of essential services” in Gaza, and said he was working with other regional players to de-escalate the situation.
  • United States: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been engaged in whirlwind diplomacy efforts, meeting with various regional leaders, including those of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The US has pledged steadfast support for Israel, repeatedly stating it is conducting "legitimate security operations." It has also, however, urged Israel to mitigate impacts to civilians in Gaza and prevent the war from expanding. Separately, top national security officials held meetings with Arab and Muslim American community leaders in the US Sunday.
  • Iran: President Ebrahim Raisi called Sunday for an "immediate end to the bombardment of the residential areas of Gaza." Raisi warned that if Israel does not abate, the fighting could be expanded and become more complicated. (Some context: Western governments say Hamas receives backing from Tehran, though it has denied involvement in the October 7 terror attacks).
  • France: Raisi's comments came in a call to French President Emmanuel Macron, who warned his Iranian counterpart against an escalation of the Gaza crisis, according to a statement from the French government.
  • Egypt: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said during a meeting with the US secretary of state that Israel’s response to the deadly Hamas attack has gone beyond its right to self-defense, and that it has started punishing the collective civilian population of Gaza.