Our live coverage of the conflict in Israel and Gaza has moved here.
More than 330,000 people have been displaced in Gaza since Israel began its bombardment of the strip, according to a statement by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) early Thursday (local time).
"The cumulative number of displaced people increased by 30 percent over the past 24 hours, now totaling 338,934, of whom over two thirds are taking shelter in UNRWA schools," the statement read.
OCHA further expressed its concerns over the damage of civilian infrastructure in Gaza. Israel began a blockade of the densely populated enclave, cutting electricity, fuel, and water supplies.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza earlier on Thursday said 600,000 people have no access to water and that some hospitals are relying on water from wells. The ministry added that the death toll in Gaza is nearing 1,200 since Saturday.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) says it is aiming to provide "a critical food lifeline to over 800,000 people."
After President Biden’s remarks earlier today, an administration official told CNN neither Biden nor the administration have seen pictures or confirmed reports of children or infants beheaded by Hamas.
The official clarified that the president’s remarks were referring to public comments from media outlets and Israeli officials.
Biden, speaking from the Indian Treaty Room Wednesday, told Jewish leaders, “It matters that Americans see what's happening — I mean, I have been doing this a long time, I never really thought that I would see, have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.”
A spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that babies and toddlers were found “decapitated” in Kfar Aza, Tal Heinrich. CNN could not independently verify that report, and Hamas said media reports about attacking children were false.
The US State Department said it's aware of the limited commercial flights available to citizens wanting to leave Israel and is "exploring other contract options by air, land, and sea to nearby countries," a spokesperson said Wednesday.
"The State Department has teams communicating 24/7 with US citizens and providing them assistance through phone calls, an online form and the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program," the spokesperson said. "Our goal is to assist US citizens who want to leave Israel with a safe means of doing so."
The spokesperson said US citizens are encouraged to take advantage of commercial flights "that involve transiting a third country if they are unable to book a direct flight to the United States." In order to meet high demand for flights, the spokesperson said "we are also exploring other contract options by air, land and sea to nearby countries."
The spokesperson said the department "will continue to provide updates to US citizens who have registered via our online form as information becomes available."
On Wednesday, the department raised the travel advisory level for Israel to Level 3:Reconsider Travel.
The Israel Defense Forces are "currently conducting a large-scale strike on terror targets belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip," according to an IDF social media post early Thursday local time.
President Joe Biden’s promise for the US to “stand with Israel” continues a special relationship that dates back to 1948, when President Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize the Jewish state, moments after its creation.
There’s now a kibbutz named after Truman in Israel, and the US provides billions in military support to Israel each year.
Israel has played an outsized role in US policy, and not just because most recent presidents have tried to play the role of peace maker between Israel and Palestinians and move toward a two-state solution.
Three presidential historians provided context about the US and its relationship with Israel. Douglas Brinkley is CNN’s presidential historian and a professor at Rice University, Julian Zelizer is a CNN contributor and a professor at Princeton University and Mark Updegrove is president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation.
Here's what they had to say about the US relationship with Israel.
President Dwight Eisenhower became infuriated at Israel: Along with France and the United Kingdom, Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 in an attempt to seize the Suez Canal and overthrow Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Eisenhower pressured the countries to remove their troops — which they eventually did.
President John F. Kennedy was concerned about Israel’s nuclear ambitions: Kennedy engaged in a quiet pressure campaign to let US inspectors into its nuclear sites and halt an Israeli nuclear program. Israel is thought to have developed nuclear weapons in the 1960s, although it has never formally acknowledged them.
President Lyndon Johnson used the hotline to calm the Soviets during the Six-Day War: Johnson helped supply Israel in the years preceding the Six-Day War, in which Israel seized land from its neighbors. Egypt, as a result, closed the Suez Canal for years. Johnson agreed to sell some military equipment to the Israelis which was a shift in US policy at the time.
“This was a very much a product of Cold War tension,” said Updegrove, the president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation. “I think there was a great concern that that would escalate beyond Israel, Egypt and Syria to being a much larger battle.”
President Richard Nixon airlifted supplies to Israel and engaged in "shuttle diplomacy": Nixon ultimately supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, a key moment that may have saved the country.
“Most historians of that region think that the US munitions support was essential to Israel’s survival at that point,” Zelizer said.
President Jimmy Carter brokered peace between Egypt and Israel: Carter brought Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat together for the Camp David Accords, which created a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt, its Arab neighbor to the South.
Today, Israel enforces its borders on the Gaza Strip, but so does Egypt. That more than two million Palestinians live in the 140 square-mile strip without the ability to easily leave is why it is today frequently referred to as the biggest open-air prison on earth.
Izzat al-Risheq, a senior Hamas official, told CNN Wednesday that it's too early to exchange Israeli hostages while Israel continues to strike Gaza.
"We will only discuss this issue when the Israeli aggression against our people ends," al-Risheq said from Doha, Qatar.
He also denied Hamas had any help from Iran or Lebanon's Hezbollah in executing or planning Hamas' large-scale surprise assault on Israel.
"I say it very clearly that this operation was a 100 percent Hamas operation without any help from any regional party," al-Risheq said.
Some background: Hamas fighters are holding as many as 150 people hostage in locations across Gaza following their raids on southern Israel on Saturday, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said Monday.
Abu Obaida, the spokesperson of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, said Monday that Hamas would start executing civilian hostages if Israel targeted people in Gaza without warning.
Israeli authorities think hostages taken by Hamas are being held underground, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday.
“Reason dictates that they are underground,” Conricus said. “Reason also dictates that Hamas, since they planned to launch this attack and they planned to take these people hostage, reason dictates that they planned in advance locations to hide these hostages and keep them safe from Israeli intelligence, and efforts to get them out.”
The situation with the hostages is an “extremely sensitive and complex topic,” Conricus said. Even though Israel has had “some experience” with hostage situations, they have never dealt with anything like this, he added.
“Not in the scope, not in the magnitude and not in the complexity of where our hostages are, Conricus said.
When asked whether an Israeli ground invasion was imminent, Conricus said he would not telegraph Israel’s schedule or intentions in this conflict.
“It is clear and understandable that what needs to be done is that all of Hamas’ military capabilities need to be taken off the map. How that will happen, by what means, and what tactics, that is a few days in the future, maybe more than that.”
Hamas fighters are holding as many as 150 people hostage in locations across Gaza following their raids on southern Israel on Saturday, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said Monday.
Abu Obaida, the spokesperson of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, on Monday said Hamas would start executing civilian hostages if Israel targeted people in Gaza without warning.
Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip have left at least 51 people dead and another 281 injured as of early Thursday local time, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The casualties were in the residential areas of Zeitoun, Sabra, Al-Nafaq, and Tel al-Hawa, it said.
Some of the victims are still under the rubble, according to Deputy Health Minister Yousef Abu Al-Rish, who accused Israeli forces of intending "to cause as much damage and destruction, hence destroying entire residential areas.”
Abu Al-Rish added that the death toll in Gaza is nearing 1,200 after the latest airstrikes.
The minister described the situation as an “imminent humanitarian catastrophe” after Israel began a blockade of the densely populated enclave, cutting electricity, fuel, and water supplies.
“More than 600,000 of Gaza’s population are deprived from water, and entire hospitals are deprived from water," he added, urging the world to stop the Israeli aggression.