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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4:20 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden embraces Israel's prime minister and president on his arrival in Tel Aviv

From CNN's Donald Judd

U.S. President Joe Biden is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. REUTERS/
U.S. President Joe Biden is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. REUTERS/ Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

President Joe Biden disembarked Air Force One at 11:01 a.m. local time, greeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog with hugs before shaking hands with US embassy Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Hallett. 

4:18 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden to meet with Netanyahu, President Herzog, first responders and families of victims

From CNN's Donald Judd and Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden aims to ask "tough questions" but emphasize his relationship as a "true friend of Israel" as he meets with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, according to a US National Security Council spokesperson.

Biden will start his visit by meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed by a broader meeting with Israel's war cabinet, NSC spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Air Force One.

“He’ll be asking some tough questions," Kirby said, including about about “where they think they’re going."

"He’ll be asking as a friend, a true friend of Israel,” Kirby added. 

According to Kirby, Biden plans to emphasize he doesn’t want the conflict to widen. He also aims to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and raise the issue of hostages, Kirby said.  

During his visit, Biden is scheduled to meet with Israeli first responders as well as the families of victims and people still missing or taken hostage, though Kirby couldn't say if these were families of Americans or Israelis.

Biden will also deliver remarks and meet with Israeli President Herzog before his departure.

On his flight home, Biden plans to speak with Palestinian Authority President  Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President El-Sisi on the flight home, in lieu of the scheduled summit in Jordan, which was scrapped after Tuesday's deadly hospital blast in Gaza. 

Some context: Biden’s arrival in wartime Tel Aviv marks his most forceful public show of support for Israel since the October 7 attacks by Hamas that left 1,400 Israelis – and dozens of Americans – dead. Other Americans, along with many Israelis, are also being held hostage by Hamas. And at least 3,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the fighting began, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said Tuesday.

Biden’s visit came less than a day after a horrifying blast at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian officials have said hundreds are dead following the explosion at the center of the city and blamed Israel. The Israelis denied responsibility and pinned blame on a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

3:56 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden arrives in Israel for high-stakes visit

US President Joe Biden has arrived in Tel-Aviv to kick off an extraordinary high-stakes trip to Israel, amidst protests following the deadly explosion at a Gaza hospital as Israeli and Palestinian officials trade accusations over who was to blame.

The blast marks a dangerous new phase in Israel’s war with Hamas, which threatens to spill over regionally

With his visit, Biden seeks to demonstrate staunch support for Israel as it works to eliminate Hamas while also pressing for ways to ease humanitarian suffering in Gaza.

3:49 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

US Secretary of State Blinken arrives in Israel ahead of President Biden's visit

From CNN's Colin McCullough

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Tel Aviv ahead of President Joe Biden's visit.

The US president's arrival in Israel on Wednesday will build on Blinken’s seven-nation, multi-day tour of the Middle East as the US tries to strike a delicate balance between providing unwavering support for Israel’s military operations while mitigating the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and stopping the war from spreading to other fronts.

Blinken returned to Israel from Amman, Jordan.

Biden was scheduled to visit Jordan for a summit with King Abdullah II, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss a humanitarian response – but plans were scrapped after Tuesday's deadly hospital blast in Gaza. 

4:24 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Israel's military claims lack of structural damage at Gaza hospital rules out airstrikes

From CNN's Richard Greene and Tim Lister

Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18.
Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18. Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images

The lack of structural damage at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City proves Israeli airstrikes didn't cause Tuesday's deadly explosion, according to the Israel Defense Forces.  

Imagery following the blast showed “no cratering and no structural damage to nearby buildings," IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said at a news conference Wednesday.

“There are no craters here. The walls stay intact. This shows is it not an aerial munition that hit the parking lot” of the hospital, Hagari said.
“Analysis of our aerial footage confirms that there was no direct hit of the hospital itself. The only location damaged is outside the hospital in the parking lot where we can see signs of burning.”

Hagari said IDF trajectory analysis confirmed that rockets were fired from close proximity to the hospital. He said most of the propellant [rocket fuel] was still visible because the trajectory of the rocket was short.

“At 6:59 p.m., a barrage of around 10 rockets was fired by Islamic Jihad from a nearby cemetery. It was at the time, 6:59 p.m. — when there were reports of an explosion at the hospital in Gaza City,” he said.

Islamic Jihad has denied that a failed rocket launch was responsible for the explosion.

CNN cannot independently verify what caused the explosion, nor the extent of casualties.

A view of the surroundings of Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital after it was hit in Gaza City, Gaza, on October 18.
A view of the surroundings of Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital after it was hit in Gaza City, Gaza, on October 18. Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/Getty Images

Hagari also said that the IDF had intelligence of “communications between terrorists” discussing rockets misfiring, which included mention of the hospital.

The IDF released audio of a conversation allegedly between two Hamas operatives in which they spoke of a rocket launch from a cemetery near the hospital. According to an IDF translation of the conversation, one of the operatives says: “They are saying that the shrapnel from the missile is local shrapnel and not like Israeli shrapnel.”

Hagari said it was common for rockets fired at Israel to fall short “and cause casualties."

"We have counted approximately 450 rockets that have fallen short and fell in Gaza during this war," he added.

In the spirit of "maximum transparency," the IDF is sharing its evidence with others, including the United States, Hagari added.

4:04 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Gaza hospital blast needs to be thoroughly investigated, German chancellor says

From CNN's Inke Kappeler

Wounded Palestinians sit in al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, after arriving from al-Ahli hospital following an explosion there on October 17.
Wounded Palestinians sit in al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, after arriving from al-Ahli hospital following an explosion there on October 17. Abed Khaled/AP

A thorough investigation of the deadly hospital blast in Gaza is "imperative," according to Germany's chancellor.

“I am horrified by the images of the explosion in a hospital in Gaza. Innocent civilians were injured and killed. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims,” German chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.   

Scholz is set to travel to Egypt to meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday, following his meeting with Israeli President Issac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Tuesday.

Some context: Hundreds died following Tuesday's blast at the hospital in Gaza City that was sheltering thousands of displaced people, Palestinian officials said. They blamed Israel for the bombing, although Israeli officials said a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad was to blame.

2:37 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Israel military produces images it says shows hospital blast caused by failed rocket launch and not airstrike

From CNN's Eyad Kourdi, Tim Lister and Chloe Liu

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday produced a 30-second video it says shows the deadly hospital blast in Gaza City could not have been the result of an Israeli airstrike.

Palestinian officials have blamed Israel for the bombing that is believed to have killed hundreds of people while Israeli officials say a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad caused the blast.

Using images showing fire damage to several vehicles in the hospital parking lot, the montage presented by the IDF suggests that a fire broke out at the hospital as the result of a failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad group. The IDF added that there were no visible signs of craters or significant damage to buildings that would result from an airstrike.

The “first packet of information” was “evidence that clearly supports the fact that it could not have been an Israeli bomb," IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus told CNN on Wednesday.
“There was no collateral or significant damage to the buildings around it. No crater, and nothing that is similar to locations where Israeli bombs have struck,” Conricus said. 

Conricus said the IDF was slow to release information because it took hours for the Israeli military to “investigate and get to the bottom of the situation.” 

The Islamic Jihad movement denied Israel's assertions that a failed rocket launch was responsible, claiming that it does not use public facilities such as hospitals for military purposes, according to a written statement published Wednesday which described the Israeli accusations as “false and baseless."

CNN cannot independently confirm what caused the explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital.

The building was sheltering thousands of displaced people when it was bombed Tuesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement. Many victims are still under the rubble, it added.

4:30 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Protests break out around the region after Gaza hospital blast

From CNN's Ben Wedeman in Beirut, Aqeel Najim in Baghdad and Caroline Faraj, Jomana Karadsheh, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Adam Pourahmadi and Akanksha Sharma

Lebanese protesters wave Palestinian national flags and shout slogans in solidarity with the people of Gaza in down town Beirut, Lebanon, on October 17.
Lebanese protesters wave Palestinian national flags and shout slogans in solidarity with the people of Gaza in down town Beirut, Lebanon, on October 17. Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

Several countries in the Middle East and North Africa saw protesters march after hundreds of people died in an explosion at a hospital in Gaza.

Palestinian officials quickly blamed Israel for the blast as the Israelis denied responsibility and pinned the blame on a failed rocket by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. CNN is unable to independently verify what caused the explosion.

Preliminary estimates indicate hundreds of people were killed in the blast at the hospital, which was sheltering thousands of displaced people who were forcibly evacuated from their homes during Israeli airstrikes, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said in a statement. 

Here's a look at protests erupting across the Middle East:

  • Jordan: Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in Jordan's capital Amman. A group gathered near the Israeli Embassy in an attempt to "reach it," but security forces pushed them away, a security source told CNN. Jordan's state-run Petra news agency also reported the protesters' attempts to reach the embassy. Jordanian security forces used tear gas to disperse crowds in the capital, two activists told CNN, a claim backed up by social media videos. There have been almost daily protests near the Israeli Embassy over the past week. Approximately 50% of Jordan's population is either Palestinian or of Palestinian descent.
  • Lebanon: Hundreds of protesters gathered in the square that leads to the US Embassy north of Beirut and tried to break through security barriers, with police using tear gas to disperse them, according to a CNN team there. CNN’s Ben Wedeman said that as of 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday the protests had calmed down after a “chaotic” night. Following these protests, the US State Department issued a warning asking American citizens not to travel to Lebanon, adding that family members and some non-emergency US government personnel will be allowed to voluntarily depart Lebanon “due to the unpredictable security situation.”
  • Iraq: Hundreds of people took to the streets in Baghdad chanting anti-Israel slogans. Security officials told CNN that dozens of protesters tried to cross a bridge that leads to the Green Zone, but security forces prevented them. The area houses Iraqi government offices and several embassies, including the US Embassy. 
  • Iran: Protests took place outside the French and British embassies in Tehran. Demonstrators could be heard chanting "Death to France, England, America, and the Zionists," according to a video published by state-run RNA news. Rallies also took place in other cities, including Esfahan and Qom.
  • Tunisia: Hundreds of people rallied in several areas in Tunis, state-run TAP news agency reported. TAP said "mass protests were held on Tuesday night," in several areas "in solidarity with the Palestinian people" and against Israeli aggression on Gaza.
  • Turkey: In Istanbul, security forces used water cannons and pepper spray to disperse protesters who managed to force their way into a compound where the Israeli consulate is located.

4:01 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Gaza hospital blast "cannot be justified on any ground," Japan says

From CNN's Emi Jozuka in Tokyo

A view of damage after Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital was hit in Gaza City, Gaza, on October 18.
A view of damage after Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital was hit in Gaza City, Gaza, on October 18. Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/Getty Images

Japan's government on Wednesday condemned the deadly hospital blast in Gaza, saying "attacks against hospitals or civilians cannot be justified on any ground."

In a statement issued Wednesday, Japan's foreign ministry said it feels "strong indignation on tremendous damage to innocent civilians" and expressed its heartfelt sympathy to the victims, bereaved families and people injured in the blast.

The ministry urged "all parties to act, based on International law, to avoid further civilian casualties" and stated Tokyo would ramp up efforts to secure the safety of civilians and defuse tensions.

Some context: Hundreds died following Tuesday's blast at the hospital in Gaza City that was sheltering thousands of displaced people, Palestinian officials said. They blamed Israel for the bombing, although Israeli officials said a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad was to blame.