Our coverage of the Israel-Hamas war has moved here.
Newborns, women and children are "disproportionately bearing the burden" of the war in Gaza, several United Nations aid agencies said in a joint statement Friday.
"The bombardments, damaged or non-functioning health facilities, massive levels of displacement, collapsing water and electricity supplies as well as restricted access to food and medicines, are severely disrupting maternal, newborn, and child health services," they said.
The statement was released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Many pregnant women aren't able to access the medical care they need, and maternal deaths are expected to increase.
"The psychological toll of the hostilities also has direct – and sometimes deadly – consequences on reproductive health, including a rise in stress-induced miscarriages, stillbirths and premature births," the statement added.
Malnutrition, already an issue before the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, is now even more dire and can have effects on childhood survival and development, the statement warned.
The lives of newborns "hang by a thread" because "an estimated 130 premature babies who rely on neonatal and intensive care services will be threatened," if hospitals run out of fuel. Incubators and other medical equipment will no longer function, it warned.
The statement calls for "an immediate humanitarian pause" in order to "alleviate the suffering and prevent a desperate situation from becoming catastrophic."
Some 9,155 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7, according to figures released Friday by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah drawn from sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave. More than 23,000 others have been injured.
The ministry's report states that close to 73% of the fatalities belong to vulnerable groups, including children, women, and elderly individuals.
Some context: The myriad challenges of managing medical care in Gaza was further underscored Friday when an airstrike on an ambulance outside Gaza City's largest medical facility killed at least 15 people and injured 50 others, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health.
The Al-Shifa Hospital has increasingly found itself part of the frontline as Israel claimed the facility is the site of a significant Hamas command and control center.
Palestinians have rejected the Israeli claim, with its Director General of the Gaza Health Ministry, Dr. Medhat Abbas, telling CNN last week that Gaza’s hospitals “are used to treat patients only” and are not being used “to hide anyone.”
Israel claimed responsibility for an attack on the ambulance, saying the vehicle was used by Hamas.
The US Embassy in Cairo has assisted more than 100 US citizens and family members to leave the Gaza Strip, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
She told reporters Friday afternoon that providing up-to-date numbers of Americans seeking to leave the region “is challenging,” but was able to confirm that the US Embassy in Egypt was able to assist “more than 100 US citizens and family members who had departed Gaza,” while acknowledging additional US citizens who have fled but did not seek assistance from the embassy team.
That number is up from Thursday when White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters that 74 Americans and their families had traversed the Rafah crossing.
“We continue to be focused on getting as many Americans out as quickly as possible and we expect more Americans to depart over the next several days, but again, this is a fluid situation,” Jean-Pierre added.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) is urging the international community to intervene and protect civilians as well as medical teams from Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip.
The statement Saturday comes after Israel admitted to targeting an ambulance in a medical convoy near the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Friday. Fifteen people were killed in the strike and 60 others were injured, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Two medics were injured in the strikes, according to statements by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza and PRCS.
"[M]edic Shadi Al-Taif sustained minor shrapnel injuries to the leg and bruises, while the ambulance driver, Ahmad Al-Madhoon, suffered chest bruises and extreme panic," the PRCS said on Saturday.
Israel claimed it targeted the ambulance because it was being used by Hamas.
Meanwhile, the PRCS said the strikes directly hit a Ministry of Health ambulance and damaged another one belonging to PRCS, which was carrying a 35-year-old wounded woman in critical condition.
“[PRCS] stresses that deliberately targeting medical personnel constitutes a grave violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime,” the statement said, adding that Israeli attacks have killed four PRCS ambulance staff while on duty, injured 21 staff and volunteers, and pushed eight ambulances out of service since October 7.
Efforts to secure safe passage for foreign nationals in Gaza were stymied by Hamas and a slew of logistical challenges, further exacerbating a dire humanitarian situation as thousands of foreigners remained trapped in the war-torn region, according to a senior US official.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, would not permit anyone to leave the area, according to a senior administration official. This prompted a flurry of negotiations led by Ambassador David Satterfield.
As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsened, Hamas relayed that foreign nationals would be permitted to leave “subject to a number of wounded Palestinians being allowed to leave as well, which of course is not objectionable,” the official said.
But approximately one-third of the wounded Palestinians listed were flagged as members of Hamas in the vetting process, which was “just unacceptable to Egypt, to us, to Israel," the official said.
After another round of negotiations, an agreement was reached to ensure “that the wounded Palestinian civilians leaving with the foreign nationals were not Hamas fighters, [but] truly Individual civilians caught in this awful, horrific tragedy.”
A breakthrough was finally reached Tuesday to allow foreign passport holders and a group of critically injured civilians to depart through the Rafah border crossing, with the first group departing Wednesday.
Issues with the Rafah crossing into Egypt, which the administration characterized as “not really the crossing where large numbers of civilians typically pass,” complicated factors more.
“So, we had to work very carefully with the Egyptians and with the UN to get the mechanisms in place,” the official said, adding that final details were ironed out in calls between President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the official said, there is “just as intense a process ongoing” to secure the safe release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
The successful release of two hostages last month, the official said, “was a bit of a pilot to see if it was possible. It is possible, but the numbers we’re talking about is extremely difficult.”
Negotiating a release for such a large number of hostages, the official added, would require “a fairly significant pause in hostilities."
US officials are anticipating a new phase of Israel’s war with Hamas in the coming days in which Israel decreases the scale of its air campaign and focuses on a more tactical ground operation.
As humanitarian aid continues to flow into Gaza, the Biden administration expects that Israel’s air campaign will see “a decrease in what we’ve seen," a senior administration official told CNN on Friday. The administration anticipates a move to a “more of a tactical focus on the ground campaign” aimed at clearing out the vast network of underground tunnel complexes Hamas operates out of, the official said.
The official maintained that the administration has been “very direct…about wartime decisions and being deliberate and asking hard questions” in discussions with Israel, even as the Israeli military has drawn international criticism over the targeting of the Jabalya Refugee Camp in northern Gaza.
Asked when the Biden administration might feel compelled to call for a ceasefire — something it has so far declined to do — the official said that given the scale and nature of Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7, a ceasefire was not appropriate.
“A terrorist group takes 200 hostages and kills 1,400 people and is hiding under tunnels, including the leaders — ceasefire is not really the word ... to use,” the official told CNN.
The official reiterated that the US is actively calling on Israel to enact so-called “humanitarian pauses,” and that it is stressing to Israel that even as it has a right to defend itself, it must adhere to international humanitarian laws.
Ultimately, “a ceasefire I think, depends on the Israelis feeling secure in ensuring that something like this cannot happen again,” the official added.
Multiple videos from the scene show at least a dozen bloodied people strewn across the ground near an ambulance. There appears to be some shrapnel damage to at least one of the cars on the scene.
In a statement, Israel said it targeted the ambulance because it was being used by Hamas. A spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said Friday that the ambulance was in a medical convoy from the hospital, traveling to the Rafah border crossing, and had informed the International Committee of the Red Cross about the move.
The ICRC, in a statement, confirmed it was aware of the scheduled movement of a convoy of vehicles carrying wounded patients from northern Gaza to the south, but it was not part of it. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said one of its ambulances was in the convoy and was damaged by shelling, but none of its members were harmed.
Here are other headlines you should know:
- Developments on the ground: Israeli ground forces are closing in on Gaza City, the largest and most densely packed population center in the Palestinian enclave, satellite imagery and videos from open and official sources suggest. And at least two rockets were seen making a direct hit in the Israeli city of Sderot on Friday evening, with one striking the courtyard of a kindergarten. Shrapnel hit the windows of the building as well as several nearby cars. There were no reported casualties.
- Blinken visit: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel on Friday for his third trip to the country since the October 7 Hamas attack, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials. In a news conference, Blinken said, “we need to do more to protect Palestinian civilians,” while also condemning Hamas. Blinken said that the US believes efforts to get humanitarian assistance in and hostages out “would be facilitated by humanitarian pauses.” He also said that the US and Israel had "identified mechanisms" to get much-needed fuel to Gaza's hospitals. However, Netanyahu said on Friday that his government opposed any temporary ceasefire in Gaza unless Hamas freed all the hostages it holds, adding that it would continue to block fuel from entering Gaza. The Israeli military on Friday said 241 hostages are believed to have been taken by Hamas on October 7.
- Hezbollah's leader makes rare speech: In his first public speech since 2006, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called for a ceasefire and praised Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel, adding that they were fully planned and executed by Hamas. His speech came amid escalating skirmishes between his powerful, Iran-backed armed group and Israel, sparking concern of a potential broader regional war.
- ICC complaint filed: The families of 11 victims of the October 7 Hamas attack have accused the perpetrators of “crimes against humanity” in a complaint filed to the International Criminal Court. The complaint concerns 11 victims who were either killed or injured within Israeli borders. Several had been at the Nova music festival, where Hamas gunmen killed more than 260 people.
- Government warnings: The Israeli government is warning its citizens to reconsider foreign travel and to exercise caution while abroad in light of an increase in antisemitic incidents and violence in recent weeks. Earlier this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that antisemitism is reaching “historic levels” in the United States.
This post has been updated with the latest statements from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
Israeli ground forces are closing in on Gaza City, the largest and most densely packed population center in the Palestinian enclave, satellite imagery and videos from open and official sources suggest.
CNN’s analysis of the imagery helps shed light on what is happening on the ground as the Israel Defense Forces claims it has encircled the city.
“IDF forces encircle Gaza from the air, land and sea, surrounding the city of Gaza and its surroundings,” Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesperson, said Friday. “The fighters are advancing in battles, during which they are destroying above-ground and underground terrorist infrastructures and eliminate terrorists.”
Since the IDF launched its ground offensive into Gaza a week ago, marking the latest phase of its war against Hamas, its troops have pushed forward on three axes – from Gaza’s northwest border along the Mediterranean coast, from the northeast near Beit Hanoun, and from east to west, along the south of Gaza City – in an apparent effort to divide the strip into two.
Israeli troops have moved deeper along that western stretch, towards the sea, according to European Space Agency satellite imagery from Wednesday, which indicated the forces were within about a kilometer of completely encircling Gaza City.
While the imagery is low-resolution, it appears to show the tracks from heavy armored vehicles snaking across the strip, south of the urban center, nearly reaching the coast.
Videos showing Israel’s advance south of Gaza City have yet to surface, but footage shared by the IDF and circulating on social media in recent days showed Israeli troops had moved in the northernmost communities in Gaza – Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Atatra – and were sitting on the perimeter of Gaza City from the north.
Satellite imagery and footage have also shown Israeli forces on Salah al-Din Road, a highway running the length of the strip, seemingly blocking anyone still in Gaza City from moving south. A video that surfaced Monday, filmed by freelance Palestinian journalist Yousif Al Saifi, showed an Israeli tank opening fire on a car on the road.
For weeks, Lebanon was preparing for war. People spoke about their backup plans in hushed tones. The government said it was putting together contingency supplies for the public’s basic necessities.
It all hinged on Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s thinking about the Hamas-Israel war, which he kept close to his chest before breaking his nearly month-long silence about October 7 on Friday.
In a fiery speech from an undisclosed location, the reclusive head of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group heaped praise on Hamas and hailed the war as a “turning point” in the Arab-Israeli conflict. He extolled the virtues of the weekslong cross-fire with Israel on Lebanon’s southern border, which he described as an “unprecedented battle.”
He also said Hezbollah would be "prepared for all scenarios,” and that any escalation by the Israeli army at the border would be a "historic folly" that would prompt a major response.
Yet for all the tough talk, Nasrallah was not banging war drums. He said Hezbollah’s “primary goal” was to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, and said it was incumbent on the US — which he held directly responsible for the bloodshed in the Palestinian enclave — to implement the cessation of hostilities.
What this tells us is that Nasrallah’s immediate plans do not include a broader conflict.
This may come as a disappointment to many in the Arab street. When the pro-Palestinian demonstrations washed over much of the region in recent weeks, many of the chants called on Nasrallah to go to war.
But it will be a relief to Israel’s Western allies, who fear a wider regional conflict and have repeatedly warned Nasrallah not to enter the fray. Two US aircraft carriers — including the nuclear-power USS Gerald Ford — were dispatched to the Mediterranean in an apparent bid to deter Hezbollah.
That relief will be shared by many in Lebanon. The tiny eastern Mediterranean country has barely recovered from the devastating economic crisis of 2019, and much of the population — while horrified by the soaring death toll and widespread destruction wrought by Israel’s offensive in Gaza — has been worn down by decades of war and crises.
Nasrallah may have been restrained by that popular sentiment, or he may have concluded, after weeks of deliberation, that his powerful paramilitary has too much to lose in a war with Israel.