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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11:19 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Half a million people have fled to southern Gaza, IDF says

From CNN's Yong Xiong

About half a million people have left northern Gaza for the south following Israel's evacuation notice on Friday, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said Sunday.

The estimate represents roughly half the population of northern Gaza, where the IDF is gearing up for the next stages of its war with Hamas, which runs the territory.

“The estimates — and I emphasize these are estimates and it is difficult to track — but we are looking at approximately half a million [people],” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

The evacuation advisory came after Israel imposed a complete siege on Gaza. The IDF said Saturday it would allow safe movement on specified streets for residents to move from the northern city of Beit Hanoun to Khan Yunis in the south — a roughly 20-mile distance of rubble-strewn streets.

Southern Gaza is struggling to accommodate the influx of people. Shelters are overloaded and the area is experiencing shortages of food, water and fuel.

Conricus said Israel has “opened taps” on its side to allow water to enter southern Gaza, but said he "doesn't have visibility on exactly how much is actually flowing where it should."

11:47 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

There aren't enough shelters for those fleeing to southern Gaza, UN official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser

Shelters in southern Gaza are overloaded, with shortages of crucial supplies, as tens of thousands of people flee from Israeli airstrikes on the north of the coastal enclave, a UN official said Sunday.

"We are at a very limited capacity in the south," Lynn Hastings, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said on UNTV. "There aren’t shelters available in the south in terms of the numbers that are coming."

Southern Gaza is also experiencing shortages of food, water and fuel, she said.

"There’s some food in distribution sites, but we can't get to them because of the bombardment," Hastings said.

The fuel scarcity has widespread ramifications for the area.

"No fuel means no desalination," Hastings said. "Gaza is heavily reliant on desalination. No fuel also means no health care because you need electricity to run hospitals."

On Sunday, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations told CNN water has been turned back on in southern Gaza, but he didn't say if electricity was on for desalination.

10:42 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Israel "has no interest to occupy Gaza," UN envoy says

From CNN's Sehar Ahmed

Israel "has no interest" in occupying Gaza but will do "whatever is needed" to eliminate Hamas, the country's ambassador to the United Nations said Sunday.

His remarks come after US President Joe Biden warned Israel against occupying the coastal enclave as it signals it is preparing for a ground invasion amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis.

"We have no interest to occupy Gaza or to stay in Gaza, but since we are fighting for our survival and the only way, as the president [Biden] himself defined is to obliterate Hamas, so we will have to do whatever is needed to obliterate their capabilities," Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Biden said it would be a “big mistake” for Israel to occupy Gaza.His comments amount to one of the few times the US president has called on Israel to use restraint in responding to the Hamas attacks that left 1,400 dead.

Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the US, told CNN on Sunday that Israel does not intend to occupy Gaza after the conflict ends.

“We have no desire to occupy or reoccupy Gaza. We have no desire to rule over the lives of more than 2 million Palestinians,” Herzog said.

Biden meanwhile, has called for the protection of civilians as the US has been working to alleviate shortages of food, water and gas.

Erdan said water has been turned back on in southern Gaza, but he didn't say if electricity was on for desalination.

10:16 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Thousands march across Europe in support of Palestinians

From CNN’s Mihir Melwani and Xiaofei Xu

Protesters wave flags during a rally in support of Palestinians in Amsterdam on Sunday.
Protesters wave flags during a rally in support of Palestinians in Amsterdam on Sunday. Robin van Lonkhuijsen/ANP/AFP/Getty IMages

Large-scale demonstrations in support of Palestinians took place around Europe this weekend as conditions in Gaza deteriorated with tens of thousands of residents attempting to flee Israeli airstrikes.

As the conflict reaches unprecedented heights, protests in support of both Israelis and Palestinians have been seen around the world — some resulting in violent clashes.

Here's a roundup:

  • In Amsterdam, about 15,000 people attended a pro-Palestinian march Sunday, according to police. One person was arrested for displaying the Hamas flag, while two others were held for covering their faces and threatening police officers, police said.
  • In London on Saturday, more than 1,000 police officers were deployed as thousands of protesters marched from the BBC’s headquarters to Downing Street. Red paint was splattered across the British public broadcaster’s main entrance in protest against its coverage of the conflict, the BBC said.
  • In Switzerland, a crowd of about 6,000 rallied in Geneva on Saturday, while around 500 gathered in Bern, to denounce what they called “the apartheid policy pursued by the Israeli government, the impunity enjoyed by the Jewish state and the blockade to which the population of the Gaza Strip is subjected,” according to Swiss public broadcaster RTS.
9:53 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Palestinian statehood "has long been put on hold," Chinese foreign minister says 

From CNN’s Beijing bureau and Larry Register

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday reiterated Beijing’s support for an independent Palestinian state as a way out of the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

In a phone call with his Iranian counterpart, Wang presented China as a peace broker, saying Beijing would “stand on the side of peace and justice and to support the Palestinian people in their just cause of safeguarding their national rights.”

“The fundamental reason for the situation in Palestine and Israel to have developed to the present stage is that the Palestinian people's right to statehood has long been put on hold”, Wang told Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry.

"This historical injustice should be brought to an end as soon as possible," he said.

In a separate call with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Wang called for a ceasefire, the opening of humanitarian aid routes to Gaza and the resumption of dialogue between Israel and Palestinian authorities.

Without mentioning Israel, he said, “the right to self-defence should be exercised in compliance with international humanitarian law and not at the expense of innocent civilian casualties,” according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry readout.

Some context: China has long supported a "two-state solution" to establish an independent Palestinian state. Both Israel and the United States have expressed strong dissatisfaction to China for not strongly condemning Hamas’ deadly and brutal attacks against Israelis on October 7, and for not showing support to Israel following the massacre.

9:32 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Gaza hospitals are running out of fuel, Palestinian Red Crescent says

From CNN’s Eyad Kourdi and Abby Baggini

Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes are taken from the morgue of Al-Aqsa Hospital to be buried in Rafah, Gaza on Sunday.
Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes are taken from the morgue of Al-Aqsa Hospital to be buried in Rafah, Gaza on Sunday. Belal Khaled/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Hospitals in Gaza are under constant bombardment and facing imminent shutdown due to a lack of fuel, a Palestinian humanitarian official said Sunday.

Speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett from Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestinian Red Crescent Director General Marwan Jilani said food, water, medicine, and fuel are in critically short supply.

"Vast destruction throughout Gaza is immense. We've never seen something like this," Jilani said.

He said hospitals in the coastal enclave have only enough fuel for Monday, and perhaps the day after. They cannot operate without fuel, he said.

Jilani called for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza from the Rafah crossing. He said Israel and Egypt were ready to facilitate aid delivery, contingent upon a cessation of hostilities. 

Some context: The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the only remaining outlet for aid, has been closed for much of the past week, with tons of vital humanitarian supplies for people in Gaza piling up on the Egyptian side of the border.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that "Rafah will be open" after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

9:12 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Israel-Hamas war risks escalating into wider conflict, US national security adviser warns

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday warned of the risk of a wider regional conflict in the Middle East as Israel pounds Gaza with airstrikes in response to Hamas' unprecedented surprise attacks.

“There is a risk of an escalation of this conflict, the opening of a second front in the north, and of course of Iran’s involvement — that is a risk. And that’s a risk that we have been mindful of since the start," Sullivan said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"It’s why the President moves so rapidly and decisively to get an aircraft carrier into the eastern Mediterranean, to get aircraft into the Gulf, because he wants to send a very clear message of deterrence to any state or any actor that would seek to exploit this situation."

The Pentagon has ordered a second carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and is sending Air Force fighter jets to the region as Israel prepares to expand its Gaza operations, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Saturday.

The US warships are not intended to join the fighting in Gaza or take part in Israel’s operations, but the presence of two of the Navy’s most powerful vessels is designed to send a message of deterrence to Iran and Iranian proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Some more context: If Hezbollah joins the conflict, it could provide the next flashpoint that would entangle bigger regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Israel has long accused Iran of engaging in a form of proxy war by backing groups — including Hamas — that have launched attacks on its shores. Iran has denied any involvement in the October 7 attacks.

US President Joe Biden on Sunday said there’s "no clear evidence" of Iran being behind the attacks. 

9:22 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Biden says Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a "big mistake," but Israel "has to respond" to attack

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal, Priscilla Alvarez, Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, October 10.
US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, October 10. Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden said it would be a "big mistake" for Israel to reoccupy Gaza, but that Israel “has to respond” and "go after Hamas" after last week’s terror attacks — which he compared to the Holocaust — in an interview that aired Sunday.

Asked by "60 Minutes" if he agreed with a “total siege” of Gaza, Biden said he was confident Israel would act within the rules of war and there would “be an ability for the innocents in Gaza to be able to have access to medicine and food and water.”

The interview was shot by CBS News on Friday and aired on "60 Minutes" Sunday. 

Asked if he would support an Israeli occupation of Gaza at this point, Biden answered more directly.

“I think it'd be a big mistake,” he said. “Look, what happened in Gaza, in my view, is Hamas and the extreme elements of Hamas don't represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that...It would be a mistake to...for Israel to occupy...Gaza again. We...but going in but taking out the extremists the Hezbollah is up north but Hamas down south. Is a necessary requirement.”

It was his most public warning so far against an Israeli occupation of Gaza.

Biden also said he wanted to see aid supplies sent into Gaza and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the enclave, but said it was “hard.” His administration was working on that with Israeli and Egyptian officials, he said. 

While Biden said he believes Hamas must be eliminated entirely, he added “there needs to be a Palestinian Authority. There needs to be — a path to a Palestinian state.”

Asked if there should now be a ceasefire, Biden voiced support for further action against Hamas. 

“Look, there's a fundamental difference,” Biden said. “Israel is going after a group of people who have engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust. And — so I think Israel has to respond. They have to go after Hamas.”
8:33 p.m. ET, October 15, 2023

Biden: No clear evidence Iran behind terror attacks in Israel

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

US President Joe Biden Sunday maintained there’s “no clear evidence” of Iran being behind the terror attacks in Israel carried out by Hamas earlier this month.

“I don't want to get into classified information. But to be very blunt with you, there is no clear evidence of that,” Biden said in an interview with "60 Minutes."  

Pressed again whether Iran was behind any of the conflict, Biden reiterated that there’s no evidence “at this point” that Iran helped plan the attack. 

Asked about his message to Hezbollah and Iran, and the limited fighting on the northern Israeli border this week, Biden said: “Don't. Don't, don't, don't.”

Administration officials have said that intelligence, so far, hasn’t indicated that Iran was involved in the planning of last Saturday’s terror attack, but they continue to assess new information as it is gathered.

“What we think now — again, we have not seen any evidence, specific evidence, that Iran was directly involved with these specific sets of attacks,” White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told reporters last week.

“The book's not closed on it. We're going to keep looking at that. But that's just where we are right now,” he added.

More background: CNN reported Wednesday that US intelligence suggests senior Iranian government officials were caught by surprise by Hamas' attack, according to multiple sources familiar with the intelligence.

One source noted that while Hamas maintains operational independence from Iran — making it plausible that the Iranian government may not have known about the attack in advance — without Iran's longstanding funding and training to Hamas militants, the group could not exist as it does now.

Iran has for years been Hamas’ chief benefactor, providing it with tens of millions of dollars, weapons and components smuggled into Gaza, as well as broad technical and ideological support.

CNN's Zachary Cohen, Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand and Jeremy Herb contributed reporting to this post.