November 23, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Rob Picheta, Thom Poole and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 12:06 a.m. ET, November 24, 2023
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11:49 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

Our live coverage of the Israel-Hamas war has moved here.

10:03 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

More than 14,800 people killed in Gaza, Hamas health authorities say

From CNN's Andrew Carey, Lucas Lilieholm and Eyad Kourdi

Smoke billows after an Israeli strike as flares are dropped over northern Gaza on November 22.
Smoke billows after an Israeli strike as flares are dropped over northern Gaza on November 22. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

The number of people killed in Gaza from Israeli attacks since October 7 now stands at 14,854, including 5,850 children, according to information from Hamas authorities in the strip.

Getting up-to-date information on the number of fatalities in Gaza has become harder as Israel’s massive air and ground campaign grinds on.

On Monday, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah, which takes its data from hospitals and other sources in the Gaza Strip, put the number killed at 12,700.

In health updates since then, the Ramallah-based ministry said serious disruptions to communications networks in Gaza have made its own efforts at accurate data collection impossible.

The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which collects and audits data from across the occupied Palestinian territories, has continued to cite the figures originating from Gaza.

On Wednesday, UN OCHA chief Martin Griffiths told CNN the UN stood by its use of statistics from the Health Ministry in Gaza, saying his team had “triangulated [the numbers] over the years to make sure we feel confident about them.”

“We don’t put these figures out without thought,” he said.

9:01 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

Netanyahu adviser highlights fragility of hostage agreement: "Keeping my fingers crossed"

From CNN staff

A senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the fragility of the hostage agreement with Hamas, saying he is keeping his "fingers crossed" it will go ahead.

Some context: A truce between Israel and Hamas is scheduled to begin Friday at 7 a.m. local time (midnight ET), with 13 civilian hostages to be released by Hamas hours later, according to key deal negotiator Qatar. More will follow, with a total of 50 hostages expected to be freed over four days, while Palestinian prisoners are also released in waves.

“Like (US President Joe) Biden, I think Israelis are keeping their fingers crossed that this will, in fact, happen, and we’ll see 13 Israelis returned tomorrow. That’s our hope. But we have to wait and see. We know who we’re dealing with. Hamas is a brutal, ruthless terrorist organization and we have to be ready for things that are unexpected," Mark Regev, senior advisor to Netanyahu, said on CNN's The Situation Room.

The hostage release was initially supposed to take place Thursday but was delayed until Friday. Regev said he couldn't "go into the details" of why the plan was pushed back by a day.

"All I can say is that I’m hopeful that it will happen tomorrow. Like President Biden, I’m keeping my fingers crossed," Regev said.

Asked how confident he was that this will be the beginning of at least 50 Israeli hostages coming home, Regev said: "That’s the understanding reached. And that’s what we’re hoping for. Though it’s bittersweet, because if we get 50 home, there’s still 190 in Hamas captivity being held hostage and, of course, we want them all home."

When pressed on whether he had confidence the deal would ultimately work, Regev said, "I don't have a lot of confidence."

"But because Hamas has been under military pressure, we've been hitting their machine, we've been hitting their commanders, we've been eliminating their top military commanders, they're under pressure. They want this time-out," he said, adding that such a truce was a "calculated risk."
8:26 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

"The people of Gaza are tired," say Palestinians in the shattered enclave ahead of truce

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Andrew Carey

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza, on November 22.
Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza, on November 22. Hatem Ali/AP

Palestinians in Deir Al Balah, in the center of the Gaza Strip, expressed hope for an end to the hostilities ahead of an expected truce beginning Friday.

"We hope for a truce, we are tired. The people of Gaza are tired,” said one woman who had fled south from Gaza City, the focus of Israel’s massive air and ground campaign.

“We will no longer hear the sound of aircraft and of bombardment. We will be able to sit in safety,” she told CNN, expressing hope that a pause in the fighting would hold.

A man told CNN he had fled to Deir Al Balah from the Al Shati refugee camp, located just north of Gaza City. He, too, said he wanted an end to the constant state of anxiety.

“[A truce] will be a good beginning, and the fear in us will go away,” he said.

All the people CNN spoke to talked on condition of anonymity.

Another man similarly addressed the mental respite a truce would provide.

"If there is a truce, we will be mentally relieved; the truce is a mental comfort,” he said.

A third man told CNN he hoped the truce would see an increase in aid entering the Strip — as the terms of the agreement lay out — as well as the restoration of electricity.

He expressed hope the four-day pause would become something permanent and that the war would end.

“We hope they will reach an agreement and that it will be an agreement that allows us to hold our head high,” he said.

8:09 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

Who is expected to be released tomorrow and how might the exchange look? Here's the latest

From CNN staff

Families and friends of hostages held in Gaza call for Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on November 21.
Families and friends of hostages held in Gaza call for Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on November 21. Ariel Schalit/AP

In the first release of Hamas' hostages held in Gaza, scheduled for Friday afternoon local time, 13 women and children will be freed, according to a spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry, Majed Al-Ansari.

Al-Ansari could not provide details on who the hostages are, nor could he provide details on the route they might take due to safety reasons. However, many of the first 50 hostages are expected to come out through Egypt.

The Israeli government said their families and the families of hostages who will not be released had been notified. Al-Ansari also revealed that hostages from the same families will be released together in the first group.

Meanwhile, an Israeli official tells CNN a total of 39 Palestinian prisoners will be released Friday as part of the deal.

The prisoners will be taken from two jails — Damon and Megiddo, both southeast of Haifa — and driven to the Ofer prison, south of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, for final checks by the Red Cross.

Women and male teenagers up to the age of 18 are expected to make up the released prisoners.

The timing of the release is unclear, but the Israeli official said the prisoners would not be freed until the hostages from Gaza are back in Israeli hands.

Here's what else you should know this Thursday:

Two more months of fighting: Israel's defense minister says he expects the military operation against Hamas will continue "forcefully" after the brief truce, for at least two months.

No names of Palestinian prisoners: A Palestinian official told CNN he has not yet received a list of names of those expected to be released from Israeli prisons on Friday.

Biden hopeful 3-year-old American freed: US President Joe Biden said he has his "fingers crossed" that a 3-year-old American girl held hostage by Hamas will be freed on Friday. But he said he will not provide further updates until the deal is finished.

US will contact American hostage families: The US will contact family members of American hostages who are freed from Gaza "after we have confirmation they are departing Gaza,” a US official said.

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel: Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired 48 rockets at the headquarters of an Israeli infantry unit at Ein Zeitim military base earlier Thursday. In a statement, Hezbollah said it also fired a guided missile at Israeli Merkava tanks located near Al-Raheb, near the Israeli town of Shtula, and targeted Israeli infantry forces in the area.

The Israel Defense Forces said it "intercepted a number of the launches," and later confirmed that it used helicopters and fighter jets to strike Hezbollah infrastructure and rocket launch sites in Lebanon, in response to the militant group's attacks.

Medical aid group says 80 aid trucks entered Gaza from Egypt: The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) says it received 80 trucks that entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing on Thursday. The trucks brought food, water, medical equipment, medications and general relief equipment into Gaza, the PRCS said.

A large convoy of aid trucks is lined up at the Rafah border crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border — on standby for when a pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas begins. The United Nations anticipates that aid trucks will move into the strip “immediately” after the Israel-Hamas truce commences, an official told CNN on Thursday.  

5:21 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

Hamas naval commander killed, Israel claims

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel and Andrew Carey

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said a commander of Hamas' naval forces was killed Thursday in an airstrike in Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza. 

“Amar Abu Jalalah was a senior operative in Hamas’ naval forces and involved in directing several terror attacks by sea that were thwarted by the IDF,” the IDF statement read.

Another member of Hamas’ naval forces was also killed in the strike, the military said.

Israel believes it is having some success in removing senior Hamas military operatives, which a senior IDF official discussed with journalists earlier this week. 

Israel's assessment suggested the military wing of Hamas was made up of 24 battalions, 10 of which had been “hurt significantly” by Israeli strikes since October 7, the official said.

Some battalions in the north of Gaza lost more than four of their commanders, the official said, representing a loss to those battalions of more than half their senior command. 

Among other things, this made it harder for the military leadership of Hamas to issue orders for counterattacks, the official said, because there was increasingly no one available to direct operations.

Replacing commanders in the middle of a war was not possible, the official added.

5:33 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

Doctors hope truce could help facilitate proper evacuation as heavy strikes hit northern Gaza

From CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, Florence Davey-Attlee, Kareem Khadder and Tim Lister

Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalati, head of plastic surgery and burns at Al-Shifa Hospital, speaks in a video on November 7.
Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalati, head of plastic surgery and burns at Al-Shifa Hospital, speaks in a video on November 7. Reuters

One of the very few medical staff members still at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza has told CNN heavy airstrikes are creating even deeper challenges for evacuating staff and patients.

Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalati said there were still hundreds of people at the hospital, describing the situation as "really terrifying here."

"It's a really horrible situation. Currently we are around 200 patients, maybe 250 family members or relatives of the patients, and only a few staff."

Mokhallalati, who is head of plastic surgery and burns at Al-Shifa, said he was one of only two doctors at the hospital, which has seen an extensive presence of the Israeli military for more than a week.

The Israel Defense Forces have reported uncovering extensive tunnel networks used by Hamas at the hospital, whose director was detained Wednesday while in a United Nations-led convoy heading south.

Mokhallalati said the last evacuation was supposed to be on Wednesday for the remaining patients. “Unfortunately, Israel allowed the WHO and the UN to get only 14 ambulances and two buses with 20 passengers each,” he said.

Mokhallalati said the IDF had repeatedly demanded the hospital be evacuated, but he had insisted that was not possible without ambulances, as many of the patients had severe back injuries, including spinal fractures. “These patients, at least 57 of them, they should be on a stretcher,” he told CNN.

Twenty patients in wheelchairs had decided to leave the hospital on their own Thursday, he said, along with approximately 50 family members. Another 50 people who had been staying at the hospital had also left. 

Mokhallalati said that for maybe 10 days the hospital has had no electricity, no water, drinking water or fresh food. Those still there were getting by on tinned food.

Mokhallalati said the truce due to begin at 7 a.m. local time Friday was “the only hope to evacuate the patients in a proper way.”

"We should be clear and say (Al-Shifa) is no more a place to help patients. So we should leave it," he said. "I hope by tomorrow morning we'll be able to leave Al-Shifa and evacuate the patients."
3:24 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

Israeli official confirms expected release of 39 Palestinian prisoners

From CNN's Matthew Chance 

Thirty-nine Palestinian prisoners will be released Friday as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of hostages from Gaza, an Israeli official has told CNN.

The prisoners will be taken from two jails — Damon and Megiddo, both southeast of Haifa — and driven to the Ofer prison, south of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, for final checks by the Red Cross.

From there they will be driven through the nearby Beitunia crossing point and on to their hometowns and villages in the West Bank.

Women and male teenagers up to the age of 18 are expected to make up the released prisoners.

The timing of the release is unclear, but the Israeli official said the prisoners would not be freed until the hostages from Gaza are back in Israeli hands.

Those hostages — which CNN has already reported number 13 women and children — are expected to be released at 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET).

The official said the hostages will enter Israel at two locations, the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt, and directly via the Kerem Shalom crossing from Gaza.

Once back on Israeli territory, the freed hostages will be taken by helicopter to two hospitals close to Tel Aviv, the official added.

3:31 p.m. ET, November 23, 2023

Israel expects at least 2 more months of fighting against Hamas, defense minister says

From CNN's Tamar Michaelis in Tel Aviv

Smoke from Gaza City fills the sky in the distance as an Israeli tank heads towards Gaza, on November 22, in Southern Israel.
Smoke from Gaza City fills the sky in the distance as an Israeli tank heads towards Gaza, on November 22, in Southern Israel. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Israel’s military operation against Hamas will continue “forcefully” after the brief truce beginning Friday, and that the fighting is expected to go on for at least two more months. 

"This will be a brief pause. When it ends, the fighting will continue forcefully, and will create pressure that will allow the return of more hostages," Gallant said while visiting Israeli troops on Thursday.

"A fighting of at least two more months is expected," he added.

A tenuous agreement: The Israeli military has said the hostage handover process will be “complicated,” warning there could be changes in the deal at any moment.   

“Nothing is finalized until it’s actually happening. And even amid the process, changes might occur at any moment,” Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in his daily media briefing Thursday.   

He said the Israeli army continues to fight in the Gaza Strip "at this hour," pointing out that once the pause goes into effect, the IDF soldiers will be stationed along the “truce lines” established inside the strip. 

The truce line effectively keeps Israeli troops in northern Gaza, and they won't move south during the pause in fighting, an IDF spokesperson told CNN.

This post has been updated with comments from an Israeli military spokesperson on the state of the hostage deal and fighting in Gaza.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond in Sderot and Sugam Pokharel in London contributed reporting to this post.