October 18, 2023 - Israel-Hamas war news

By Tara Subramaniam, Rob Picheta, Sophie Tanno, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Dakin Andone, Tori B. Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 0549 GMT (1349 HKT) October 19, 2023
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11:44 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

The US, Egypt and Israel signal readiness for civilian relief in Gaza. Here's what You should know

From CNN staff

The US, Egypt and Israel have all signaled readiness for aid to begin moving into Gaza, following a high-profile visit to Israel by US President Joe Biden.

The glimmer of hope for civilian relief in Gaza comes one day after a devastating hospital blast in the enclave that likely killed hundreds and infuriated the region.

Here are other headlines you should know:

  • Hospital blast: The top Democrat and Republican on the US Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence said they are "confident" that Tuesday's blast as a Gaza hospital was caused not by an Israeli airstrike, but by a failed rocket launch by "militant terrorists." National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Adrienne Watson provided additional details about the US assessment, pointing to intelligence indicating that Palestinian militants in the Gaza strip themselves believed the blast was caused by an errant rocket or missile launch by the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ.) Israeli officials have released audio of what they say is Hamas militants discussing the blast and attributing it to a rocket launched by PIJ. 
  • More explosions: Explosions less than 100 meters from the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City were reported Wednesday by the Palestine Red Crescent Society. The organization said the blasts "targeted multiple residential buildings and main streets in the area" of Al-Quds Hospital and the main headquarters of the organization in the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood in western Gaza City. Meanwhile, Hezbollah conducted six attacks on Israeli military posts along the Lebanese border on Wednesday using guided missiles, machine guns and 57-mm mortars, the militant group said. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement early Thursday local time that they are striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
  • Humanitarian aid: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi agreed to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza to humanitarian aid – after Biden spoke with the leader for more than an hour on Air Force One, the president said. But there is “no update on if and when” the Rafah border crossing will open for the passage of humanitarian aid from Egypt into Gaza, the UN Secretary General's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Wednesday. The Israel prime minister’s office confirmed earlier Wednesday that Israel will not block humanitarian aid going into Gaza through the crossing, but it will not allow supplies into Gaza from its own territory until Hamas releases all hostages. The Egyptian president on Wednesday blamed Israeli shelling for preventing the vital crossing from re-opening. And the $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza and the occupied West Bank that Biden announced in Tel Aviv will come from pre-approved funding, the White House says.
  • Biden in Israel: Biden said he knew he was risking criticism when he came to the Middle East on Wednesday, but that he “came to get something done." Biden said he was “very blunt” with Israeli leaders when he met with them on Wednesday — and that he laid out the expectation that they would be “held accountable” if they didn’t allow for more assistance for people displaced by the conflict. The president also said he received "no pushback" from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday when he raised humanitarian issues. Biden wouldn’t go into details about attempts to get Americans and other civilians out of Gaza, but he assured that "we're going to get people out."
  • International input: Biden will deliver a primetime address from the Oval Office Thursday about his country's "response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine,” the White House announced Wednesday. And United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to arrive in Israel early Thursday, in what is set to be his first stop in a two-day trip to the Middle East, Downing Street announced Wednesday. Also, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi reaffirmed the country's unwavering stance against any attempt to transfer the Palestinian population to Jordan.
11:45 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Filipino death toll rises following Hamas attack on Israel

From CNN’s Kathleen Magramo and Sophie Jeong

A fourth Filipino citizen has been confirmed dead following Hamas' October 7 attack in Israel, the official Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported Thursday, citing authorities.

The victim was a caregiver at a communal settlement, PNA reported.

“I regret to inform the nation that we have received confirmation from the Israeli government of another Filipino casualty in Israel,” Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Two Filipino citizens remain missing, according to officials.

On Wednesday, 16 Filipino workers and a child returned to the Philippines from Israel, PNA reported.

11:32 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden to make case for US to keep funding wars in Ukraine and Israel in upcoming Oval Office address

From CNN's Kayla Tausche

Joe Biden talks to reporters at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, on October 18.
Joe Biden talks to reporters at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, on October 18. Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden plans to argue the US should continue funding wars in both Ukraine and Israel during an Oval Office address Thursday, according to two administration officials.

The primetime address will take place the eve of the White House requesting north of $100 billion from Congress to deliver aid and resources to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the US border with Mexico. Biden is expected to make the argument that supporting Ukraine and Israel is a matter of US national security at a time when the world is at an inflection point.

“He’s going to make the case that the cost of inaction and the cost of walking away is much higher,” according to one official.

Public opinion has been mixed on the conflicts. In a recent CNN poll, nearly all respondents were sympathetic with the Israeli people in the wake of surprise attacks launched by Hamas, but there was no clear consensus on the right level of US involvement. One-third (35%) said the US is providing the right amount of assistance – and another 36% were unsure whether the level of US assistance is appropriate. The US has long provided security assistance with Israel, which receives roughly $4 billion annually under a 10-year memorandum of understanding. The new request would provide billions more.

By contrast, support to sustain aid to Ukraine has waned significantly. An August CNN poll found 55% of respondents said Congress should not pass more funding to aid Ukraine. The partisan divide has been deepening, too: Nearly three-quarters of Republicans opposed more funding for Ukraine, while 62% of Democrats supported it.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the White House and Congress have provided more than $75 billion in funding to Kyiv, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

The Biden administration in August delivered its last so-called supplemental funding request, which encapsulates unique requests beyond traditional government programs. The proposal requested $24.1 billion to aid Ukraine through the end of the year, but Congress failed to approve it during a process to greenlight short-term federal funding.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pledged to European leaders that the US would be able to secure support for additional aid and, in an interview with Sky News, said Washington could afford financing two wars at once.

“American(s) can certainly afford to stand with Israel and to support Israel’s military needs, and we also can and must support Ukraine in its struggle against Russia," Yellen said.
10:03 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

IDF releases drone video it says shows hospital blast scene

From CNN staff

The video released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shows the scene at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza a day after the deadly blast.
The video released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shows the scene at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza a day after the deadly blast. IDF

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Wednesday released drone video recorded over the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza a day after the deadly blast.

The IDF claim in text accompanying the short video that "the damage from the failed rocket launch of the Islamic Jihad is in the parking lot nearby and is not similar to a crater resulting from a strike."
"In addition, the buildings around the hospital were not damaged. This is further proof that the IDF did not strike this area," the military said.

During the video an Israeli drone operator can be heard describing in Hebrew the layout of hospital buildings.

"This here, there is nothing here," the drone operator says, according to a CNN translation.

Gaza officials have blamed Israel for the blast, which the Palestinian Ministry of Health says killed hundreds of civilians.

But the IDF rejected the allegation, claiming the blast was caused by a "failed rocket launch" by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants.

CNN cannot independently confirm what caused the explosion.

9:00 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Egypt releases readout of humanitarian aid call between el-Sisi and Biden

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and journalist Magdy Samaan

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and US President Joe Biden discussed in a phone call Wednesday ways to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, the Egyptian Presidency said in a statement.

The talks between the two leaders focused "on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and ways to facilitate the implementation of humanitarian aid," according to the statement.

"The call between President el-Sisi and the American president witnessed the agreement to enter humanitarian aid to the Strip through Rafah crossing in a sustainable manner," the statement said.

Biden told reporters on Air Force One that el-Sisi agreed to allow 20 trucks through the key crossing.

Egypt's statement said officials in the two nations are coordinating with international humanitarian organizations — supervised by the United Nations — to deliver aid.

"Biden expresses his thanks and appreciation for the efforts of the Egyptian leadership towards achieving peace and stability in the region," the Egyptian statement said.

7:03 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

How volunteer guards foiled a carefully planned Hamas attack on the kibbutz of Mefalsim

From CNN’s Casey Tolan, Matthew Chance, Florence Davey-Attlee, Scott Glover and Curt Devine

Israeli forces patrol areas along the Israeli-Gaza border on October 10.
Israeli forces patrol areas along the Israeli-Gaza border on October 10. Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance/dpa/Getty Images/FILE

When Hamas militants broke through the Gaza fence in this month’s unprecedented attack on Israel, the kibbutz of Mefalsim — less than 2 miles from the border — was on the front lines. Toting AK-47 rifles and grenade launchers, one group of militants headed straight for the community’s gates, while another group moved to destroy its generator, according to security videos and local residents.

That precision, local Israeli security personnel say, was no accident: The fighters seemed to have known exactly where they were headed.

CNN has reviewed documents that Israeli officials say were Hamas attack plans, which suggest that the group collected remarkably granular detail on its targets. But neither of the attacks went according to plan – thanks in part to a handful of volunteer guards who defended their neighbors in dramatic firefights.

Photos of the plan to attack Mefalsim were posted online by an Israeli first responder group, which said it was recovered from the body of a slain Hamas fighter. Two local Israeli security personnel told CNN they independently saw photos of the plan, and it closely matched the Hamas fighters’ tactics during the attack.

The color-coded document includes detailed information about the kibbutz’s guards and security. It says that one group of militants would break through the community’s fence, while others were ordered to “capture soldiers and civilians and to keep hostages” for negotiation.

Yarden Reskin, a member of Mefalsim’s volunteer security force who spent hours exchanging fire with militants – helping prevent any deaths inside the community – said he was shocked by the level of detail.

“They knew everything,” Reskin said. “They knew where are the gates, they knew where are the generators, they knew where is the armory, they knew basically how many of us on the security team… they had very, very good intel.”

Another purported Hamas document laying out plans to attack the nearby kibbutz of Sa’ad, which CNN obtained from a senior Israeli government official, was even more chilling. It listed the attackers’ goal as “inflicting the maximum possible human casualties.”

Like in Mefalsim, the plans didn’t come to fruition, with a first responder group and a local resident telling CNN that no residents had died inside Sa’ad.

The difference between the detailed plans and what occurred on the ground is a sign of the chaos that spread during the attack, as Hamas fighters encountered far less resistance from the Israeli military than they expected. Despite the billions of dollars Israel has spent securing its border and developing one of the world’s most renowned intelligence operations, its armed forces were caught off guard.

Read more on the foiled plot on on one kibbutz.

7:12 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Here's how the Secretary of State and intelligence agencies are responding to rising anger in the Middle East

From CNN's John Miller

As anger rises across the Middle East, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a State Department cable to all US embassies and consulates across the world Wednesday.

He ordered diplomatic security officers to convene each embassies' security committee to conduct emergency reviews of its' security to determine if it needs to be ramped up.

Blinken’s cable — obtained by CNN — ordered the State Department’s Regional Security Officers (RSOs) to consider whether messages to Americans in those countries need advising of potential areas to avoid or precautions to take. All embassies were directed to report back to the State Department in Washington on whatever steps were being taken.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

CNN reported earlier Wednesday about steps taken at numerous consulates and embassies in the region, including that the US consulate in Adana, Turkey, “will remain closed to the public until further notice” amid ongoing protests, and that the US embassy in Beirut advised Americans to avoid the Awkar area also due to protests. 

In the past week, the State Department has raised the travel advisory to the highest level for Israel and Lebanon to warn Americans against going there, and has authorized the departure of some non-emergency US government personnel and family members from those countries.

Meanwhile, law enforcement remains on very high alert across the US. 

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, along with the National Counterterrorism Center issued a Joint Intelligence Bulletin Wednesday sharing information and a threat assessment advising state and local law enforcement agencies. The bulletin, sent Wednesday and obtained by CNN, specifies that "lone offenders inspired by, or reacting to, the ongoing Israel-HAMAS conflict pose the most likely threat to Americans." 

The bulletin also notes that “the FBI has seen an increase in reports of threats against faith communities, particularly Jewish and Muslim communities.”

The joint bulletin goes on to say that while Hamas has not specifically called for attacks on US soil, it notes that other foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks in the US and that “may prompt homegrown extremists” to target attacks in the United States at Israeli, Jewish or US Government targets.

CNN's Jenny Hansler contributed to this report

6:39 p.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Video shows rocket fired from Gaza exploding above Gaza City before explosion at hospital

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Video from an Al Jazeera news camera appears to show a rocket fired from a Gaza explosion in flight above Gaza City, which happened moments before an explosion is seen at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital

It is still not clear if they are related. 

CNN is continuing to conduct its own investigation into the blast at the hospital, and has not yet made any final conclusions.

CNN began reviewing this video Tuesday shortly after the explosion. Since then, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has pointed to this video as evidence that it was not responsible for the explosion at the hospital. 

CNN referenced nearby buildings in the video to geolocate them to an area just west of the hospital. 

The video was broadcast live from an east-facing Al Jazeera camera and captures the rocket trail rising into the air just a few seconds after it was launched. The time on the screen reads 6:59 p.m local time.

By geolocating where the Al Jazeera video was taken from, and the direction it's capturing, CNN has determined the rocket was fired from an area south of Gaza City. The rocket can be seen in the video continuing to rise, until it suddenly veers straight up in the air.

The rocket then is seen making a sharp turn back toward the direction from where it was fired. A streak of fire is seen as the rocket flies significantly faster, continuing back toward the direction it was fired.  

Suddenly, the rocket is seen exploding mid-flight, in the air high above Gaza City. The rocket trail is no longer visible. From the video, it is unclear where the rocket ultimately fell.

Retired Col. Cedric Leighton told CNN after reviewing the video that "it's consistent with a malfunctioning rocket." 

"The 'lights' are consistent with a rocket burning fuel as it tries to reach altitude," Leighton said. "The aerial explosion is consistent with the type of explosion you’d see when a rocket malfunctions." 

Moments after the mid-air explosion, a flash of light is seen in the video in the east toward the ground. As the camera pans down, an explosion in another area of east Gaza City is seen. 

Then, a second flash of light — an explosion — is seen at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital complex.

There is only one rocket trail seen in the video. If the rising rocket was intercepted by another rocket, there would be another rocket trail. 

The Iron Dome system is programmed to only intercept rockets that are about to land in Israel. The location of this explosion is in the middle of Gaza and an intercept that far into Gaza would be unusual, according to CNN’s Jerusalem correspondent Hadas Gold.