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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10:40 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Countries declare mourning periods following Gaza hospital blast

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali

Some countries are declaring mourning periods following Tuesday's blast at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza where the Palestinian health ministry said hundreds were killed.

Syria on Wednesday declared a public mourning for a period of three days, starting October 18.

Egypt declared on Wednesday a three-day state of general mourning.

Iran on Tuesday declared general mourning throughout the country for three days, “in honor of the innocent souls who fell victim to international silence before falling victim to the fire of barbaric aggression.”

Jordan declared on Tuesday three days of mourning to “honor the martyrs of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital and the martyrs of Gaza.”

Lebanon announced on Tuesday that Wednesday is a day of national mourning.

Mauritania declared on Tuesday three days of national mourning following the hospital blast and called on the international community to make sure to stop “immediately” what it described as “genocide” of the Palestinians.

In Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday also declared that three days of mourning will be observed for the victims of the blast.

Gaza officials blame Israel for the hospital blast, while the Israel Defense Forces said it was an Islamic Jihad rocket. Islamic Jihad also denied that a failed rocket launch was responsible for the explosion. CNN cannot independently verify what caused the explosion, nor the extent of casualties.

10:53 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Satellite image shows aftermath of Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital explosion

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies
Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

This satellite image shows the aftermath of the blast Tuesday at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza, in which the Palestinian Ministry of Health says hundreds of people were killed.

Palestinian officials have blamed Israel for the blast, while the Israel Defense Forces say its intelligence showed it was the result of a "failed rocket launch" by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The group denied the IDF assertion.

CNN cannot independently verify the blast's cause nor the extent of casualties.

11:37 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

US embassies in Lebanon and Jordan issue advisories amid protests in region

From CNN's Ben Wedeman in southern Lebanon, Lauren Kent in London, Michael Callahan and Hamdi Alkhshali

Protesters rally in a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday.
Protesters rally in a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday. Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

The US Embassy in Lebanon has advised Americans to avoid the area of Awkar north of Beirut — where the embassy is located — as demonstrations on Wednesday led to skirmishes between police and pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Police fired tear gas and used water cannons against the demonstrators on Wednesday afternoon, according to local media. Video footage of the protests released by AFP also showed water cannons being used against the demonstrators. 

Earlier on Wednesday, Pro-Palestinian protestors tried to break through security barriers near the US Embassy in Awkar.

The embassy remains open but is “prioritizing providing consular services to U.S. citizens in Lebanon," it said in a security alert, adding, "The Department of State reminds citizens to avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests as some of these have turned violent."

The US Embassy in Amman, Jordan, issued a similar warning on Wednesday, saying it was aware of calls for a demonstration beginning as early as noon. US citizens should expect a heavy police presence and were advised to avoid crowds.

Both Lebanon and Jordan — along with others countries in the Middle East and North Africa — saw hundreds of protesters take to the streets Tuesday following a blast at a hospital in Gaza.

10:03 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Gaza Civil Defense spokesperson says fuel shortages are hindering response to hospital blast

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton

Gaza Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Saber Basal described seeing scenes "beyond imagination" at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital after Tuesday's blast:

“The site was full of bodies … all the way to the entrance of the hospital,” Basal said. “Body parts, charred bodies, bodies with no heads, hands here, legs over there. This was a massacre that has never been seen before.”

The emergency and rescue organization was “transporting maybe three or four at a time in ambulances,” he added.

Fuel shortages have severely hindered the organization's ability to operate following the blast, risking “another massacre,” Basal said.

“The Civil Defense is in a bad position and is dealing with a catastrophe, as fuel is running out,” Basal said. “Our vehicles and machinery run on fuel and so without it, we risk facing another massacre, because we will not be able to evacuate the injured and dead to the hospital.” 

10:05 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

First responders thank Biden for his support and visit to Israel

From CNN's Donald Judd

President Joe Biden shakes hands with Eli Beer during a meeting with Israeli first responders, family members and other Israeli citizens in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Eli Beer during a meeting with Israeli first responders, family members and other Israeli citizens in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday. Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

US President Joe Biden met Wednesday with first responders and the families of victims of Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, reiterating his public support for the country while offering his sympathies to those impacted.

In turn, first responders who spoke with the president expressed their gratitude for his visit, including one police officer who told Biden during a pull aside, "I would like personally to thank you for your support and the way you are a friend of Israel—I appreciate it, thank you so much."

One EMT said he and his team — many of them Americans — were proud to serve Israel.

“We are so proud that you, the President of the United States, came here to Israel to support this country," the EMT said. "You uplifted the whole spirit in this country, and all the Jewish people in the world, so I want to thank you, Mr. President.” 

Biden also met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who said in a statement after the meeting:

"The President of the United States expressed great empathy and deep sorrow for the tragic loss of life Israel had suffered, and emphasized that he fully supports Israel's actions against the terrorist organization Hamas."

9:37 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden says he used data "shown by my defense department" to back up claims Israel did not strike Gaza hospital

From CNN's Donald Judd 

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli war cabinet in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli war cabinet in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday. Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

US President Joe Biden said he cited “the data I was shown by my defense department,” when asked Wednesday what made him confident Israelis weren’t behind the hospital blast in Gaza City that Palestinian officials say left hundreds dead overnight.

It comes after Biden's comments on the explosion earlier Wednesday, when he said, “It appears as though it was done by the other team,” during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Before Biden left for Israel, according to one US official, the government had not yet drawn a conclusion about the source of the hospital bombing, and Biden had instructed his national security team to continue evaluating incoming information. 

CNN has asked the White House if the US government has further assessed the cause of the blast since the president’s departure.

Authorities in Gaza have said Israel is behind the deadly blast at the hospital, while the Israel Defense Forces said its intelligence showed a “failed rocket launch” by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

9:15 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

US Treasury Department imposes sanctions on 10 Hamas "members, operatives, and financial facilitators"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The US Treasury Department said it took action Wednesday to try to stem revenue flow to Hamas by imposing sanctions on 10 people connected to Hamas.

“We will continue to take all steps necessary to deny Hamas terrorists the ability to raise and use funds to carry out atrocities and terrorize the people of Israel. That includes by imposing sanctions and coordinating with allies and partners to track, freeze, and seize any Hamas-related assets in their jurisdictions,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a news release Wednesday.

The new sanctions target “six individuals associated with Hamas’s secret investment portfolio, two senior Hamas officials, and a Gaza-based virtual currency exchange and its operator,” according to the Treasury Department.

“What we're doing today is we're cutting them off from access to their money,” a senior Treasury official said. “War costs money, and fundamentally by making sure that these networks and financiers don't have the ability to give that money to Hamas, it will mean that they have fewer resources to pay their fighters, to buy the weapons, to support their destabilizing activity.”
“As of today, they will be cut off from those assets into the US financial system,” the official said.

In addition, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo announced the administration aims to “build a multinational coalition to go after terrorist financing,” and senior Treasury officials will travel to the region to continue to coordinate. 

Read more about the sanctions here.

9:06 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

UK intelligence working "rapidly" to establish facts behind Gaza hospital blast, Sunak says

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London

British intelligence services are working "rapidly" to "establish the facts" behind the deadly blast at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told lawmakers in Parliament Wednesday.

"We should not rush to judgments before we have all the facts on this awful situation," Sunak said.

"Our intelligence services have been rapidly analyzing the evidence to independently establish the facts," he said, reiterating the UK also remains focused on efforts to get vital humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

8:49 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Here's a look at how Gaza is cut off from water, power and aid

From CNN's Renée Rigdon and Annette Choi

The humanitarian crisis grows more dire by the hour in the Gaza Strip as Israel has cut off the supply of fuel, water, food and electricity to the coastal enclave.

With Gaza’s sole power plant running out of fuel last week, seawater desalination plants have been shut off, and drinking water is running out for hundreds of thousands of civilians. Hospitals are facing shortages of medical supplies and, in some cases, have been forced to makeshift morgues out of ice cream trucks to manage overflow.

See where the Gaza strip is struggling when it comes to relief aid, water, power and more, along with areas of significant damage: