The Israeli military has expanded its operations in the Gaza Strip, with reports of heavy clashes as the IDF advances to the outskirts of Gaza City.
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):
Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023
6:00 pm: Blinken heads to Israel on regional visit
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel on Friday, marking his second visit to the country since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel.
Blinken will meet with members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government before making other stops in the region, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller announced.
5:30 pm: Bolivia severs diplomatic ties with Israel
Bolivia has become the first country to cut ties with Israel since the start of the war on Oct. 7. The South American nation “has decided to break diplomatic relations with the Israeli state in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive taking place in the Gaza Strip,” Deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani announced at a press conference.
Bolivia's leftist government previously ended diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 over fighting in Gaza before restoring them in 2020.
3:30 pm: Senate approves Jack Lew as US ambassador to Israel
The US Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jack Lew, a former official in the Obama administration, as the next ambassador to Israel after two Republicans — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) — crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats.
After the previous ambassador, Tom Nides, resigned in the summer, President Joe Biden tapped Lew in September. Senate Democrats had sought to fast-track Lew's appointment after the Israel-Hamas war broke out earlier this month.
2:59 pm: Israel admits to hitting refugee camp in Gaza, says it killed Hamas commander
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said IDF jets had killed the commander of the Hamas battalion in Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, Ibrahim Biari. Several other Hamas militants were also killed in the airstrike in northern Gaza, Hagari said in a post on X.
Officials at the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza said more than 50 people were killed when residential buildings in the northern Gaza camp were struck, Reuters reported. The Hamas-affiliated Safa news agency reported that around 400 people were killed and wounded.
Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “condemned in the strongest terms the Israeli aggression that targeted the Jabalia camp.” The Egyptian Foreign Ministry similarly said it “condemns in the strongest terms the inhumane Israeli targeting of the Jabalia camp.” The Saudi Foreign Ministry also issued a similar statement.
1:57 pm: Pentagon confirms Israel shot down Houthi missile
The Pentagon on Tuesday confirmed that Israel Defense Forces shot down a missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen toward Israel. Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder described the projectile as “a medium-range ballistic missile or cruise missiles targeting Israel.” The Israeli press reported earlier on Tuesday that the IDF’s Arrow defense system intercepted a surface-to-surface missile fired from the Red Sea region toward Israeli territory.
1:50 pm: Blinken sees Palestinian Authority returning to Gaza with international support
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that the Palestinian Authority should retake control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas, with international players potentially filling a role in the interim.
1:44 pm: Pentagon confirms deployment of additional 300 troops to Middle East
The Pentagon on Tuesday said 300 additional US troops would head to the Middle East, including communications and explosive ordnance disposal specialists.
Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder declined to specify to which countries the troops would deploy, but said, “They are intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster US force protection capabilities." There have been 27 attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria so far this month, Ryder added.
12:55 pm: More than 120 Palestinians killed in West Bank amid IDF raids, settler violence
More than 120 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 and as the Israeli military ramps up raids in the area. Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians are also on the rise, with the White House urging the Israeli government to respond. Beatrice Farhat reports.
12:44 pm: Jordan, Egypt condemn alleged Israeli bombing of Gaza camp
Jordan and Egypt condemned Israel over a strike against the Jabalia refugee camp. The Israel Defense Forces have yet to comment.
The director of the nearby Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza told Al Jazeera that at least 50 people were killed. The Hamas-affiliated Safa news agency reported that around 400 people were killed and wounded. The outlet did not specify the number of the dead versus wounded.
Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “condemned in the strongest terms the Israeli aggression that targeted the Jabalia camp.” The Egyptian Foreign Ministry similarly said it “condemns in the strongest terms the inhumane Israeli targeting of the Jabalia camp,” according to statements.
The news follows a deadly blast at Gaza's al-Ahli hospital earlier this month. Palestinian officials and Arab governments blamed Israel, but Israel and the United States disputed the claim, with Israel pointing to errant rocket fire from Islamic Jihad.
More than 8,500 people have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza since the war began, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. The death toll in Israel has surpassed 1,500, most of whom were killed by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, according to Israeli officials.
12:10 pm: Two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza battles
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and two injured in battles that took place in the north of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the Israeli army announced. Earlier in the day, the IDF said that fierce battles were being fought deep inside the northern Gaza Strip. At least four Israelis were hurt today when two rockets landed in Ashdod in a heavy barrage targeting the southern city.
10:50 am: Hamas 'impediment to getting 400 Americans, families out of Gaza
The United States is trying to get approximately 1,000 people — some 400 US citizens and their family members — out of the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is preventing their exit through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.
"The impediment is simple: It's Hamas. We've not yet found a way to get them out,” Blinken said, adding that Washington is working through third parties to facilitate their departure.
Blinken said the Biden administration is working to get 100 aid trucks per day into Gaza, still far short of the roughly 500 that were arriving in the enclave daily before the war. Asked about using the Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing to scale up deliveries, Blinken said the focus remains on increasing assistance via the Egypt-managed Rafah gate.
7:20 am: Israel confirms intercepting missile launched from Red Sea area
Israel’s long-range missile defense system Arrow intercepted a surface-to-surface missile launched in the country’s direction from the Red Sea area, the Israeli military said, noting that earlier in the day Israeli jets struck hostile targets in the Red Sea. The IDF added that at no point did these threats penetrate Israeli skies. Israel's public broadcaster Kan reported that Israel is considering if and how to respond to the aerial attacks.
7:19 am: More than 8,500 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes
At least 8,525 Palestinians, including 2,187 women and 3,542 children, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes since Oct. 7, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said. More than 21,543 others have sustained various injuries due to the ongoing escalation in Gaza. The Israeli death toll has reached 1,538, according to the Israeli public broadcaster.
7:10 am: Qatari emir, Iranian FM discuss Gaza-Israel war
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, during a visit to the Gulf nation, Qatar’s official news agency reported. The two officials discussed the Hamas-Israel war and ways to advance a cease-fire and prevent the expansion of the conflict to the rest of the region. Iran’s state news agency said Amir-Abdollahian also met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during his trip to Doha.
Qatar, which hosts several senior Hamas officials, is reportedly leading negotiations between Hamas and Israel to end the escalation and secure the release of Israeli hostages captured by the Palestinian movement during its Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.
7:40 am: UK opposition leader rejects complete cease-fire but calls for ‘humanitarian pause’
Keir Starmer, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, has said a cease-fire in Gaza now would leave Hamas “emboldened” to attack Israel again, but he called for a “humanitarian pause” to evacuate civilians from the coastal Palestinian enclave. "A cease-fire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies. And as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capabilities to carry out the sort of attack we saw on Oct. 7," Starmer said in a Chatham House speech in London. "Attacks that are still ongoing. Hostages who should be released are still held.”
Starmer said a humanitarian pause is the "only credible approach" and it should start "immediately." He added, "In fact, it is at this moment the only credible approach that has any chance of achieving what we all want to see in Gaza: the urgent alleviation of Palestinian suffering." Meanwhile, dozens of protesters gathered outside Chatham House calling for an immediate cease-fire. Unlike Starmer, many other senior Labour parliamentarians are calling for a complete cease-fire.
6:12 am: Houthis take responsibility for drone attack on Eilat
Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have fired drones toward Israel's southern city of Eilat, on the Red Sea coast, in retaliation for its war against Hamas, a senior official from the group told AFP. Earlier, the Israeli army reported that "IDF systems identified an aerial target approaching Israeli territory," and added that "there is no threat and no danger." Haaretz reported that sirens sounded in Eilat Tuesday morning and that an unmanned aerial vehicle was intercepted outside Israeli airspace.
3:25 am: Iraq's Ain al-Asad base comes under drone attack
Two armed drones struck an air base housing US and other international forces in western Iraq, a security source and a government source told Reuters. The attack on Ain al-Asad air base did not leave any casualties or material damage, according to the sources. US and coalition forces have come under attack 23 times (14 in Iraq and nine in Syria) by rockets and drones since the Hamas-Israel war erupted earlier this month, according to a senior US defense official.
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