At least 5 killed and 15 injured in Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Palestinian interior ministry says
From CNN’s Abeer Salman
At least five people were killed and 15 others were injured in an Israeli airstrike that targeted a multi-story house in Rafah in the southern Gaza strip, the Palestinian interior ministry said Monday.
The ministry said the airstrike happened without prior warning from the Israel Defense Forces.
The IDF has not issued any comments about the strike.
9:33 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
US officials are in Ismailia, Egypt — as close to the border with Gaza as conditions allow
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Yahya Abou-Ghazala
The US government has officials in Ismailia, Egypt — “as close to the border” between Egypt and Gaza “as conditions permit,” a US official said Monday.
The US has “been trying” to get officials to the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, but “the Egyptians have told us there are acute security threats there that prevent it,” the official told the traveling press.
The crossing between Gaza and Egypt is the only remaining outlet for supplies, but it has been closed for much of the past week. Humanitarian supplies have been piling up on the Egyptian side of the border, and neither Gazans nor foreign nationals have been able to cross.
Meanwhile, Americans in Gaza who spoke with CNN have had no luck getting into Egypt and the Rafah crossing has remained closed, despite US officials’ comments that it would be reopened.
One family told CNN they have been at Rafah since 9 a.m. local time, and the crossing is still closed.
“I can’t go another day with this torture and false hope,” said Lena Beseiso, 57, of Salt Lake City.
Beseiso told CNN in a message on Friday morning that she managed to get through by phone to the US embassy and was told they have all the information for American citizens who filled out the online form and that she should wait for someone to contact them. She was also told to go to the Rafah crossing with her family where they can get through, she said.
"My family and I are very frightened," Beseiso said. "Going to head south now."
9:40 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
Palestinian Authority prime minister urges halt of Israel's airstrikes and blockade
From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday urged the United States and the international community to intervene to stop Israel’s airstrikes and blockade, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.
"The international community, mainly the American administration, is required to intervene urgently to stop the aggression, provide protection for the civilians and their homes, and prevent their displacement," the prime minister said.
Shtayyeh also said during a weekly cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah that "Israel is targeting civilians, and the goal behind this blockade is mass killing and mass displacement."
WAFA reported that the prime minister called for the immediate opening of safe corridors to facilitate the delivery of food and medical supplies and to evacuate the wounded, since hospitals in Gaza have become overcrowded.
Shtayyeh warned against the further displacement of people in the Gaza strip and creating a new Nakba, or “catastrophe," referring to the period following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when roughly 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel.
“Our people will not leave their land or emigrate from it, no matter how heavy the sacrifices are. They are capable of confronting it and thwarting it just as they thwarted many liquidation and resettlement projects throughout the past times in the struggle,” the prime minister said, according to WAFA.
9:46 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
Americans leave Israel on cruise ship bound for Cyprus
From CNN’s Seb Shukhla in Haifa
A Royal Caribbean cruise ship carrying US nationals has departed the Israeli port of Haifa for Cyprus.
The ship, "Rhapsody of the Seas," can take up to 2,400 passengers — but a CNN team on the ground saw that the ship was well below capacity. People, young, and old, were processed through a check-in system with American flags dotted along the route.
Yehuda Halberg, a professor who emigrated to Israel from Athens, Georgia, in 2004, was with his family, carrying just a few belongings in backpacks. He was insistent that this was not a goodbye to Israel.
“I'm not leaving, so much as getting out of the way. But we'll be back as soon as the school year starts and we'll be here to help out, do what we need to do and rebuild,” he said.
Halberg said that he had come from the center of the country, and for the last week, he was driving soldiers to the front and bringing medical equipment in his small Renault Clio.
Sarah, a mother who was also boarding with her family, stopped to say, “Our hearts are staying here with the people [of Israel]. We’re simply taking some space and getting out of harms way.”
Sarah said she too had been helping out soldiers by cooking. She said they will return when there are “no more swords, only peace.”
Although families are on the move, Sarah’s 14-year-old daughter, Ariella, had reservations about making the trip.
“I think that we should stay in Israel with our nation and with our family. And I think we have to show support. What are we fighting for? We're fighting for our country and for a home to call. A place to call home,” she insisted.
The US Embassy in Israel said Sunday the ship would leave Monday and spend about 10 to 12 hours at sea before arriving at the Limassol port in Cyprus, where citizens will be responsible for arranging their own accommodations and onward travel. The US embassy is providing the passage at a fee, but those boarding have yet to be given the bill.
8:32 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
Israel orders evacuation of 28 villages near Lebanese border in northern Israel
From CNN's Pauline Lockwood
The Israeli government on Monday ordered the evacuation of 28 villages in northern Israel within two kilometers of the country's border with Lebanon.
“The implementation of the plan was approved by Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant," a joint statement by Israel’s Ministry of Defense and the Israel Defense Forces says. "A short while ago, the Northern Command updated the heads of the local authorities on the decision. The plan will be implemented by the heads of the local municipalities, the Ministry of Interior and the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) of the Ministry of Defense."
The 28 communities included in the plan are: Ghajar, Dishon, Kfar Yuval, Margaliot, Metula, Avivim, Dovev, Ma’ayan Baruch, Bara’m, Manara, Yiftach, Malkia, Misgav Am, Yir’on, Dafna, Arab al-Aramshe, Shlomi, Netu’a, Ya’ara, Shtula, Matat, Zari’t, Shomera, Betzet, Adamit, Rosh HaNikram, Hanita and Kfar Giladi.
Some context: News of the evacuation comes amid an exchange of fire on the border between Israel and members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. On Sunday, Israeli jets struck Hezbollah military targets in Lebanon, in response to nine rockets being fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory earlier in the day, the IDF said.
8:25 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
Blinken speaks with Turkish foreign minister about Israel-Hamas war
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan about “diplomatic efforts to prevent the conflict from widening and to minimize the humanitarian costs of the war” in Israel, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
“The Secretary reiterated the need for Hamas to halt all violent attacks and free hostages immediately,” Miller said. “The Secretary welcomed Turkiye’s constructive engagement.”
A senior Turkish official told CNN last week that Turkey is actively taking part in trying to secure the hostages taken by Hamas.
7:47 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
Biden postpones trip to Colorado for "national security meetings"
From CNN's Donald Judd
President Joe Biden is scrapping a trip to Colorado for “national security meetings,” the White House told pool reporters Monday.
The news comes as CNN reported over the weekend that discussions are underway for a possible visit to the Middle East after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended an invitation to Biden.
The White House said Sunday it had no new travel plans to announce at this time.
If Biden were to visit, it would come after high-stakes shuttle diplomacy by his Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has traveled to several countries in the region over the past few days.
Blinken arrived back in Israel Monday morning to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and opposition leader Yair Lapid, in addition to meetings with Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, per a US official.
Reporters are still waiting on an updated schedule for Biden at the White House today.
7:51 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
"The kids are all depressed." Life in the West Bank gets more difficult by the day
From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in the West Bank
Every time Noor Barakat goes shopping for food, the prices are higher. Last week on Tuesday, there was no bread. Now it’s the fuel and water that is becoming a problem. Fruit and vegetables that are normally brought in from the north haven’t been coming.
The 22-year old English teacher lives in the Dheisheh Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, an area that has been mostly cut off from the rest of the West Bank. Its residents are not allowed to leave and anyone visiting has to cross the checkpoint at its entrance on foot, leaving vehicles on the other side of the barricade.
“People have real difficulties going to work. Most people here work in Israel, so they cannot go to their jobs,” she told CNN.
The restrictions on movements have been imposed by the Israeli military after Hamas unleashed a terror attack on Israel from Gaza on October 7, killing 1,400 people and kidnapping scores of others.
Checkpoints have been shut and new roadblocks set up at various entry and exit points to the occupied West Bank.
Dheisheh is among the areas in the West Bank that are under Palestinian control, but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) regularly conduct incursions and raids there.
“The Israeli military came in (yesterday) and children couldn’t go to school, they had to wait for them to leave and start later,” Barakat told CNN.
The worry here is that Israel’s reaction to the Hamas attack will have devastating consequences for civilians in the West Bank.
“We are scared and spend all of our time watching the news and waiting to see what will happen. We are praying,” Barkat said.
The camp was first established in 1949 when 3,000 Palestinians settled there after being expelled or fleeing from villages west of Jerusalem. The camp’s population has since grown to more than 18,500 people who are still living in a built-up area of one-third of a square kilometer, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
“The kids are all depressed. They are not getting enough sleep, the news is on all the time. I tell [the children] we have to be patient and have to pray for, but the life has to go on. I say we can’t stop everything and just think about this,” she said.
10:14 a.m. ET, October 16, 2023
UN warns of "abyss in the Middle East" as humanitarian crisis worsens in Gaza. Here’s what you need to know
From CNN staff
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a potential "abyss in the Middle East,” as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens ahead of a likely Israeli ground offensive, and the escalating conflict risks spilling over regionally.
In a statement Sunday, Guterres issued urgent appeals to Israel and Hamas. “To Hamas, the hostages must be released immediately without conditions. To Israel, rapid and unimpeded aid must be granted for humanitarian supplies and workers for the sake of the civilians in Gaza.”
By Monday, little progress had been made regarding either of those appeals. Israel reported at least 199 people are being held hostage in Gaza – a sharp upward revision from the previous count of 155. And Palestinian officials said that Israel is still not supplying water to the densely populated enclave.
In the south, all eyes are on the Rafah crossing into Egypt – the last available exit to Gazans. And in the north, all eyes are on the movements of Israel’s Defense Forces ahead of any potential developments on the ground.
Here are the latest developments:
Rafah crossing: Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have abandoned their homes in the north after Israel warned them to evacuate southwards. Israel has closed its two border crossings with Gaza and imposed a “complete siege” of the territory. That has left the Rafah crossing as the only viable outlet to get people out of the enclave – and supplies into it. After days of speculation, there is still no indication that the crossing will open, despite US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s “promise” on Sunday. Officials in Egypt, Israel and Gaza have all said that there is no arrangement to open the crossing as yet, leaving humanitarian aid to pile up on the Egyptian side of the border.
Water supply: The director of Gaza’s water authority told CNN on Monday that water supply has not yet been restored to the enclave. “I strongly deny the news of supplying Gaza Strip with water, these are false allegations and lies,” Munther Shublaq said. His comments came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told CNN that Israel had turned on water to southern Gaza. US national security advisor Jake Sullivan also shared the positive development with CNN – before Shublaq on Monday denied the reports. The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs has warned that “as a last resort, people are consuming brackish water from agricultural wells.”
Hostage update: At least 199 people are being held hostage in Gaza, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Monday. The previous count had been that 155 people were being held hostage after being taken across the border by Hamas militants during their attack on Israel on October 7. Hamas had previously said that it would start executing hostages if Israel targeted people in Gaza without warning. US President Joe Biden said Friday he had spoken with the families of the 14 Americans who remain unaccounted for in Israel. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said a “handful” of those individuals are among those being held hostage by Hamas. Biden pledged to do “everything possible” to ensure the Americans’ return.
Blinken’s diplomacy:Blinken has been on a whistle-stop tour of the Middle East – with visits to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar – as part of an urgent effort to prevent Israel's war against Hamas and a resulting civilian catastrophe in Gaza from escalating into a regional conflict. Blinken returned to Israel on Monday after an earlier visit last week, to meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Blinken is also scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and opposition leader Yair Lapid, according to a US official.