Two weeks since the beginning of the conflict, the death toll in Gaza is now above 4,000, Hamas has released two hostages and aid trucks are preparing to enter through Rafah. Facing internal pressure at the State Department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is holding "listening sessions" with Muslim and Jewish staffers.
Rina Bassist, Ezgi Akin, Beatrice Farhat, Elizabeth Hagedorn, Adam Lucente, Jack Dutton, Jared Szuba and Al-Monitor’s contributors on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel contributed to this blog.
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Live updates (all times EDT):
Friday, Oct. 20, 2023
9:30 pm: Blinken holds 'listening' meetings with Muslim and Jewish staffers
Amid growing internal frustration over the State Department’s handling of the war in Israel and Gaza, Secretary Antony Blinken held “listening sessions” with Muslim, Arab-American and Jewish staffers. Elizabeth Hagedorn with the scoop on the meetings.
6:45pm: Tunisia’s Jews on edge amid rise in antisemitic attacks amid Gaza war
Tunisia’s tiny Jewish population is feeling ever more vulnerable after the destruction of a Jewish holy site in Al Hamma amid anti-Semitic comments by the country’s authoritarian president, Kais Saied. Amberin Zaman reports.
5:20 pm: Erdogan warns Israel against a ground invasion
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel on Friday against launching a ground invasion into Gaza as Israeli diplomats were evacuated from Turkey and protests against Israel continued. Ezgi Akin reports from Ankara.
4:10 pm: Israel’s Defense Chief Gallant says ground incursion is second phase of war
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant presented a three-phase plan on Friday for the war in Gaza, though he did not say when an expected ground invasion might commence. Rina Bassist reports.
1:30 pm: Hamas says it released two American hostages
Hamas' military wing the al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that it released two US citizens, a mother and a daughter, for humanitarian reasons. The release was the result of Qatari mediation and the group sought to "prove to the American people and the world that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless," the Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency reported.
The group took more than 200 people hostage during its attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, including an unknown number of Americans, according to US officials. During his trip to Israel on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said securing the release of the hostages is a priority for his administration.
1:15 pm: Jerusalem’s Orthodox Patriarch calls Israeli strike on Gaza church a ‘war crime’
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III strongly condemned an Israeli airstrike that hit the Saint Porphyrius Church in Gaza. “Targeting churches and their institutions…constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored,” he said in a press statement on Friday. Beatrice Farhat reports.
12:17 pm: Cross-border clashes between IDF and Hezbollah continue
The Israeli army said it attacked an anti-tank squad in Lebanon following shelling into Israel claimed by Hezbollah. The Lebanese rocket fire caused sirens to go off in Metula in northern Israel. Earlier, the IDF said it responded with artillery fire to missiles being fired from Lebanon, according to posts on X.
Lebanon's National News Agency reported earlier that Hezbollah fired missiles at IDF positions in Shebaa Farms, Kfarchouba and other areas close to the border.
11:05 am: Hezbollah ‘recalculating’ Israel’s deterrence after Hamas attack, US aid
While Israelis are clearly thrilled that the military’s wish list is being fulfilled, there is a flip side to this bounty: its enemies from Lebanon to Iran questioning its deterrence and dependence on US military aid. Al-Monitor’s Ben Caspit offers an insider analysis.
6:45 am: Death toll in Gaza above 4,000
The death toll in Gaza reached 4,137, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Friday, as the United Nations warned that hospitals are likely to run out of fuel in 24 hours. The ministry also reported 13,260 people wounded.
6:00 am: Could Israel-Hamas war lead to another winter energy crisis for Europe?
Israel has so far managed to backfill gas supplies to meet domestic demand and supply international customers, but the escalated conflict and the closure of the Tamar gas field have caused jitters in the energy market, with heightened fears of a wider war involving other Middle Eastern states. Jack Dutton reports.
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