This live coverage has now ended. Find the latest up-to-date information on the Israel-Hamas war here.
Israel-Hamas war day 21
Israeli forces conducted another ground raid in Gaza in advance of an expected invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory that the country’s defense minister said would come soon. Internet connectivity in the Gaza Strip has collapsed after heavy Israeli bombardment, a Palestinian service provider said.
U.S. warplanes, meanwhile, struck targets in eastern Syria after attacks on U.S. forces by Iran-backed fighters, adding to regional tensions fueled by the three-week-old Gaza war.
The Palestinian death toll passed 7,300, the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said. In the occupied West Bank, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids since Oct. 7.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians. In addition, 229 people were taken by Hamas during the incursion and remain in captivity in Gaza.
- Israeli military intensifies attacks on Gaza, expands ground operations after phone and internet connections cut
- In Cyprus, Canadian soldiers await potential orders for evacuation of citizens in Lebanon
- In Israel, survivors of Hamas massacre grapple with new realities and traumatic memories
- At least 27 journalists killed in Israel-Hamas war, press-freedom group says
- After Hamas visit to Moscow, Israel wonders how Kremlin will use its influence
Follow our live coverage below
10:54 p.m. ET
Hamas vows ‘full force’ after Israel steps up Gaza ground operations
JERUSALEM — Hamas said on Saturday its militants in Gaza were ready to confront Israeli attacks with “full force” after Israel’s military widened its air and ground attacks on the Palestinian enclave.
The Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza said earlier its fighters were clashing with Israeli troops in areas near the border with Israel after Israel reported intensified attacks in Gaza.
“In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight,” Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a televised news briefing on Friday evening, raising the question of whether a long-anticipated ground invasion of Gaza might be starting.
He said Israel’s air force was conducting extensive strikes on tunnels dug by Hamas and on other infrastructure.
The armed wing of Hamas said late on Friday its fighters were clashing with Israeli troops in Gaza’s northeastern town of Beit Hanoun and in the central area of Al-Bureij.
“The Al-Qassam brigades and all the Palestinian resistance forces are completely ready to confront (Israel’s) aggression with full force and frustrate its incursions,” Hamas said in a statement early on Saturday.
“Netanyahu and his defeated army will not be able to achieve any military victory,” referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli ground forces had massed outside Gaza, where Israel has been conducting an intense campaign of aerial bombardment since an Oct. 7 attack by hundreds of Hamas gunmen on Israeli communities near the strip. Israel says 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 200 taken hostage, some of them foreign nationals or with dual Israeli nationality.
Since then, Palestinian health authorities say, Israeli bombing has killed more than 7,000 Palestinians.
Al Jazeera, which was broadcasting live footage overnight showing frequent blasts in Gaza, said Israeli air strikes had hit areas around the enclave’s main hospital.
Reuters could not verify the reports of the strikes near Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Israel’s military accused Hamas on Friday of using the hospital as a shield for its tunnels and operational centers, an allegation the group denied.
10:11 p.m. ET
U.S. defense secretary underscored protection of civilians in Gaza in call with Israeli counterpart
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a call with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, “underscored the importance of protecting civilians” during operations in Gaza, the Pentagon said on Friday.
9:50 p.m. ET
UN General Assembly calls for ‘humanitarian truce’ in Gaza leading to halt in Israel-Hamas fighting
The U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution on Friday calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
It was the first U.N. response to Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and Israel’s ongoing military response and vow to obliterate Hamas.
The 193-member world body adopted the resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions after rejecting a Canadian amendment backed by the United States to unequivocally condemn the “terrorist attacks” by Hamas and demand the immediate release of hostages taken by the militant group.
– The Associated Press
9:33 p.m. ET
Explosions shatter night sky over Gaza as Israel expands bombing
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The dull orange glow of Israeli flares shone in the night sky over Gaza, slowly descending through the haze to illuminate targets for warplanes before eventually flickering out, plunging the scene back into darkness.
Multiple explosions from Israeli airstrikes tore into northern Gaza on Friday, quick flashes of bright orange silhouetted against the rooftops of Palestinian apartments and refugee camps. The sharp crunching sound of the bombs followed each time, seconds later, one after another.
Overhead, the buzz of Israeli military drones cut through, growing quieter and louder as the crafts circled the airspace overhead.
For most Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip, their world has shrunk to these few sounds and colors.
Israel dramatically ramped up its bombardment Friday after knocking out internet and communication in Gaza, largely cutting off the tiny besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from contact with each other and the outside world.
– The Associated Press
8:10 p.m. ET
Three weeks after the mass killings and abductions by Hamas gunmen that devastated southern Israel, the families of the hostages still held in Gaza are an increasingly angry and vocal political force.
More than 220 hostages are believed to be imprisoned by Hamas in tunnels and other hiding places in the Gaza Strip. Efforts to release them have made little progress. Only four hostages have been freed so far, and the families of those who remain in captivity are losing patience with the government’s failure to secure their release.
7:36 p.m. ET
Authorities, aid workers and security officials in Cyprus are bracing themselves for larger numbers of asylum seekers, nervous about the prospect of war breaking out in Lebanon and the refugee crisis that could bring to their shores.
“It’s inevitable, because of our location and because the route, especially to Syrians, is familiar,” said Anna Maria Poullou, an asylum service officer at Pournara Camp.
“We are expecting more to come.”
More than a million asylum seekers have already fled war-torn Syria for Europe. Another 1.5 million now live in Lebanon, where most live in conditions of extreme poverty but have been kept from leaving, in part by the vigilance of the country’s Coast Guard.
If war breaks out, however, few expect Lebanon to maintain a focus on migrants, opening a way out. Some already want to leave Lebanon. If “people have to leave bombing, too, that’s a whole different ball game,” said Elizabeth Kassinis, executive manager of Caritas Cyprus, the local arm of the Catholic relief organization.
When Israel launched a 34-day war with Hezbollah militants in 2006, those seeking safety could cross into Syria. That is unlikely to be a desirable destination in 2023, however, after years of devastating war in Syria.
That leaves Cyprus as one of the nearest options for safety.
6:38 p.m. ET
Press group says past three weeks have been deadliest period for journalists covering conflict
NEW YORK — The Committee to Protect Journalists says the past three weeks have been the deadliest on record for journalists covering conflict since the organization started tracking in 1992.
The organization said in a statement Friday that at least 29 journalists have died covering the Israel-Hamas war since it ignited Oct. 7, including 24 Palestinians, four Israelis and one Lebanese. Additionally, eight other journalists were reported injured and nine were reported missing or detained.
CPJ also criticized the cutting of communications services in the Gaza Strip, warning that the blackout is also a “news blackout” that has compromised the public’s ability to “know and understand what is happening in this conflict.”
“This can lead to serious consequences with an independent, factual information vacuum that can be filled with deadly propaganda, dis- and misinformation,” it said.
The organization stressed that journalists are civilians that must be respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law, adding that “deliberating targeting journalists or media infrastructure constitutes possible war crimes.”
– The Associated Press
5:55 p.m. ET
UN leaders say they cannot reach staff in Gaza
“We have lost touch with our colleagues in Gaza,” Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s Executive Director, wrote on X.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, wrote on X that his organization has lost touch with workers in Gaza.
“Gaza has lost contact with the outside world amid reports of intensified bombardment,” Lynn Hastings, the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Palestine, wrote on X.
Israeli military intensifies attacks on Gaza, expands ground operations after phone and internet connections cut
JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said on Friday that it was “expanding” ground operations in the Gaza Strip, almost exactly three weeks after Hamas militants launched a murderous attack on southern Israel.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Israeli incursion marked the start of the long-expected invasion of Gaza, but Palestinian sources said Friday also saw the heaviest Israeli air attacks since the start of the conflict.
“In the last hours, we intensified the attacks in Gaza,” Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised briefing as the barrage escalated. “In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight, acting forcefully in all dimensions to achieve the goals of the war.”
‘This war has to stop,’ Palestinian UN envoy says after resolution calling for humanitarian truce passes
“It sends the message to everyone enough is enough. This war has to stop, the carnage against our people has to stop and humanitarian assistance should begin to enter the Gaza Strip,” Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters.
Israel’s UN envoy says UN holds no legitimacy following humanitarian truce resolution
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan rejected the resolution, saying the U.N. no longer holds any legitimacy or relevance and accused those who voted yes of preferring to support “the defense of Nazi terrorists” instead of Israel.
“This ridiculous resolution has the audacity to call for truce. The goal of this resolution truce is that Israel should cease to defend itself to Hamas, so Hamas can light us on fire,” he told the General Assembly after the vote.
UN overwhelmingly calls for Israel-Hamas humanitarian truce
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations General Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly called for an immediate humanitarian truce between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas and demanded aid access to the besieged Gaza Strip and protection of civilians.
The resolution drafted by Arab states is not binding but carries political weight, taking the global temperature as Israel steps up ground operations in Gaza in retaliation for the worst Hamas attack on civilians in Israel’s 75-year-old history on Oct. 7.
It passed to a round of applause with 120 votes in favor, while 45 abstained and 14 – including Israel and the United States – voted no. The General Assembly voted after the Security Council failed four times in the past two weeks to take action.
A two-thirds majority was needed for the resolution to pass, in which abstentions do not count.
A Canadian-led bid to amend the resolution to include a rejection and condemnation of the “terrorist attacks by Hamas ... and the taking of hostages” failed to get the two thirds majority needed, garnering 88 votes in favor, 55 against and 23 abstentions.
Ahead of the vote, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that voting against the General Assembly resolution “means approving this senseless war, this senseless killing.”
“Millions will be watching every vote. History will judge,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
U.S. is ‘not drawing red lines for Israel,’ White House’s John Kirby says
WASHINGTON — White House National Security spokesman John Kirby repeatedly refused to comment on Israel saying its ground forces were expanding activity in Gaza and also refused to comment on what a satisfactory long-term objective might be for the fighting.
“We’re not drawing red lines for Israel,” Kirby said Friday on a call with reporters. “We’re going to continue to support them” but “since the very beginning we have, and will continue to have, conversations about the manner that they are doing this.”
Kirby said the U.S. is still evaluating the impact of airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias and “we will not hesitate to take further actions in our own self-defense.”
He also said 10 additional trucks filled with humanitarian aid had made it to Gaza, bringing the total to 84, but that the U.S. is aware that fuel there “is only anticipated to last a couple of days.”
The White House previously said President Joe Biden was briefed Friday morning by hist national security team on the latest developments in Israel and Gaza.
– The Associated Press
‘Israel is opposed to a humanitarian pause or ceasefire at this time,’ country’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson says
Israel is rejecting calls for respite in Gaza as its closest allies in the West have coalesced around the idea of “humanitarian pauses,” or temporary stops to the bombardment.
Growing international distress at the conditions for 2.3 million people trapped under the heaviest air strikes Israel has ever unleashed on the Mediterranean enclave led major powers this week to call on Israel to allow such pauses to get aid in and Israeli hostages held by Islamist militant group Hamas out.
The issue has opened the first public split between Israel and backers including the United States, the EU, UK and other G7 members such as Japan over the campaign after tight alignment and support in the nearly three weeks since Hamas militants burst from Gaza into southern Israel on a deadly rampage.
“Israel is opposed to a humanitarian pause or ceasefire at this time,” Lior Haiat, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said on Friday, while a senior Israeli official said calls for a pause in fighting appeared in “poor faith.”
The chorus of appeals for a pause followed days of intense diplomacy at U.N. headquarters in New York and in Brussels, and was a compromise between those, such as Spain, who wanted to push Israel to call a ceasefire, and those who say Israel’s right to self defence was foremost.
Efforts were under way bilaterally and at the U.N. to urge Israel to allow some form of pause, Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa told reporters on Friday.
“I welcome the growing global consensus for a humanitarian pause in the conflict. I repeat my call for a humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the delivery of life-saving supplies at the scale needed,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Friday.
For the moment, a respite from the hostilities appears distant as Israel intensified ground and air operations on Friday.
U.S.-led discussions among Egypt, Israel and the U.N. on improving aid access through the Rafah border crossing were currently the main focus, one EU official said. A White House official confirmed the talks and said they also were seeking agreement by Israel to allow fuel vital for hospitals.
Agreement on these points could lead to more focus on lowering the violence in southern Gaza to let aid enter, the EU official said.
An average of 12 trucks a day have entered Gaza in recent days, down from 500 a day prior to the conflict, Guterres said on Friday.
Israel says any respite from fighting benefits Hamas, which it is determined to destroy, and which it says diverts aid such water, fuel, food and medicine to its fighters.
“A ceasefire means giving Hamas time to rearm itself, so they can massacre us again,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan told the General Assembly on Thursday, calling it “an attempt to tie Israel’s hands.”
A non-binding resolution at the U.N. General Assembly, drafted by Arab states and due to be voted on by all 193 member countries on Friday, calls for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.”
Earlier on Friday, a Hamas official said the group, which has freed four captives so far, intended to release civilian Israeli hostages but made this contingent on a ceasefire.
3:30 p.m. ET
‘Our emergency line is down so people are literally not able to call an ambulance,’ aid worker says of communications blackout in Gaza Strip
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Aid groups say the communications blackout in the Gaza Strip has not only left them unable to contact their staff, but has also impeded their operations in the territory.
“It doesn’t only mean that Gaza is isolated from the world but also it means people can’t connect to each other. Our emergency line is down so people are literally not able to call an ambulance,” said Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent. “We are extremely worried because we are completely cut off from our teams.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross also said it’s currently unable to reach its staff in Gaza.
“We are deeply worried for their safety and the safety of all civilians where hostilities are taking place. Without access to information in a communication blackout, people don’t know where to go for safety,” the organization said in a statement. “Blackouts impede humanitarian and medical personnel from working safely and effectively.”
– The Associated Press
2:41 p.m. ET
U.S. supports pause in Israeli military operations to get humanitarian aid to Gaza
WASHINGTON — Ten additional aid trucks have gotten into Gaza amid Israel’s aerial bombardment but more fuel is needed, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Friday.
Mr. Kirby also said he has seen reports about Israel expanding its ground operations in Gaza but would not comment on that.
The United States supports a pause in Israeli military operations in Gaza to get humanitarian aid, fuel and electricity to civilians there, Mr. Kirby said.
Mr. Kirby also said that if getting hostages out of Gaza requires a localized temporary pause, then the United States is in support of that.
2:15 p.m. ET
Red Cross says internet and mobile phone services cut off in Gaza Strip
Internet and mobile phone services were cut off in the Gaza Strip, a local telecoms firm and the Red Cross said.
Earlier on Friday, Palestinian mobile phone service provider Jawwal said that services including phone and internet had been cut by heavy bombardment.
A statement from the Palestine Red Crescent Society said it had completely lost contact with its operations room in Gaza and all its teams operating on the ground.
2:15 p.m. ET
Israeli ground forces ‘expanding their activity’ in Gaza Strip, Israeli military says
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military on Friday said its ground forces were “expanding their activity” in the Gaza Strip, as the army moved closer to a full-on ground invasion of the besieged territory.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the army’s spokesman, said aerial attacks had been targeting Hamas tunnels and other targets.
“In addition to the attacks that we carried out in recent days, ground forces are expanding their activity this evening,” he said. “The IDF is acting with great force ... to achieve the objectives of the war.”
Israel has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops along the border with Gaza ahead of an expected ground offensive against the Hamas militant group.
– The Associated Press
1:54 p.m. ET
Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations is expected to speak later today about a UN effort to establish a temporary pause in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Bob Rae will take the podium on Day 2 of a special emergency session of the UN General Assembly as delegates debate a draft resolution calling for a pause in hostilities.
The resolution also calls on the two sides to comply with international humanitarian law and to allow essential supplies and services into the war-torn region.
Canada is also proposing an amendment to the resolution that would expressly condemn the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that triggered the latest crisis.
– The Canadian Press
1:32 p.m. ET
Israeli military expanding operations tonight, spokesman says
An Israeli military spokesman said ground forces are expanding their operations tonight. Israel is committed to the national task of returning hostages, the spokesman said. All residents of Gaza City should move south, the spokesman said.
1:30 p.m. ET
Netanyahu only keeps job as Israel’s PM if he presides over near-perfect military operation in Gaza, analysts say
Three weeks on from the shocking Hamas attacks on southern Israel, Gazans, the wider Middle East and a watching world are still waiting to see the extent of Israel’s retribution.
The man who will decide what happens next, and when, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a wildly divisive figure who is distrusted by a large majority of the Israeli public – and was also at odds with his country’s military leaders right until the moment the war broke out.
Polls show Israelis have little faith in the long-ruling Mr. Netanyahu – who fashioned himself as a security-first leader, only to preside over Israel’s biggest security failure in decades when Hamas militants invaded the country on Oct. 7, abducted more than 200 people and killed more than 1,400. Analysts say the only way Mr. Netanyahu can keep his job after the war is to preside over a near-perfect military operation in Hamas-ruled Gaza that somehow brings all the hostages home with minimal new Israeli casualties.
12:55 p.m. ET
Internet connectivity has collapsed in Gaza Strip
Internet connectivity in the Gaza Strip has broken down, the Netblocks internet observatory said on Friday.
“Live network data show a collapse in connectivity in the Gaza Strip (...) amid reports of heavy bombardment”, the observatory said.
Palestinian Jawwal Mobile provider says there no mobile phone service or internet in Gaza Strip due to heavy bombardment.
– The Associated Press and Reuters
12:45 p.m. ET
Turkey’s foreign minister calls on Israel to ‘heed Turkey’s call for peace’
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan appealed to Israel on Friday to “heed Turkey’s call for peace,” warning that the country could find itself in a growing spiral of violence.
Speaking during a joint news conference with Denmark’s foreign minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Fidan said: “Humanity is at a crossroads. Either there will be a great war that will spread all over the world, or a great peace will emerge.”
Fidan continued: “Ignoring the existence of the Palestinians, ignoring the rights of the Palestinians, and applying pressure and cruelty to the Palestinians have not — and will not — bring peace to Israel. If Israel wants to be in peace and security, it must respect the right of the Palestinians to live their own state on their own land.”
Rasmussen defined Hamas as a terrorist organization in an apparent rebuke of Turkish President Recep Tayyip who earlier this week described the militant group as “liberation fighters.”
Fidan said Turkey regards Hamas as a political party “that is part of the Palestinian state system,” but added that this did not mean that Ankara “accepts the killing of civilians.”
– The Associated Press
12:30 p.m. ET
UN General Assembly to vote on resolution calling for a ‘humanitarian truce’
The U.N. General Assembly has scheduled a vote on a resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cease-fire of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Ayman Safadi, speaking on behalf of the U.N.’s 22-nation Arab group which drafted the resolution, called for a 3 p.m. EDT vote Friday, before all 112 speakers get to the assembly’s rostrum, because of the urgency of taking action.
The Arab group is seeking action by the 193-member world body because of the failure of the more powerful 15-member U.N. Security Council to agree on a resolution after four attempts.
Unlike the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly so the resolution is certain to be adopted. But while council resolutions are legally binding, assembly resolutions are not. They do, however, serve as an important barometer of world opinion.
– The Associated Press
11:55 a.m. ET
Palestinians restricted from praying at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH – Israeli security forces restricted young Palestinians from entering Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem for prayers on Friday and deployed in strength across the Old City and beyond to quell any unrest spilling over from the conflict in Gaza.
Large numbers of Israeli police kept guard around Al-Aqsa, a perennial flashpoint and often the scene of clashes, as Palestinians gathered for Friday prayers, Reuters journalists said. At one point they fired tear gas.
It was the third week in row that Palestinians have been restricted from praying at the mosque following the Hamas assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7 and the ensuing Israeli bombardment and siege of Hamas-ruled Gaza.
They were made to say prayers outside the Old City, gathering by roadsides while Israeli security forces watched.
Eventually about 5,000 elderly worshippers were allowed to enter. The authority in charge of the mosque, the Jerusalem Islamic Endowments Department, said that normally about 50,000 would take part.
The mosque is situated on a hill known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as The Noble Sanctuary.
11:12 a.m. ET
Pre-dawn air strike brings more death, destruction to a Gaza neighbourhood
KHAN YOUNIS – An early morning air strike killed at least two people in a Gaza neighbourhood where several homes were damaged or destroyed.
The blast rocked Khan Younis hours before dawn, said Yasser Abu al-Arraj, who ran next door to pull a mother, daughter and a son, who was one of those killed, from the wreckage.
“May God avenge us from (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu,” Abu al-Arraj said.
Chunks of concrete, clothing and broken furniture littered the street outside a home where the first floor remained standing.
A woman who survived the attack gestured toward a pile of cinder blocks that had toppled, saying she and the 19 others who survived had to search for each other through a cloud of dust. Nine children huddled on cushions on the other side of the room.
“People of Gaza are being shattered,” she said. “I can’t believe that my kids came out of this alive.”
Boys outside picked through the sea of rubble, looking for anything that could be salvaged.
At another house that was damaged, Soaad Abdulahadi said she had been having breakfast with her children when the ceiling started to collapse.
“We just saw the house falling over our heads,” Abdulahadi said. “Half of them (my family) are in the hospital and the other half are displaced. This is our house, where should we go now?”
– The Associated Press
10:55 a.m. ET
Emergency EU oil meeting focused on securing diesel supply
European Union officials discussed diversifying oil stocks and creating a buffer for diesel and gas oil during an emergency meeting of the bloc’s oil co-ordination group, one told Reuters.
Friday’s meeting was called by the EU commissioner for energy Kadri Simson to assess potential supply risks in case the Israel-Hamas conflict triggers a broader regional one.
“Oil is important. Not enough diesel could lead to strikes. We don’t want our trucks queuing for diesel,” the official said, adding: “Is this a 1973 moment or not?”
This month’s conflict in Gaza has revived memories of the 1973 oil shock during the Yom Kippur War, when the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) slapped an oil embargo on western supporters of Israel, triggering fuel shortages.
The meeting of the EU’s oil co-ordination group concluded that the risks are much lower than 50 years ago as Europe only relies on oil for about 30 per cent of its energy mix, although Saudi Arabia is one of its top three suppliers, the official said.
“A possible crisis would have an immediate impact on price but it’s less of a security of supply risk, though the market is very tight because of OPEC+ cuts, tightness should ease in 2024,” the official added.
“The Middle East route is still of significant importance for Europe … 20 million bpd (barrels per day) goes through Hormuz. It is a real choke point,” the official said.
Each day around a fifth of daily global demand is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. Western powers are nervous of an escalation that could lead to a blockade or increase the dangers of sailing through the narrow passage, where Iran has attacked and seized tankers in the past.
10:10 a.m. ET
Qatar told U.S. it is open to reconsidering Hamas presence, U.S. official says
Qatar told the U.S. it was open to reconsidering the presence of Hamas in Qatar once a crisis is resolved to secure the release of scores of hostages taken to Gaza by the Palestinian militant group, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.
The understanding, first reported by the Washington Post, was reached at a meeting in Doha this month between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the official said.
There was no immediate response from Qatari officials to the news on Friday.
The Gulf state, in co-ordination with the U.S., is leading mediation talks with Hamas and Israeli officials over the release of more than 200 hostages captured in the Palestinian group’s Oct. 7 cross-border attack.
The wealthy gas-producer country has brought about the release of four hostages through its dialogue with both Israel and Hamas.
On Wednesday, Qatar’s prime minister said negotiations the Gulf Arab state was leading to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas were progressing and he was hopeful there would soon be a breakthrough.
9:17 a.m. ET
After Hamas visit to Moscow, Israel wonders how Kremlin will use its influence
A senior Hamas delegation spent Thursday in Moscow, leading to questions in Israel about how Russia intends to use its clout with the militant group.
Israel condemned the Moscow’s decision to host the three-man Hamas delegation, which was lead by Mousa Abu Marzook, one of the group’s founders and political leaders. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Russia’s hosting of Hamas was “a reprehensible step that gives support to terrorism and legitimacy to the horrific acts of Hamas.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it hosted Mr. Abu Marzouk, who is usually based in Qatar, in order to discuss “the immediate release of foreign hostages in the Gaza Strip, and issues related to ensuring the evacuation of Russian and other foreign citizens from the territory of the Palestinian enclave.” Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, was in Moscow at the same time, and reportedly also met with the Hamas delegation.
Iran is the main backer of both Hamas and the Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, which has also been exchanging blows with the Israeli military for the past three weeks, raising fears of a second war erupting on Israel’s northern border at the same time as it is already fighting with Hamas in the south.
Hamas has been holding more than 220 Israeli and foreign hostages since an Oct. 7 surprise attack on southern Israel that left more than 1,400 people dead, according to the Israeli government. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says more than 7,000 people have been killed since then by intense Israeli air strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, combined with a near-complete siege that has seen only a trickle of aid allowed to reach the territory’s 2.3 million residents.
“It seems that this is an intentional move in order to show, perhaps to Russian supporters in the Arab and Muslim world, that ‘Listen, we are different from the U.S. The U.S. is embracing Israel and we are embracing Hamas,’” said Ksenia Svetlova, a fellow at Mitvim, an Israeli foreign policy think tank. “This is something that I think is an insult to Israeli citizens who were killed – and many of them were from Russia originally.”
According to the Israeli government, 23 Russian citizens were killed on Oct. 7, and four others were taken hostage by Hamas.
Ms. Svetlova said Russia’s decision to host Hamas was particularly embarrassing for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stayed largely neutral throughout Russia’s 20-month-old invasion of Ukraine in order to maintain good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Netanyahu reportedly turned down an offer from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Israel and show solidarity in the wake of the Hamas attacks.
However, some Israeli analysts were hopeful that Russia might be able use its influence with Hamas to convince the militants to release some of the hostages.
“They’re shuffling the deck now by doing something the U.S. can’t do,” said Jerusalem-based pollster Mitchell Barak, referring to the Kremlin’s ability to speak to both sides in the Israel-Hamas war. Securing the release of a significant number of hostages “would be a shocking, amazing, diplomatic achievement for Russia,” Mr. Barak said. “It would benefit Putin geopolitically and in the region – and stick it in the eye of the U.S.”
A statement released by the Kremlin following deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s meeting with his Iranian counterpart said the two had discussed “the need for a cessation of hostilities in and around the Gaza Strip and the prompt provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected Palestinian population.” There was no mention of Israeli casualties, nor any condemnation of Hamas.
Mr. Putin has thus far said little about the Israel-Hamas war other than to call it “a clear example of the United States’ failed policy in the Middle East.”
– Mark MacKinnon in Jerusalem
8:57 a.m. ET
EU Council agrees to Spain’s Middle East peace conference proposal
MADRID – The Council of the European Union has accepted the Spanish proposal to hold a peace conference in about six months on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday.
Madrid holds the EU Council’s rotating presidency until the end of this year.
In a meeting of the bloc’s 27 governments, Spain had pressed for the EU to demand an immediate ceasefire, but the language was opposed by some countries, Sanchez told a news conference in Brussels.
He said that instead, the member states agreed to call for “humanitarian pauses” and the opening of aid corridors for the Gaza civilians, as a way to reach a consensus.
In exchange for the compromise, the bloc accepted Madrid’s peace conference proposal, which includes a renewed push for the two-state solution to the conflict, Sanchez said.
8:37 a.m. ET
Israel’s defence minister said Friday that it expects to launch a ground offensive into Gaza soon that will be long and difficult, and aim to destroy a vast network of tunnels used by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.
Yoav Gallant spoke to a small group of foreign reporters after Israeli forces backed by fighter jets and drones carried out a second ground raid into Gaza in as many days, striking the outskirts of Gaza City.
He said the ground invasion would include large forces, backed by air strikes, and “will take a long time,” without elaborating. He said it would be followed by a third phase of lower-intensity fighting, as Israel destroys “pockets of resistance.”
Hospitals have been scrounging for fuel to run emergency generators that power incubators and other life-saving equipment after Israel cut off all fuel deliveries to Gaza at the start of the war, forcing its only power plant to shut down. Only a trickle of food and medicine have been allowed in since the war began.
Gallant said Israel believes that Hamas would confiscate any fuel that enters. He said Hamas uses generators to pump air into its hundreds of kilometres (miles) of tunnels, which originate in civilian areas. He showed reporters aerial footage of what he said was a tunnel shaft built right next to a hospital.
“For air, they need oil. For oil, they need us,” he said.
Little is known about Hamas’ secretive tunnels and other infrastructure, and it wasn’t possible to independently confirm Gallant’s claims.
Lynne Hastings, the U.N. aid co-ordinator for the Palestinian territories, declined to comment on Gallant’s remarks, saying “we don’t know what Hamas has or doesn’t have.”
“We have been bringing fuel into Gaza in co-ordination with the government of Israel for decades. We know fuel is a high-risk item and are working with the Israelis to make sure what we will be using for our operations is done securely,” she said.
– The Associated Press
8:24 a.m. ET
Despite Biden’s doubts, humanitarian agencies consider Gaza death toll reliable as it rises to 7,326
U.S. President Joe Biden has cast doubt on casualty figures provided by Palestinian officials in Gaza, but international humanitarian agencies consider them broadly accurate and historically reliable.
Although there is no dispute that Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed many people since Hamas ran amok in southern Israel on Oct. 7, Biden said on Wednesday he had “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using,” without saying why.
The health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza responded by releasing a 212-page document containing the names and identity numbers of around 7,000 Palestinians it said had been killed in the Israeli bombardment of the enclave.
On Friday, the health ministry released an updated death toll, saying 7,326 Palestinians, including 3,038 children, have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7.
International groups, even some operating in Gaza, and global media including Reuters are not able to verify the figures but reporters have seen large numbers of bodies.
U.N. and other international agencies say there can be small discrepancies between the final casualty numbers and those reported by the Gaza health ministry straight after attacks, but that they broadly trust them.
“We continue to include their data in our reporting and it is clearly sourced,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement to Reuters.
Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the Geneva-based World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, said last week figures released by both sides “may not be perfectly accurate on a minute-to-minute basis, but they grossly reflect the level of death and injury on both sides of that conflict.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch also says the casualty figures have generally been reliable, and that it has not found big discrepancies in its verification of past strikes on Gaza.
7:52 a.m. ET
A trickle of aid gets into Gaza as ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ deepens
The International Committee of the Red Cross says that 10 of its staffers, including a combat surgery team, entered Gaza on Friday, along with six trucks of medical aid and water purification tablets.
The medical supplies are enough to treat between 1,000 and 5,000 people, the ICRC said, and the water purification tablets can treat 50,000 litres of water.
This crucial humanitarian assistance is a small dose of relief, but it’s not enough,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director. “Our surgical team and medical supplies will help relieve the extreme pressure on Gaza’s doctors and nurses. But safe, sustained humanitarian access is urgently needed.”
“This humanitarian catastrophe is deepening by the hour,” he said.
Meanwhile, UNESCO said that since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, more than 200 schools have been damaged in the Gaza Strip – around 40 per cent of all schools there.
– The Associated Press
7:47 a.m. ET
US puts new sanctions on Hamas, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard
WASHINGTON – The U.S. issued a second round of sanctions on the Palestinian group Hamas’ investment portfolio and people facilitating sanctions evasion by Hamas-affiliated companies.
A Gaza-based entity that Treasury said has served as a conduit for illicit Iranian funds to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group was also targeted, the department said. Iran backs Hamas and other militant groups in the Middle East.
“Today’s action underscores the United States’ commitment to dismantling Hamas’s funding networks by deploying our counterterrorism sanctions authorities and working with our global partners to deny Hamas the ability to exploit the international financial system,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the release.
Friday’s action freezes any U.S. assets of those targeted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit with sanctions.
7:34 a.m. ET
WHO cites reports of 1,000 unidentified bodies under Gaza rubble
GENEVA – A World Health Organization official said on Friday the agency had received estimates that some 1,000 unidentified bodies are still buried under the rubble in Gaza which are not yet included in death tolls.
“We also get these estimates that there are still 1,000 plus people under the rubble which have not been identified yet,” Richard Peeperkorn, WHO Representative for the occupied Palestinian territory, said in response to a question about the death toll in Gaza. He did not specify the source.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says that more than 7,000 people have been killed by Israeli bombardments in response to deadly cross-border attacks on Israel by Hamas gunmen on Oct. 7.
6:24 a.m. ET
Iran-backed fighters in Syria fire rockets at oil facility housing U.S. troops
BEIRUT – Syrian opposition activists say Iran-backed fighters fired rockets at an oil facility housing U.S. troops in eastern Syria.
The attack came hours after American fighter jets launched air strikes early Friday on two locations linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Pentagon said the strikes were in retaliation for a slew of drone and missile attacks against U.S. bases and personnel in the region that began early last week.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said six rockets hit al-Omar oil field in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. The Observatory said it wasn’t clear if there were any casualties.
The Observatory said the U.S. strikes earlier Friday wounded seven Iraqi Iran-backed fighters.
-The Associated Press
6:24 a.m. ET
Russia defends hosting Hamas official for talks
MOSCOW – The Kremlin dismissed criticism of a visit to Moscow by a senior Hamas figure, saying that Russia considers it necessary to maintain contacts with all warring parties.
Russia has tried to manoeuvre carefully over the Israel-Hamas war as it seeks to expand its global clout. The Israeli Foreign Ministry criticized Moscow for hosting Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, and urged Russia to expel him.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it discussed the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of Russian nationals and other foreign citizens during Thursday’s talks with Hamas.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia considers “it necessary to continue contacts with all the parties and we will certainly continue our dialogue with Israel.”
He wouldn’t comment when asked if Hamas’ visit could hurt Russia-Israeli ties.
-The Associated Press
6:24 a.m. ET
Four Palestinians, including militant commander, killed in West Bank clashes overnight
RAMALLAH, West Bank – Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in the West Bank during a wide-scale overnight arrest raid, Palestinian health officials said. A militant commander was among those killed.
Since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7, the death toll in the occupied West Bank has reached 110, making it one of the deadliest periods there in at least a decade.
Palestinian officials said three of the Palestinians were killed when a firefight with local gunmen erupted in the Jenin refugee camp.
The Israeli military said forces responded with live fire when assailants hurled explosive devices and shot at troops in the camp. One of the three killed was a commander for the military wing of the militant Islamic Jihad group, the group said.
Israeli forces killed a fourth Palestinian early Friday morning in the West Bank City of Qalqilya, Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli forces arrested at least 70 Palestinians in the raid, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, which represents current and former prisoners. Since the start of the war, Israeli authorities have made more than 1,530 arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank.
-The Associated Press
6:24 a.m. ET
France’s top diplomat says Hamas is holding ‘at least some’ of the nine French citizens missing since Oct. 7
PARIS – French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna says that at least some of the nine French citizens who have been missing since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel are being held hostage by Hamas militants in Gaza.
In an interview with the French radio station RTL on Friday, she said the nine “disappeared” on Oct. 7.
“We have no specific news (of them) but some of them we know have been taken hostage,” Colonna said and added that the French government is working with Egypt and Qatar to free them.
“We demand the release of all hostages and not just French hostages,” she added.
On Thursday, the French Foreign Ministry said that 35 French citizens have been killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Hamas and other militants in Gaza are believed to have taken more than 220 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual citizens.
-The Associated Press
5:23 a.m. ET
Eight more aid trucks expected to cross into Gaza on Friday, says UN official
GENEVA – Another eight trucks carrying food, medicine and water are expected to cross into the Gaza Strip on Friday, a senior United Nations official said, as a combination of technical, political and security issues were hindering deliveries.
“We have gotten in approximately 74 trucks. We’re expecting another eight or so today,” Lynn Hastings, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told reporters in Geneva. Hastings said detailed negotiations were taking place with Israel in a bid to secure more humanitarian crossings in the densely populated enclave, which has been hit by unrelenting air strikes that have killed thousands in response to surprise attacks by Hamas gunmen on Oct. 7.
“In addition to the technical issues and the security issues, there are political issues as well,” Hastings said. “And there’s a certain amount of pressure on the government of Israel in terms of its domestic politics.”
There is still no agreement to get fuel into Gaza, and the UN Palestinian refugee agency has said the absence of fuel was jeopardizing life-saving humanitarian operations there.
Officials are also grappling with the issue of deciding how to distribute the scant aid.
“We are aware of the 1,000 patients that require dialysis and over 100 children and babies that are in incubators, so we do our best to try and make the prioritization in accordance with the greatest needs,” Hastings said.
4:58 a.m. ET
Israeli forces conduct another ground raid in Gaza ahead of expected invasion
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip – Israeli forces backed by fighter jets and drones carried out a second ground raid into Gaza in as many days and struck targets on the outskirts of Gaza City, the military said Friday, as it prepares for a widely expected ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory.
The air strikes have flattened entire neighbourhoods, causing a level of death and destruction unseen in the last four wars between Israel and Hamas. Over a million people have fled their homes, with many heeding Israeli orders to evacuate to the south, despite continuing Israeli strikes across the sealed-off territory.
The humanitarian crisis sparked by the war and the Israeli siege has sparked protests across the region, and more demonstrations were expected later Friday after weekly Muslim prayers.
The military said ground forces raided inside Gaza, striking dozens of militant targets over the past 24 hours. It said aircraft and artillery bombed targets in Shijaiyah, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Gaza City that was the scene of a bloody urban battle in the 2014 Gaza war.
The military said the soldiers exited the territory without suffering any casualties. It reported an earlier raid into northern Gaza early Thursday, saying ground forces battled militants and struck anti-tank missile firing positions in an operation that lasted hours.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said the raids enable forces to “uncover the enemy,” to kill militants and to remove explosives and launch pads. The aim is “to prepare the ground for the next stages of the war,” he added.
The damage to Gaza from nearly three weeks of bombardment showed in satellite photos of several locations taken before the war and again in recent days.
Entire rows of residential buildings simply disappear in the photos, reduced to smears of dust and rubble. A complex of 13 highrises by the sea was pounded to dust near Gaza City’s al-Shati refugee camp, leaving only a few tottering bits of façade. Just down the street, hardly anything remained in what had been a neighbourhood of low-built homes on winding lanes, according to the photos by Maxar Technologies.
The military says it only strikes militant targets and accuses Hamas of operating among civilians in an attempt to protect its fighters. The Israeli military said an air strike killed one of two masterminds of the Oct. 7 massacre, Shadi Barud, the head of Hamas’ intelligence unit.
Palestinian militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel since the war began.
Hamas’ military wing said Thursday that Israeli bombardment has so far killed about 50 of the hostages. There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials, who have denied previous, similar claims.
The conflict has threatened to ignite a wider war across the region.
-The Associated Press
4:58 a.m. ET
Head of UN agency for Palestinians says services in Gaza collapsing fast
JERUSALEM – The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned on Friday that remaining public services in besieged Gaza are collapsing fast and that people in the territory gripped by war now face food shortages.
Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini criticized the international community, saying it “seems to have turned its back on Gaza.”
Lazzarini said the agency was very short on fuel in Gaza and needs about 160,000 litres (42,200 gallons) of fuel a day to supply hospitals and bakeries.
UNRWA staffers in Gaza are saying their operations are crumbing and “for the first time ever, they report that now people are hungry,” Lazzarini said. “Civil order is collapsing.”
Asked how long supplies will last, Lazzarini said “certainly no more than few days.” Lazzarini added that 57 employees of the agency in Gaza have been killed since the war started on Oct. 7.
“To equal Gaza with Hamas is very dangerous and misleading,” he said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to this human tragedy.”
-The Associated Press
4:58 a.m. ET
Missile hits Egyptian Red Sea city near Israeli border
CAIRO – A missile that landed in Egypt’s Red City of Taba on the Sinai Peninsula early on Friday injured six people, Egyptian state media said.
The source of the missile was not identified. An Israeli army spokesman said that “an aerial threat was identified in the area” of the Red Sea earlier on Friday, forcing Israel to scramble fighter planes.
According to al-Qahera news, which has close ties to Egypt’s intelligence service, the missile struck a medical facility where ambulances were parked and a hospital administration building. An investigation is under way.
All six people had minor injuries and were being treated at a hospital, Egypt’s Health Ministry said.
An unnamed security source cited by al-Qahera said Egypt reserved the right to respond to the attack. Once the destination for the launch is determined, all options are available, he added.
Taba lies right on the border with Israel, and is some 10 kilometres, from the southern Israeli city of Eilat.
Israeli Read Adm. Daniel Hagari said “the origin of the hit that occurred in Egypt” appeared to be from the threat over the Red Sea. The issue is under investigation, he said.
“Israel will work with Egypt and the United States and will tighten the defence in the region against threats from the area of the Red Sea,” he added.
In a separate incident Friday, al-Qahera news said a “strange object” landed near a power station in the Red Sea town of Nuweiba, not far from Taba. Footage broadcasted by the news outlet showed debris and smoke rising from the side of mountain near the town. No further information was available.
-The Associated Press
4:58 a.m. ET
U.S. targeted two sites tied to Iran-backed fighters, activists say
BEIRUT – The U.S. air strikes on Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour targeted two locations where Iran-backed fighters are based, according to Syrian opposition activists.
Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet, said the main target was an area known as the farms just outside the town of Mayadeen. The site had been evacuated and no one was hurt, he said.
The second strike early Friday hit an area known as the “green belt” in the Boukamal area that borders Iraq, he said.
“These strikes were expected because of the repeated provocative acts,” said Abu Layla referring to attacks that targeted U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria.
Abu Layal said the farms area is an important point where weapons brought from Iran are stored and then shipped to other areas in Lebanon.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, also reported strikes on the farms area near Mayadeen and Ashara near the border with Iraq. The Observatory said ambulances were seen rushing to the area, but it was not clear if there were casualties.
The Pentagon said the air strikes targeted two locations linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in retaliation for drone and missile attacks against U.S. bases and personnel in the region.
-The Associated Press
4:58 a.m. ET
UNGA session on the war resumes Friday morning
UNITED NATIONS – “Stop the bombs and save lives!” the Palestinian ambassador pleaded at an emotional UN meeting Thursday on the war in Gaza. But Israel’s envoy was adamant, declaring again, “We will not rest until Hamas is obliterated.”
The war sparked by Gaza’s Hamas rulers’ surprise attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 played out in the vast hall of the 193-nation General Assembly, where Arab nations expected to adopt a resolution Friday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza after the Security Council’s four failed attempts to agree on any action.
At the assembly’s resumed emergency special session, speaker after speaker backed the Arab resolution’s ceasefire call – except for Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, who told the 193-member world body, “A ceasefire means giving Hamas time to rearm itself, so they can massacre us again.”
The emergency General Assembly meeting resumes Friday morning, with about 100 speakers remaining.
The resolution being put to a vote in the afternoon calls for an immediate ceasefire and demands that all parties respect international law and protect civilians. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding. But they do reflect world opinion and the size of the vote in favour will be closely watched.
-The Associated Press