Live Updates: Hamas releases 2 Israeli hostages

Al-Monitor’s Rina Bassist, Adam Lucente, Ezgi Akin, Elizabeth Hagedorn, Jack Dutton, Beatrice Farhat, Jared Szuba, Ben Caspit and Al-Monitor’s contributors on the ground in Gaza contributed to this blog.

Live updates (all times EDT):

Monday, Oct. 23, 2023

2:25 pm: Two Israeli hostages released by Hamas

Two Israeli hostages were released on Monday from Hamas captivity as a result of Qatar’s mediation efforts, Al-Monitor has learned. Israel’s official broadcaster KAN confirmed that the hostages arrived at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt and that Israeli representatives are on their way to meet them. 

1:01 pm: Bank of Israel leaves interest rates unchanged, citing Hamas war

Israel’s central bank kept interest rates unchanged on Monday as the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip continues, creating economic uncertainty in the country, Adam Lucente reports. The Bank of Israel decided to keep interest rates at 4.75%, citing the effects of the war.

12:50 pm: Israeli army says it intercepted two drones from Lebanon

The Israeli army said on Monday that it intercepted two drones launched from Lebanon across its border, in first such incident since the conflict started on Oct. 7. The Israeli army reported that a projectile was fired from Lebanon toward a military post near Misgav Am, setting off sirens in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona. Later, it said it carried out strikes targeting missile launchers in southern Lebanon.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported Israeli strikes against several towns in southern Lebanon, including Kfarchouba.

12:30 pm: Israeli official says Hamas might release 50 hostages 

Hamas might release some hostages today, a senior Israeli source told Haaretz. However, the source added that negotiations are complex and that the move has not “matured” yet. This comes after an IDF source told the New York Times that talks between the United States, Qatar and Hamas could soon lead to the release of 50 hostages of foreign nationalities.

12:00 pm: Turkey says it didn’t ‘order’ Hamas’ Haniyeh to leave country

A Turkish official said Monday that Ankara did not “order” Hamas’ political head Ismail Haniyeh and his entourage to leave Turkey. The statement came in reaction to Al-Monitor’s Fehim Tastekin reporting Sunday that Haniyeh and Hamas members with him were in Turkey during the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel and that an annoyed Ankara “kindly asked” them to leave the country. Footage had circulated on social media showing Haniyeh and others prostrating themselves in a “prayer of gratitude” while watching news of the incursion on television. Read the full article here.

11:00 am: Israel prepares for ‘prolonged’ invasion of Gaza

Israel expects a “prolonged” Gaza ground war that would target Hamas commandos and bases. The operation will go deep into Hama’s underground tunnel infrastructure on an undecided timeline. Lilach Shoval writes from Israel.

5:50 am: Third convoy enters Gaza via Rafah crossing

A third convoy of aid trucks has crossed the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, which is under intense Israeli bombardment, Reuters reported. A total of 34 aid trucks entered the besieged enclave on Saturday and Sunday, the first delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance since the escalation erupted two weeks ago.

5:44 am: Israeli army intercepts suspicious aircraft coming from Lebanon

The Israeli army said in a post on X that it downed a suspicious target that crossed into Israeli airspace from southern Lebanon. There has been no comment from the Lebanese side yet. The Iran-backed Hezbollah has been engaged in intense cross-border fire with Israel since Oct. 7.

1:38 am: Israel strikes over 320 Hamas/Islamic Jihad targets in last 24 hours

The Israeli army has struck and destroyed over 320 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror targets in the last 24 hours, the IDF and Shin Bet said in a joint statement. Targets included Hamas tunnels, headquarters where Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad assailants were hiding and mortar and anti-tank launchers. IDF spokesperson Jonathan Cornicus said that absent the surrender of Hamas and return of all the hostages, Israel will have to enter the Gaza Strip.

The Thai Foreign Ministry updated its counts to 30 of its nationals killed by Hamas and 19 kidnapped.

Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023

8:22 pm: Israel strikes Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon

The Israeli military struck two cells of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in southern Lebanon. The airstrikes hit a cell in the southern Lebanese village of Aitaroun and another in the disputed Shebaa Farms area. The IDF reported that they were planning to launch rocket attacks toward Israel.

Earlier, the Israeli army said a military compound and an observation post of Iran-backed Hezbollah near the border area were also targeted.

Hezbollah said overnight that one of its fighters was killed without giving details.

8:00 pm: US reportedly asks Israel to delay ground invasion of Gaza 

The US government urged Israel on Sunday to delay its Gaza ground invasion to allow time for negotiations to free Hamas-held hostages. 

CNN, The New York Times and Bloomberg reported the news on Sunday. US defense chief Lloyd Austin reportedly made the request to his counterpart Yoav Gallant.

“American officials also want more time to prepare for attacks on US interests in the region from Iran-backed groups, which officials said are likely to intensify once Israel moves its forces fully into Gaza,” The New York Times reported.

2:00 pm: Israel says Gaza war may take ‘months’

Israel’s defense chief Yoav Gallant said the looming ground offensive in the Gaza Strip could take months to eliminate Hamas.

“This needs to be the last [ground campaign] maneuver in Gaza, for the simple reason that after it there will be no Hamas. It will take a month, two months, three, but in the end, there will be no Hamas,” Gallant said on Sunday.

“Before the enemy meets the armored and infantry forces, it will meet the bombs of the air force,” he added. Israel has carried out three incursions into Gaza since Hamas took over in 2007.

12:20 pm: UNRWA running out of fuel, 29 staffers killed

The UN refugee agency in Gaza said on Sunday that 13 more staff members have been killed since the conflict began, bringing the total to 29, while a further 17 have been injured. Agency head Philippe Lazzarani warned on Sunday that UNRWA’s fuel supply will run out in three days, putting the humanitarian response in Gaza at risk.

12:10 pm: US advises citizens against travel to Iraq

The US State Department updated its travel advisory on Sunday, urging citizens to avoid travel to Iraq. The warning follows the ordered departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.

12:05 pm: Israel fires on Egyptian post by mistake

The Israeli army said one of its tanks accidentally fired and hit an Egyptian position near the border crossing in the Kerem Shalom area on Sunday. The incident is being investigated and Israel “regrets” it, the statement read. 

11:50 am: Hamas confirms senior commander killed

Hamas-affiliated news agency Safa confirmed on Sunday that Talal al-Hindi, a field commander in the group’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was killed with his wife and members of his family in an Israeli airstrike on their house overnight. The Israeli army first announced the news on Sunday morning as the death toll in Gaza now exceeds 4,400. 

9:30 am: Germany’s Scholz vows support for Jews at synagogue opening

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to stamp out antisemitism at the opening of a new synagogue on Sunday amid a spike in anti-Jewish incidents in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“There must be zero tolerance for antisemitism in Germany,” Scholz said at the synagogue in the eastern city of Dessau.

8:00 am: Second convoy of 17 trucks enters Gaza

Egyptian news outlets reported a new convoy of 17 trucks with aid for the Palestinians crossed into Gaza. On Saturday, 20 trucks were allowed in but humanitarian organizations called it a drop in the bucket, given the extent of the crisis in Gaza.

6:00 am: IDF-Hezbollah clashes spike

Israel struck more targets inside south Lebanon as the Hezbollah militant group continued to fire artillery and rockets in the direction of Israel. The IDF struck a cell within Lebanese territory that was preparing to launch anti-tank missiles toward the Avivim area near the border, said spokesperson Daniel Hagarith.

The renewed fighting has eroded the deterrence formula established in 2006 between Hezbollah and Israel.

1:00 am: Additional 14 communities in northern Israel to be evacuated 

After evacuating most of the residents of 28 towns and villages close to the border with Lebanon, Israel is evacuating 14 more communities, said the Defense Ministry. 

Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023

10:00 pm: US sends THAAD battery and Patriot battalions to Middle East

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon is sending a THAAD battery and additional Patriot battalions to the Middle East to protect US forces.

9:30 pm: Israeli army says it disrupted ‘terrorist infrastructure’ in Jenin

Israel announced late on Saturday that it hit “underground terrorist infrastructure” in a mosque in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. It added that the operation disrupted a cell for Hamas and Islamic Jihad that was planning an imminent attack. 

9:00 pm: US-led troops in Iraq reportedly targeted by suicide drone

A suicide drone hit an air base in Iraq hosting US troops on Saturday, Iraqi security sources said. The Pentagon said it could not confirm that such an attack took place.

3:50 pm: Israeli army says it will enter Gaza

IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi said on Saturday that Israel will enter Gaza. 

“We will enter the Strip for an operational, professional mission to destroy Hamas operatives and infrastructure,” Halevi said without specifying a timeline for the operation. A ground invasion has been considered imminent for the past 10 days, but the hostage situation and pressure from Washington have reportedly delayed the operation. 

3:30 pm: Erdogan calls Hamas leader Haniyeh

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed Gaza in a phone call with the leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, on Saturday, Reuters reported.

Erdogan told him about Ankara’s efforts for a cease-fire, for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza and possible treatment of the wounded in Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan called Haniyeh on Monday.

3:00 pm: UN to send second aid convoy to Gaza on Sunday 

The United Nations is hoping to send a second convoy of trucks with humanitarian aid into the southern Gaza Strip after a first convoy of 20 trucks entered the area on Saturday, said UN aid chief Martin Griffiths.

1:30 pm: How will Iran respond to Gaza war?

The Islamic Republic appears uninterested in a direct confrontation with Israel amid the latter’s war with Tehran-backed militants in Gaza, but has warned that its proxies remain ready to pull the trigger and “re-map” Israel, Al-Monitor’s correspondent in Tehran reports. 

1:20 pm: Cairo conference ends without consensus 

The Gaza conference in Cairo ended without an agreed-upon statement after Arab countries refused to include a condemnation of Hamas and recognition of Israel’s right to self-defense. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulidis, both participants in the Cairo conference, headed to Israel after the meeting. 

12:30 pm: Casualties on Lebanon border 

Casualties were reported along the Israel-Lebanon border on Saturday as the army traded fire with Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah amid fears of a new front opening as Israel battles Hamas.

Israel already ordered the evacuation of Kiryat Shmona, a border town that is home to some 25,000 people, as the border area has come under fire from Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah said one of its fighters had been killed while in Israel two Thai farm workers were wounded, Haaretz reported. 

10:30 am: Jordan’s King Abdullah calls displacement of Palestinians war crime

Jordan’s King Abdullah said in his opening speech at the Cairo Peace Summit on Saturday that the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza would be a war crime.

He also warned against the double standard in treating Palestinians. “Palestinian lives matter less than Israeli ones. Our lives matter less than other lives. The application of international law is optional. And human rights have boundaries,” he said.

8:36 am: Israel threatens Hezbollah

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant sent a strong warning to the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah that it will pay for the escalation. “Hezbollah has decided to join the combat and is paying a price for it, and we must prepare for any possibility. Great challenges lie ahead,” said Gallant during a visit to Israel’s northern border. 

Reuters reported on Friday that war insurers have given notice to cancel cover for some airlines domiciled in Israel and Lebanon, with some cancellations already taking effect. The US Embassy in Lebanon has evacuated non-emergency staff and is urging citizens to leave the country.

8:30 am: West Bank seethes

With at least 81 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or settlers since the Gaza conflict erupted Oct. 7, the occupied West Bank is threatening to explode. Palestinians in the West Bank are enraged by the bombardment of Gaza and the weakness of the Palestinian Authority along with the silence of the Arab states, Ahmad Melhem reports from Ramallah.

8:00 am: 20 aid trucks enter Gaza 

The first of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered the war-torn and besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said he was “confident that this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies … to the people of Gaza,” and warned that “this first convoy must not be the last.”

The border crossing was closed again after the passage of the trucks from the Egyptian Red Crescent, which is responsible for delivering the aid including food and medical supplies from various UN agencies.

3:19 am: Rafah crossing open for humanitarian aid

The first 20 Red Crescent trucks with humanitarian aid are making their way through Egypt’s Rafah crossing into the south of the Gaza Strip carrying food, medicine and medical equipment, reported CNN. The US Embassy in Israel noted earlier in the morning, “If the border is opened, we do not know how long it will remain open for foreign citizens to depart Gaza.”

For our previous live coverage, see:

Day 14 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Friday Oct. 20

Day 13 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Thursday Oct. 19

Day 12 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Wednesday, Oct. 18

Day 11 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Tuesday, Oct. 17

Day 10 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Monday, Oct. 16

Day 9 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Sunday, Oct. 15

Day 8 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Saturday, Oct. 14

Day 7 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Friday, Oct. 13

Day 6 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Thursday, Oct. 12

Day 5 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Wednesday, Oct. 11

Day 4 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Tuesday, Oct. 10

Day 3 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Monday, Oct. 9

Day 2 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Sunday, Oct. 8

Day 1 of Hamas-Israel war blog: Saturday, Oct. 7

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