December 7, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 8, 2023
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9:18 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

What we know about rape and sexual violence inflicted by Hamas on October 7

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

Editor’s Note: The following post includes graphic material. Audience discretion is advised.

Simchat Greyman had to pause several times when describing the evidence of sexual violence he saw when recovering the bodies of victims of the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel.

One body was so severely brutalized that he and his colleagues from ZAKA, the ultra-orthodox Jewish human remains recovery organization, couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman.

Greyman described finding a woman who was shot in the back of her head, lying on her bed, naked from her waist down. A live grenade was planted in her hand.

And then there was the body with the nails.

“I was called into a house, I was told there are few bodies over there. I saw in front of my eyes a woman, laying (down). She was naked and she had nails …,” Greyman managed to say before pausing for a long time, struggling to get the words out.

“She had nails and different objects in her female organs. Her body was brutalized in a way that we could not identify her,” he added, the trauma clearly visible on his face.

Greyman was testifying at a United Nations session on sexual and gender-based violence in the October 7 Hamas terror attack, hosted by Israel at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.

He was one of several eyewitnesses invited to address the meeting, providing evidence that sexual violence and rape occurred and were weaponized by Hamas during the attacks.

CNN cannot independently verify individual allegations and claims. However, several first responders who attended the scenes of the October 7 attack told CNN the attacks were overwhelmingly gruesome and that some female victims were found undressed.

The evidence of sexual violence presented during the session at the UN was ample and overwhelming and came from different sources.

While Greyman spoke about his experience from the search and rescue operations, Yael Richert, a superintendent with the Israel Police, shared information gathered during the investigation so far.

She said survivors of the terror attack told investigators they witnessed Hamas terrorists perpetrating sexual violence against the victims. She quoted testimonies of several individuals all of whom either directly witnessed sexual violence or saw clear evidence of it.

Read more about the rape and sexual violence inflicted by Hamas

10:36 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

"Unimaginable loss" in Gaza as people struggle to survive. Here's the latest on the conflict

From CNN staff

A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke above buildings during Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, on December 7.
A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke above buildings during Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, on December 7. Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in Gaza as Israeli forces expand their operations throughout the Palestinian enclave.

Since Tuesday, the military has been operating in the southern city of Khan Younis, engaged in "intense battles" with Hamas fighters.

The conflict has caused "unimaginable loss, destruction and misery" and "everyone in Gaza is hungry," the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said.

Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday approved a "minimal" increase in the amount of fuel entering Gaza, but global leaders and aid groups say there needs to be much more assistance entering the enclave.

Here's what to know:

  • Hunger in Gaza: In northern Gaza, 97% of households have inadequate food consumption and approximately 83% in southern Gaza are "adopting extreme consumption strategies" to survive, the WFP said. The agency said a quarter of households reported burning waste as their main source of cooking fuel with the rest of households using firewood or wood rubbish. On average, households said they had less than half a gallon of safe drinking water per person per day in northern Gaza.
  • Emergency operations crippled: The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said work has stopped at its ambulance center in northern Gaza because there is no fuel. The PRCS also said that bodies continue to be retrieved from the streets and from under rubble but recovery efforts are hampered because of the lack of fuel. Doctors Without Borders reported the number of corpses arriving at Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza has now surpassed the number of injured.
  • Israel operations continue: Israeli forces have arrested and questioned hundreds of suspects in Gaza allegedly involved in terror activities, according to a military spokesperson. Meanwhile, images circulating on social media showed a mass detention of men who were made to strip to their underwear, kneel on the street, wear blindfolds and pack into the cargo bed of a military vehicle. At least some of the men are civilians with no known affiliation to militant groups, according to a conversation CNN had with one of their relatives and a statement by one of their employers, a news network.
  • Alleged Hamas launch site: The Israeli military released a satellite image and video it said showed Hamas rocket launches next to a “humanitarian zone” and UN facility in southern Gaza. Because the IDF satellite image of the rocket location is cropped, and the video is cropped and low resolution, it was not possible for CNN to corroborate its location.
  • Gaza death toll: At least 17,177 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza since October 7, a spokesperson for the Hamas-controlled health ministry said Thursday. The spokesperson added that a total of 46,000 people have been injured, and the majority of wounded people are children, women, and the elderly.
  • In and out of Gaza: At least 634 people crossed into Egypt on Thursday through the Rafah border crossing, officials said, including more than 400 dual nationals. A total of 70 aid trucks also entered Gaza, including nearly 21,000 gallons of fuel, according to the Rafah Crossing Authority. Meanwhile, Israel will open the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza soon for the inspection of aid trucks. The UN has been calling for several weeks for the crossing to be opened, saying it would facilitate deliveries of more vital humanitarian aid to Gaza. 
  • Global voices: Talking with an Israeli official, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commended the fuel allowed into Gaza but said that more humanitarian assistance is still needed, according to a senior State Department official. US President Joe Biden also reiterated to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the need for Israel to protect civilians, the White House said.
  • Journalist death investigation: Investigations by two news organizations and two human rights groups made public Thursday said that Israeli tank shells killed Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and injured six other journalists in southern Lebanon in October. Eylon Levy, a spokesperson for the Israeli government, said he was “not familiar” with the new reports, but reiterated Israel only targets Hamas, "we do not target civilians."
  • Regional strikes: Following the death of an Israeli civilian in northern Israel from an anti-tank missile from Lebanon, Israeli fighter jets struck “a series of terror targets” of Hezbollah on Thursday, the IDF said. Lebanon alleged that Israel shelled the outskirts of a town with "phosphorus" — a claim the IDF denies, saying it only uses "legal weapons and ammunition.” The IDF also struck targets in Syria and Lebanon after missiles were reportedly launched toward Israel on Thursday evening.
7:28 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

Israeli military responds to allegation it used white phosphorus in southern Lebanon

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Beirut

The Israeli military in the early hours of Friday local time responded to an allegation that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deployed white phosphorus in southern Lebanon on Thursday.

The Lebanon National News Agency (NNA) alleged Thursday that Israeli artillery shelled the outskirts of the town of Rmeish, south Lebanon, with "phosphorus."

Video obtained by CNN shows columns of white smoke above the outskirts of the hilltop town. CNN is unable to confirm the use of phosphorous munitions. 

In a statement to CNN, the IDF said that it “only legal weapons and ammunition.”

“The primary smoke-screen shells used by the IDF do not contain white phosphorus. Like many Western militaries, the IDF also possesses smoke-screen shells that include white phosphorous that are legal under international law. These shells are used by the IDF for creating smoke screens and not for targeting or causing fires and are not defined under law as incendiary weapons," the statement said. “IDF procedures require that such shells are not used in densely populated areas, subject to certain exceptions. This complies and goes beyond the requirements of international law.”

Is white phosphorus illegal? Under an international protocol ratified by Israel in 1995, the use of such incendiary weapons is allowed when "not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons," CNN previously reported.

There is no prohibition, per se, against white phosphorus in conflict. But the timing and location of its use are restricted.

For example, it is illegal under the protocol to use white phosphorus against any personnel, civilian or military. It can be directed only against military targets. International law says incendiary weapons cannot be used where civilians are concentrated.

Israel's history with white phosphorus: Israel previously faced widespread criticism for firing white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas during a Gaza offensive that began in late 2008. HRW said in a 2009 report that Israel's white phosphorus munitions had killed and injured civilians and damaged civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse, and a hospital. HRW claimed that Israel's use of the weapons in crowded neighborhoods "violated international humanitarian law (the laws of war), which requires taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm and prohibits indiscriminate attacks."

In response, Israel pledged to limit the use of white phosphorus and make greater efforts to protect civilians during conflicts. Still, the government said that it had used white phosphorus lawfully.

Claim of recent use: In October, Human Rights Watch accused Israeli forces of using white phosphorus during military operations in Gaza and Lebanon.

According to the HRW report, the rights group said it verified one video taken on October 10 in Lebanon and another video in Gaza on October 11 that it claimed shows "multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border."

Israel denied the claims by Human Rights Watch.

7:03 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

Israeli man presumed to be held hostage in Gaza was killed on October 7, kibbutz announces  

From Tamar Michaelis in Tel Aviv 

Dror Kaplun
Dror Kaplun Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum

An Israeli man presumed to have been held hostage in Gaza was killed on October 7 when Hamas launched a terror attack on Israel, his kibbutz announced in a statement Thursday.  

Kibbutz Be’eri announced the death of resident Dror Kaplun, 68, but did not specify when Israeli authorities informed the kibbutz about his death.  

It is not clear where he was killed.  

CNN has reached out to the Israeli prime minister’s office for more details.  

His wife, Marcel Frailich Kaplun, was also killed on October 7, the kibbutz said at the time.  

After the October 7 attack, the hostages’ families forum released a statement saying his children saw a video in which Kaplun and his wife were seen taken by militants and tied up toward the fence of the kibbutz.

7:55 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

Egyptian foreign minister: Allowing Palestinians to temporarily relocate to Egypt violates international law

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

Shoukry appears on CNN on Thursday, December 7.
Shoukry appears on CNN on Thursday, December 7. CNN

Egypt will not let Palestinians temporarily relocate to the country while Israel carries out its military operation in the Gaza Strip because it would be a violation of international humanitarian law, the foreign minister said Thursday.

"This would constitute a violation to the international humanitarian law, any form of displacement, whether internal or external, is a violation, and we will not become party basically to such a violation," Minister for Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry told CNN's Jake Tapper.
Further, he said Palestinians "themselves don't want to leave" so "they should not be forcibly displaced."
"The liquidation of the Palestinians caused by removing all Palestinians from their territory is unacceptable, and as I said, is a violation of humanitarian law," he reiterated.

Some context: The United States has also objected to any efforts to move Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip. Vice President Kamala Harris said in a meeting Saturday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that Washington will not allow for the forced relocation of Palestinians or any redrawing of the current border of the Gaza Strip.

“Under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza,” Harris said, according to a statement from the vice president’s office.

More from the interview: Earlier Thursday, the Egyptian Authority for Crossings and Borders published a list of dozens of foreign nationals set to leave Gaza. Pressed on why it took so long to get those people out of the enclave, Shoukry said it's all contingent on agreements.

"It is totally up to Israelis to define and to provide the lists of those who can come out, and when they do we facilitate the repatriation. So, this is all to maintain the Rafah crossing, not to affect at all the flow of humanitarian assistance," Shoukry told CNN.

The list included more US citizens alongside nationals of Romania, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It also includes 13 United Nations personnel intending to enter Gaza. 

Shoukry also said he thinks "it is necessary for the Palestinian people to demonstrate who they will accept as governance of the Gaza Strip."

When asked by Tapper whether Palestinian people would be better off with a group other than Hamas, the foreign minister said it would be up to the Palestinian people to decide.

6:26 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

Images from Gaza show Israeli soldiers detaining dozens of men stripped to underwear

From CNN's Abeer Salman in Jerusalem

Images from Gaza circulating on social media Thursday showed a mass detention by the Israeli military of men who were made to strip to their underwear, kneel on the street, wear blindfolds and pack into the cargo bed of a military vehicle.
Images from Gaza circulating on social media Thursday showed a mass detention by the Israeli military of men who were made to strip to their underwear, kneel on the street, wear blindfolds and pack into the cargo bed of a military vehicle. Obtained by CNN

Images from Gaza circulating on social media Thursday showed a mass detention by the Israeli military of men who were made to strip to their underwear, kneel on the street, wear blindfolds and pack into the cargo bed of a military vehicle.  

The exact circumstances and dates of the detentions are unclear, but some of the detainees’ identities were confirmed by colleagues or family members. 

At least some of the men are civilians with no known affiliation to militant groups, according to a conversation CNN had with one of their relatives and a statement by one of their employers, a news network.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor posted an image of one detainment and said in a statement on its website Thursday that “the Israeli army detained and severely abused dozens of Palestinian civilians.” 

“Euro-Med Monitor received reports that Israeli forces launched random and arbitrary arrest campaigns against displaced people, including doctors, academics, journalists, and elderly men,” it said. 
The men can be seen in the cargo bed of a military vehicle. 
The men can be seen in the cargo bed of a military vehicle.  Obtained by CNN

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on the images. CNN has geo-located some of the images to Beit Lahia, north of Gaza City.

The Israeli media, without indicating a source, has portrayed the images as the surrender of Hamas members.

 “We’ve seen images of many captives, Hamas terrorists, that the IDF arrested during the ground maneuvering," said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, IDF spokesperson, in response to a journalist asking about the images during a news conference on Thursday.
Hagari said that, in fighting Hamas, “those left in the area gradually come out.”

“We investigate and check who has ties to Hamas, and who does not,” he said. “We arrest them all and question them. We will continue dismantling each one of those strongholds until we are done.”

In a statement Thursday, news outlet The New Arab, or Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, said one of its correspondents and several members of his family were among those detained as part of the incident portrayed in the images.

“Today, Thursday, the Israeli occupation army arrested the journalist and the director of ‘The New Arab’ office in Gaza, our colleague Diaa Al-Kahlot, from Market Street in Beit Lahia, along with a group of his brothers, relatives, and other civilians,” Al-Araby Al-Jadeed wrote.

“The occupation deliberately forced Gazans to take off their clothes, searched them, and humiliated them when they were arrested before taking them to an unknown destination, according to what the people there told us," he said.

Hussam Kanafani, the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed editor-in-chief, said in the statement that Al-Kahlot and his family were still missing.

“We will make every effort possible, in cooperation with international institutions and organizations concerned with the rights and freedom of journalists in the world, to determine the whereabouts of our colleague Diaa and release him as soon as possible,” Kanafani said.

CNN spoke with a relative of another detained men, Hani al-Madhoun, from his home in the United States.

“Israeli forces arrived on the street and called out all the men to come out, and they complied,” al-Madhoun told CNN. “This house was their place of refuge after our two homes were destroyed.”

Al-Madhoun said he was in contact with his sister, who is in Gaza.

He said he recognized his cousin Aboud in one of the photographs and saw his brother Mahmood in a video. He said that Mahmoud is a shopkeeper and Aboud “is not involved in any activities; he helps his father in construction.”

5:46 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

Blinken says 3 trips to Israel yielded incremental progress on Gaza aid and protecting civilians

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday described how US pressure has resulted in incremental progress from Israel in protecting civilians and allowing aid into Gaza.

Blinken noted that after each of his trips to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government shifted toward the US position.

The top US diplomat noted that on his first trip to Israel, in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attack, "we made the case for the imperative of getting" aid into Gaza.

"After we left, that assistance started to flow," he said at a news conference at the State Department alongside UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

He said on his second trip, the focus was on emphasizing how "humanitarian pauses could be beneficial in getting hostages out, getting more assistance in."

"Well, shortly after we left that's also what happened," he said. 

On his most recent trip to Israel last week, Blinken stressed the need to protect civilians and pressed the Israeli government not to carry out its offensive in south Gaza in the same way it did in the north. He also stressed the need for sustained humanitarian assistance.

"What we've seen over the initial days is some important additional steps in the direction of doing just that," Blinken said.

Still, the top US diplomat reiterated that there remains a gap between the "intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we're seeing on the ground."

5:39 p.m. ET, December 7, 2023

Border crossing between Israel and Gaza will open for inspecting aid trucks in the coming days, official says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Israel says it will open the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza for the inspection of aid trucks in the "next few days" as the United Nation's aid chief hailed the "promising signs" pointing toward this development. 

Col. Elad Goren made the announcement during a news briefing Thursday organized by Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, more commonly known as COGAT. 

He did not specify whether the trucks will be allowed to travel to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing itself after the inspection or whether they will need to travel through the Rafah crossing in Egypt, which is already being used to facilitate aid deliveries. 

"We will open Kerem Shalom just for inspection. It will happen in the next few days," Goren said. 

Goren, who is head of the Civil Department at COGAT, said it would be essential to open the crossing if Israel wanted to inspect more than 200 trucks a day bound for Gaza. 

A few hours later, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told a briefing in Geneva that there are "promising signs" indicating that the much-debated crossing would "be able to open soon." 

Griffiths also did not provide any details regarding what role exactly the crossing would perform if opened. 

The UN has been calling for several weeks for the crossing to be opened, saying it would facilitate deliveries of more vital humanitarian aid to Gaza.