Israel–Hamas War News Updates: Oct. 20

NTD Staff
By NTD Staff
October 20, 2023Israel–Hamas War
Israel–Hamas War News Updates: Oct. 20
Judith Raanan (L) and her daughter Natalie, 17, after Natalie's recent high school graduation. (Raanan Family via AP)

See our live updates for Oct. 21 here.

The war that began on Oct. 7 has become the deadliest of the five Gaza wars for both sides.

According to Israel, more than 1,400 people have been killed and 4,450 have been injured on its side of the border. At least 201 people, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza.

Separately, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Oct. 10 that at least 1,500 Hamas terrorists were killed in Israel while fighting Israelis and their soldiers since the start of the war.

The Hamas-backed Gaza Health Ministry has claimed that over 3,000 civilians have been killed and over 12,500 have been injured in Gaza. In previous Gaza wars, some Palestinian deaths in Gaza were later determined to have been caused by rockets from Hamas that fell short.

Here are the latest updates on the Israel–Hamas war:


French President Hopes Release of US Hostages Leads to Freedom for Others

French President Emmanuel Macron said the release of two Americans who were held hostage in Gaza is “a very good result” and expressed hope it could help pave the way for others to be freed, including French-Israelis.

So far, France has one confirmed hostage, 21-year-old Mia Schem, who was shown dazed and injured in a video that Hamas’s military wing released Monday.

Six other French citizens also are missing, and Mr. Macron said Friday that they’re presumed to be hostages “but without certainty.”

French contacts with Israeli authorities and other contacts via Qatar “keep up our hope that we will be able to find solutions to get the maximum number of hostages out,” he said. “We are confident: the channels we have are the good ones and are useful.”

Mr. Macron said he is still weighing the possibility of traveling to the Middle East but that it would be dependent on more talks with leaders in the region.

He also announced 10 million euros ($10.6 million) in additional humanitarian aid for Palestinians and said urgent aid, including medicines, will be airfreighted to Egypt.


Nobel Laureates’ Petition Urges Hamas to Free Child Hostages

A petition signed by 86 Nobel peace laureates demands that Hamas release all children taken hostage, saying holding them in captivity “constitutes a war crime, a grievous offense against humanity itself.”

The petition notes that the Geneva Convention on safeguarding civilians in war mentions children 19 times, stressing that the “current plight of the kidnapped children far exceeds any scenario envisioned by the accord.”

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan delivered the petition Friday to U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood to be passed on to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Mr. Erdan was flanked by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and several relatives of Israeli hostages.

“Children should never be regarded as pawns in the theater of war,” the petition said. “It is our sacred duty to protect the innocent and shield the vulnerable.”

The laureates said: “Our moral imperative is unequivocal: ‘Let the children go.’”


US Man Hails Release of His Daughter, Granddaughter Who Were Held by Hamas

A man whose Chicago-area daughter and granddaughter were abducted by Hamas in southern Israel says he has spoken to his daughter since her release and that he believes she will be home soon.

“She’s doing good. She’s doing very good,” Uri Raanan, who is based in the Chicago suburb of Bannockburn, said Friday. “I’m in tears, and I feel very, very good.”

The 71-year-old said he saw on the news Friday that Hamas was releasing an American mother and daughter, and he spent the day hoping they meant his daughter, Judith Raanan, and his granddaughter, 17-year-old Natalie, who live in Evanston.

He said he believes Natalie and Judith are on their way to Tel Aviv to reunite with relatives before returning to the United States, meaning Natalie will be able to celebrate her 18th birthday next week with family and friends.


Israeli PM Says Effort Continues to Bring All Hostages Home

Israel says it continues to push for the release of civilians taken hostage by Hamas during a raid on southern Israel almost two weeks ago.

Hamas terrorists took more than 200 hostages during its Oct. 7 raid. Hamas released two of those hostages, a woman and her teenage daughter from the United States, on Friday.

“Two of our abducted are home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “We are not giving up the effort to bring all of the hostages and missing people home. At the same time, we are continuing to fight until victory.”


Blinken Says US Pushing Hard for Other Hostages’ Freedom

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he welcomes the release of the two hostages and shared in the families’ relief but noted there are many more captives, including children and elderly people.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Mr. Blinken said he and President Joe Biden had been able to speak with the families of some of the hostages during their trips to the Middle East.

“It’s impossible to adequately put into words the agony that they’re feeling,” Mr. Blinken said. “No family anywhere should have to experience this torture.”

Of the remaining hostages, he added: “The entire United States government will work every minute of every day to secure their release and bring their loved ones home.”

Mr. Blinken also thanked the Qataris for their work in securing the hostages’ release.


Biden Celebrates Release of 2 American Hostages

President Joe Biden is celebrating the release of a Chicago-area woman and her teenage daughter who had been visiting Israel when they were taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.

The Israeli military said Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie, were released to the Israeli military Friday. Hamas said the Qatari government was instrumental in securing their release.

“Our fellow citizens have endured a terrible ordeal these past 14 days, and I am overjoyed that they will soon be reunited with their family, who has been wracked with fear,” President Biden said in a statement.

Thanking the governments of Qatar and Israel for their help, President Biden said the White House had been “working around-the-clock” to secure the release of American hostages “and we have not ceased our efforts to secure the release of those who are still being held.”


Israel Says Hamas Has Released 2 American Hostages

Hamas terrorists on Friday freed two Americans, a mother and her teenage daughter, who had been held hostage in Gaza since terrorists rampaged through Israel two weeks ago, the Israeli government said.

The pair, who also hold Israeli citizenship, were the first hostages to be released. More than 200 are still being held.

The two Americans, Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie, were out of the Gaza Strip and in the hands of the Israeli military, an army spokesman said. Hamas said it was releasing them in an agreement with the Qatari government for humanitarian reasons.

Judith and Natalie Ranaan had been on a trip to southern Israel from their home in suburban Chicago to celebrate a Jewish holiday, their family said. They had been staying at the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, near Gaza, when Hamas fighters took them and more than 200 others hostage.

Relatives of other captives welcomed the release and appealed for others to be freed.

“We call on world leaders and the international community to exert their full power in order to act for the release of all the hostages and missing,” the statement said.


Turkey’s President Urges Israel to Halt Attacks in Gaza

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Israel to end its operations in Gaza that he said is “bordering on genocide.”

In a statement posted Friday on X, formerly Twitter, Erdogan said the increasing attacks on Gaza would bring “nothing but more pain, death and tears.”

“It is clear that security cannot be ensured by bombing hospitals, schools, mosques and churches,” Mr. Erdogan said. “I reiterate our call on the Israeli government not to expand the scope of its attacks against civilians and to immediately stop its operations that are bordering genocide.”


Biden Seeks $14.3 Billion for Military Assistance to Israel

U.S. President Joe Biden wants $14.3 billion to support Israel in its war with Hamas, the White House announced on Friday. The money is part of a supplemental funding request that totals more than $105 billion, including Ukraine, border security, and more.

The White House said the assistance for Israel would be geared toward air and missile defense systems.

There’s also $9.15 billion for humanitarian aid, which would be split among Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, and other hotspots. Administration officials said the money can be directed to where it’s most needed.

All of the funding requires approval from Congress.


Israel Moves to Shut Down Al Jazeera Channel

Israel is moving towards banning Qatar-funded, pro-Hamas channel Al Jazeera due to concerns that the network is involved in propaganda against the country and is spreading the narrative of terrorist organizations.

On Thursday, the government of Israel voted to approve regulations that will allow it to temporarily close foreign news channels during emergency periods. The shutdown orders will be issued based on whether the channels are engaging in actions that threaten national security. The regulations were pushed forward by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi in a bid to shut down Al-Jazeera, which he accuses of putting Israel’s security in danger, according to The Times of Israel.

Read more here


Egypt Says Israel Is Responsible for Closure of Rafah Border Crossing

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has accused Western media outlets of unfairly holding it responsible for closing the Rafah border crossing.

In a brief statement on X, formerly Twitter, the ministry’s official spokesperson instead suggested blame should be directed at Israel for carrying out attacks on Rafah and for refusing to allow aid to enter the besieged enclave.

Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid also accused Israel of suggesting that Egypt was obstructing foreign nationals from leaving Gaza.

“Rafah crossing is open and Egypt is not responsible of obstructing third-country nationals’ exit,” he said.

Egyptian authorities have continually said that they did not close the Rafah border, but that it is not functioning due to the damage inflicted by Israeli airstrikes.


No Plans for Israel to Control Life in Gaza, Minister Says

Israel’s defense minister said Friday that after the country destroys the Hamas terrorist group, the military does not plan to control “life in the Gaza Strip.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s comments to lawmakers were the first time an Israeli leader discussed its long-term plans for Gaza.

Mr. Gallant said Israel expects there to be three phases to its war with Hamas. He said it first would attack the group in Gaza with airstrikes and ground maneuvers, then it would defeat pockets of resistance, and finally it would cease its “responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant meets soldiers on the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip in Sderot, Israel, on Oct. 19, 2023. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)


UN Secretary-General Arrives at Rafah Crossing

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrived at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Friday and called on all international parties to work together to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Palestinians in besieged Gaza.

Speaking to the media in front of the border crossing, he said the lorries packed with vital aid were a “lifeline” for Palestinians in Gaza, “the difference between life and death,” and needed to be moved into the enclave as quickly as possible.

Mr. Guterres pointed out that the deal reached between Egypt and Israel to allow aid to flow into the Gaza Strip has some conditions and restrictions.

Palestinians search the destroyed annex of the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church, the oldest church still in use in Gaza, damaged in a strike on Gaza City on Oct. 20, 2023. (Dawood Nemer/AFP via Getty Images)


IDF: Three Hezbollah Terrorists Killed in Strike on Lebanese Border

The Israel Defense Force said Friday that three Hezbollah terrorists were identified and killed in an airstrike on the border with Lebanon.

Additionally, IDF snipers shot at “armed men” who were identified near another area of the border fence.

Israel’s military has clashed with Hezbollah terrorists several times in the past two weeks since war broke out with Hamas. The Iran-backed Islamic extremist group has called on Israel to cease bombardment of the Gaza Strip and threatened to join the conflict on the side of Hamas.


Israel Pounds Gaza, Evacuates Town Near Lebanon Ahead of Expected Ground Offensive Against Hamas

Israel bombarded Gaza early Friday, hitting areas in the south where Palestinians had been told to seek safety, and it began evacuating a sizable Israeli town in the north near the Lebanese border, the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil.

Palestinians in Gaza reported heavy airstrikes in Khan Younis in the south, and ambulances carrying men, women, and children streamed into the town’s Nasser Hospital, Gaza’s second largest, which is already overflowing with patients and people seeking shelter. The Israeli military said it had struck more than 100 targets across Gaza linked to the territory’s Hamas rulers, including a tunnel and arms depots.

On Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered ground troops to prepare to see Gaza “from the inside,” hinting at a ground offensive aimed at crushing Gaza’s terrorist Hamas rulers nearly two weeks after their bloody incursion into Israel. Officials have given no timetable for such an operation.


Gulf and Asian Nations End Summit With Call for Cease-fire

Arab and Southeast Asian nations are calling for a cease-fire in the Israel–Hamas war and the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The final statement of a summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on Friday also condemns “all attacks against civilians.”

The joint summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations brought together 16 member states.

Saudi Arabia, which has launched a number of diplomatic initiatives across the Middle East over the past year, has called for a halt to the fighting.

Before the outbreak of the war, the kingdom had been in talks with the United States on normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for a U.S. defense pact, help in establishing a civilian nuclear program, and unspecified concessions to the Palestinians.

An armed Palestinian man walks amid the rubble of a building damaged during a raid by Israeli troops at the Nur Shams refugee camp near the northern city of Tulkarm in the West Bank on Oct. 20, 2023. (Zain Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images)


UN Says Palestinians Are Returning Home

A spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office says there are new signs that some Palestinians who initially moved south in response to the Israeli order to evacuate are returning to their homes because Israeli strikes are taking place in the south, too.

“We remain very concerned that Israeli Forces’ heavy strikes are continuing across Gaza, including in the south,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters. “The strikes, coupled with extremely difficult living conditions in the south, appear to have pushed some to return to the north, despite the continuing heavy bombing there.”


Satellite Images Show Convoy of Aid Trucks Waiting to Cross Into Gaza

Satellite photos analyzed Friday by The Associated Press show a massive convoy of semi-trailers lined up at the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian side, likely waiting for approval to cross into the besieged Gaza Strip as the Israel-Hamas war rages.

The images, shot Thursday by Planet Labs PBC, show 55 trucks waiting in two lines, just half a kilometer (a third of a mile) away from the border. There are over 50 smaller vehicles visible in the image as well, many appearing to be with aid organizations, waiting at the crossing.

The Gaza Strip, home to over 2 million Palestinians, has been cut off from food, water, fuel, and electricity by Israel since Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack. There have been days of high-level negotiations over aid getting into the besieged seaside enclave, including officials all the way up to U.S. President Joe Biden.

Tents for Palestinians seeking refuge are set up on the grounds of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) centre in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)


Newsom Headed to Israel, China for Discussions, Says ‘World’s Fate’ at Stake

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is “on the way” to Israel for discussions with locals and officials following recent incidents in the Middle East.

“I’ll be meeting with those impacted by the horrific terrorist attacks and offering California’s support,” Mr. Newsom wrote Oct. 19 on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Mr. Newsom’s office declined to comment, and other than the social media post, no official statement or press release was issued regarding the surprise trip.

Read more here


Israel’s Netanyahu Says Hamas Attack Was Aimed at Derailing Peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the Hamas attack on Israel was aimed at preventing the expansion of peace in the Middle East and called on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to keep supporting Israel’s Gaza counteroffensive.

Mr. Sunak is the latest Western leader to visit Jerusalem to show support for Israel and to try to negotiate a way to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas and ease the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.


Number of Thai Hostages Held by Hamas Now Estimated at 19: Foreign Ministry

The number of Thai nationals believed to be held hostage by the Palestinian group Hamas has increased to 19, Thailand’s foreign ministry said on Friday, among at least 200 people taken after a deadly Oct. 7 raid in southern Israel.

So far 30 Thai nationals have been killed in the unrest and 19 abducted as of Friday, the ministry said in a statement.

Israel has pounded Gaza with air strikes and put the enclave under siege after Hamas gunmen rampaged through towns and kibbutzes on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 Israelis and taking scores of hostages.


Hundreds Rally in New York City to Demand Release of Hamas Hostages

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Times Square, New York, demanding the release of hostages taken by Hamas. Billboards displayed the hostages, ranging from infants to the elderly, while attendees chanted demands for their return.

U.S. officials estimate Hamas is holding 200 hostages, with around 10 being American. U.S. officials have not released the names of the Americans believed to be held hostage. But media reports have identified several missing people with American citizenship, including Hersh Goldberg-Polin; a 66-year-old nurse, Adrienne Neta; 35-year-old Sagui Dekel-Chen, a father of two with a baby on the way; and Itay Chen, who serves in the IDF.

The Israeli American Council, which represents Israeli Americans in the United States, organized the protest, which included Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a speaker. Protests for both Israel and Palestine are occurring across the United States. A pro-Palestinian rally, advocating for a ceasefire, is set for Friday in New York.

President Joe Biden visited Israel earlier this week to express support and encourage efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis as a ground invasion into Gaza looms.

protest NYC
Members of the Jewish community and supporters of Israel attend a rally calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas, in Times Square, New York on Oct. 19, 2023. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)


Previous Day’s Notable News

Biden Calls for Support for Israel, Ukraine in Oval Office Address: President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the Oval Office on Thursday, making the case for why the United States should support both Israel and Ukraine. He advocated for increased funding for these two countries during his speech, arguing that it is in America’s national security interest to see Israel and Ukraine succeed in their battles. Read more here

US Navy Intercepts Missiles Potentially Headed Toward Israel: The USS Carney shot down three cruise missiles over the Red Sea from Yemen that were potentially aimed at Israel. The Pentagon attributes the launch to Houthi forces. Read more here

Israeli Troops Told to Prepare for Ground Invasion of Gaza: Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant has told ground troops to be ready to enter the Gaza Strip, though he is not saying when the invasion will start. In a meeting with Israeli infantry soldiers on the Gaza border Thursday, Mr. Gallant urged the forces to “get organized, be ready” for an order to move in.

Hamas Leaders Killed in Israeli Strikes: The commander of the Hamas-led National Security Forces, Maj. Gen. Jihad Muheisen, was killed in an Israeli strike on his home in Gaza City along with some of his relatives, according to Gaza’s government press office. Separately, Hamas officials told The Associated Press that Hamas legislative council member Jamila al-Shanti was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Thursday.

US Boosts Naval Presence Near Israel: The U.S. Navy dispatched another warship—the USS Mount Whitney—to the eastern Mediterranean, joining other vessels—the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group—in support of U.S. operations in the eastern Mediterranean Sea amidst rising Israel–Hamas tensions.

US Sanctions Target Hamas Funding: The United States announced new sanctions on key Hamas leaders and entities to disrupt the terrorist group’s global financial network. The financial penalties are designed to track and seize Hamas-related assets, and extend to Gaza, Sudan, Turkey, Algeria, and Qatar where the group operates. Read more here


Summary of Events

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Oct. 13 ordered hundreds of thousands of civilians living in northern Gaza to evacuate as it vowed to annihilate the terrorist group Hamas in response to its unprecedented attack on Oct. 7. Tens of thousands of people in Gaza have since fled south since Israel’s warning to evacuate, the United Nations estimated.

Some 1,400 people in Israel were killed in the surprise attack on Oct. 7, which shook the country because of horrifying mobile phone video footage and reports from medical and emergency services of atrocities and potential war crimes in the towns and kibbutzes that were overrun. In response, the IDF swiftly announced “Operation Swords of Iron,” which aims to eliminate the Hamas terror group so it can never again attack Israel.

Israel formally declared war on the Hamas Islamists on Oct. 8 and eased its gun license standards to enable more citizens to arm themselves. Israel’s prime minister called on Gazan civilians to evacuate the region on Oct. 8, which was followed by a campaign of mass text messages urging civilians to evacuate before the planned assault on Hamas was well and truly underway.

Hamas is an Iran-backed Islamist terrorist group that took charge of the Gaza Strip from a rival Palestinian group, the secular Fatah, in factional fighting in 2007. The Fatah has in recent years expressed it largely supports peaceful negotiations for a two-state solution to secure Palestinians’ territorial claims, whereas Hamas does not acknowledge Israel’s right to existence and resorts to armed violence.

Hamas terrorists in Gaza are holding at least 200 hostages taken from Israel in its Oct. 7 assault, and on Oct. 9, threatened to kill the hostages if Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza civilians “without warning.” The IDF had noted on Oct. 10 that Hamas terrorists have embedded themselves in civilian buildings and, as such, made those structures valid military targets. It blames Hamas for intentionally building its operation centers next to key civilian institutions, like hospitals and schools, to maximize international condemnation of any Israeli attempts to fight back against the terrorists.

Israel has no obligation to, but had been supplying some of Gaza’s water and electricity. Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 brutal attacks and kidnapping of hostages, Israel cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity, and medicine into Gaza and vowed to maintain the complete siege until all hostages are freed by Hamas.

On Oct. 11, Israel established an emergency government and a special war cabinet to oversee its military response. It has also called up some 360,000 army reservists who have since gathered along the Gaza border.

Israel’s military said it planned to target Hamas’s sprawling network of tunnels built under Gaza City—protected by a layer of Palestinian civilian buildings on the surface. Meanwhile, the Hamas terrorist group has vowed to fight to the last drop of blood and has told Gazan residents to stay.

The United States began charter flights on Oct. 13, and boats on Tuesday, to evacuate Americans out of Israel. President Joe Biden on Oct. 11 said the U.S. government is working with the Israelis to rescue the Americans taken hostage by Hamas.

At least 31 Americans have died and 13 Americans are unaccounted for since the start of the war, the White House confirmed on Tuesday.


See the previous day’s updates here.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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