A fireball erupts from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 12, 2023.
A fireball erupts from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

The Israeli military pulverised the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, prepared for a possible ground invasion and said Thursday its complete siege — which has left Palestinians desperate for food, fuel and medicine — would remain in place until the Hamas militants that rule the territory freed some 150 hostages taken during a grisly weekend incursion.

The war, which has claimed more than 2,800 lives on both sides, is expected to escalate. The Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 247 soldiers, have died in Israel since Saturday’s incursion. In Gaza, the health ministry says that 1,537 Palestinians, including 500 children and 276 women, were killed and 6,612 were wounded.

Follow the latest developments from the conflict zone:

Egypt calls for urgent delivey of humanitarian aid

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi on Thursday called for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip through the crossing with Egypt.

With Israel sealing off the Palestinian enclave, the only way in or out is through the crossing with Egypt at Rafah. While Rafah is not officially closed, airstrikes have prevented it from operating. Egypt has been trying to persuade Israel and the United States to allow the delivery of aid and fuel through Rafah.

Egypt is ready to “harness all its capabilities and efforts to mediate in coordination with all international and regional actors without restrictions or conditions,” Al Sissi said during a military college graduation ceremony in Cairo.

UK to send Navy ships, aircraft to support Israel

The British government will send two Royal Navy ships and surveillance aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean to support Israel, the prime minister's office said Thursday.

"Alongside our allies, the deployment of our world class military will support efforts to ensure regional stability and prevent further escalation," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

The maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft will begin flying in the region from Friday, the statement said, to "track threats to regional stability such as the transfer of weapons to terrorist groups".

The military package includes P8 aircraft, two Royal Navy ships - the RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Argus - three merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines, the statement said.

The military deployments will be on standby to deliver "practical support" to Israel and offer "deterrence and assurance," the government said.

"Our military and diplomatic teams across the region will also support international partners to re-establish security and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of innocent victims of this barbaric attack from Hamas terrorists," said Sunak.

45 Palestinians killed in airstrike on house

The Israeli military bombarded a residential building in the densely populated Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Thursday, killing at least 45 people and injuring dozens more, Gaza’s interior ministry said.

A late-afternoon airstrike hit the Al-Shihab family house at the center of the Jabaliya camp, interior ministry spokesperson Eyad Bozum told The Associated Press. The Al-Shihab house was packed with dozens of relatives at the time of the airstrike, Bozum said. Some family members had fled heavy bombing from other parts of the Gaza Strip and taken refuge there.

US to start evacuating Americans soon

The US government will begin operating evacuation flights to help Americans leave Israel as Israel prepares to escalate retaliatory action against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, according to the Biden administration.

White House National Security spokesman, John Kirby confirmed Thursday that the US would arrange charter flights from Israel to sites in Europe. “We’re still working through some of the details of that to assist US citizens and their immediate family members,” he said.

The evacuation flights are expected to begin operating as early as Friday. The US government is arranging for at least four charter flights a day out of Israel through Frankfurt, Germany.

A ball of fire erupts in Gaza City after an Israeli air strike
A ball of fire erupts in Gaza City after an Israeli air strike on October 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Humanitarian situation getting more desperate: UN

The number of people fleeing attacks on Gaza is continuing “in very, very large numbers,” with a 30% increase in the past 24 hours, the United Nations humanitarian office says.

Two-thirds of the people displaced by the violence — 218,000 — have taken refuge in 92 schools run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday.

Dujarric said the humanitarian situation, with the Israeli cutoff of fuel, food and electricity, is getting more dire “by the day, if not by the hour.”

“More than 2,500 units have been destroyed, severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable while nearly 23,000 others have sustained moderate to minor damage,” he said. “At least 88 educational facilities have been struck.”

Dujarric said discussions about opening a humanitarian corridor from Gaza are ongoing, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland are engaging “with all relevant actors.”

Palestinians drive their carriage amid the rubble of buildings destroyed
Palestinians drive their carriage amid the rubble of buildings destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on October 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Blinken to travel to Saudi, UAE and Egypt

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Thursday that he will visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt following planned trips to Jordan and Qatar. Blinken is set to travel on Friday to Doha where he will talks with senior Qatari officials.

Qatar has ties with Hamas and has in the past served as facilitator in discussions to calm tensions in and around Gaza.

Israel 'emergency government' sworn in

Israeli lawmakers Thursday swore in an "emergency government" in a 66-4 vote, parliament said, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a war-time partnership with the opposition.

Benny Gantz and four members of his party were sworn in as ministers, while opposition chief Yair Lapid has announced he would not join the government.

Erdogan renews call for reducing tensions

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the United States to work toward reducing tensions between Israel and Palestinians, renewing his criticism of a US decision to send an aircraft carrier to the region.

“What is more appropriate for a country like America? To establish peace or to go there with gasoline and fuel (the fire)?” Erdogan said during an address to hundreds of youth on Thursday.

“We don’t want the conflict and attacks to escalate further and God forbid, spread to our region. We call on all actors who have a voice and influence in the region to make efforts toward reducing tensions,” he continued.

US says no 'conditions' on use of weapons provided

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that Washington did not put any conditions on the way Israel can use the weapons it provides for fighting Hamas.

"We have not placed any conditions on the provision of this equipment," Austin said, after a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels.

"This is a professional military, led by professional leadership, and we would hope and expect that they would do the right things in the prosecution of their campaign."

Austin said the US had no "early warnings or indications" that the Islamist group would launch its bloody assault.

He refused to "define proportionality" after calls for Israel to show restraint in its bombing campaign on Gaza.

"The Israelis have a right to protect their people, and and we would expect that they're going to remain focused on that," Austin said.

Israeli planes drop flyers asking people to evacuate

Palestinian residents of the city of Beit Lahiya in the northern region of the Gaza Strip said Thursday that Israeli planes dropped flyers warning them to evacuate their homes and to head to “known shelters.”

“Anyone who is near Hamas terrorists will put their lives in danger,” the flyers said. “Adhering to IDF instructions will prevent you from being exposed to danger.”

The area had already been heavily struck by the time the flyers were dropped. Shelters in the Gaza Strip are not safe from airstrikes — the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has seen 10 of its shelters struck since the start of the operation.

Blinken meets with Israeli president

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Blinken offered a statement with Herzog that touched on the same themes as his earlier statement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There really are two paths before countries in this region and in many ways, countries in this world. But here in the Middle East, there’s the path of integration, cooperation, normalisation and equal measures of justice, opportunity, dignity for all peoples, including the Palestinians,” Blinken said.

He added: “Or there’s the path that Hamas has shown to the world these last few days — terror, destruction, nihilism, a path that leads to nowhere for anyone except to the darkest places in our souls.”

An Israeli army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer fires rounds near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on October 12, 2023.
An Israeli army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer fires rounds near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on October 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Bodies of Israeli soldiers identified

Every Israeli soldier killed by Hamas militants so far in the latest Israel-Palestinian war has been identified, the Israeli military confirmed Thursday.

A total of 222 Israeli soldiers have died and their families have all been notified, a spokesperson for the military said.

Egypt facilitating deliveries of aid to Sinai

Egypt said on Thursday it was directing international aid flights for Gaza to an airport in northern Sinai, though delivery of relief into the Palestinian enclave has so far been hampered by Israeli bombardments around the border.

The Rafah crossing between Sinai and Gaza remained open, the Egyptian foreign ministry said, adding that Egypt had asked Israel to avoid targeting the Palestinian side of the crossing after strikes that prevented normal operations there.

Al Arish airport in northern Sinai, about 45km from the Gaza border, was preparing to receive three aid flights from Qatar and Jordan, but these would not leave the airport until humanitarian corridors had been established, two Egyptian security sources said.

They said Egypt and Jordan had received assurances from the United States that aid would be delivered to Gaza, without giving details.

Israeli airstrikes on airports in Syria

Syria’s pro-government media reports that Israeli airstrikes have targeted the airports of the capital city Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, damaging their runways.

Al-Watan Daily and Dama Post did not give further details other than both airports are out of service.

They were the first Israeli strikes on Syria since the militant Palestinian group Hamas carried out its deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Earlier this year, the airports of Damascus and Aleppo were hit several times.

Netanyahu praises Blinken's visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed journalists on Thursday in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu praised Blinken’s visit as a “tangible example of America’s unequivocable support of Israel.”

“President Biden was absolutely correct in calling this ‘sheer evil,’” Netanyahu said, referring to Hamas' unprecedented attack Saturday on Israel.

They shook hands after Netanyahu’s remarks.

Blinken said that he came before journalists “not just as secretary of state, but also a Jew” while recounting his own family’s history of surviving the Holocaust.

“So prime minister, I understand on a personal level, the harrowing echoes that Hamas’ massacres carry for Israeli Jews, as well as Jews everywhere,” Blinken said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) looks on as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) looks on as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives statements to the media inside The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Defence Ministry, after their meeting in Tel Aviv on October 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Fuel could run out in hours

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday that the blockaded Gaza Strip still had some fuel to operate generators, including in hospitals, but that it could run out in hours.

"Our understanding is that there is still fuel - but probably only for a few hours - to allow generators to work, including in hospitals," Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC's regional director for the Near and Middle East, told reporters.

"With the supplies we have inside Gaza, we will not be able to support the civilian population for very long. This is why we need to be able to get the supplies we need to Gaza."

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People buy fresh produce at a market in Gaza city. Image Credit: AFP

Humanitarian situation will soon be 'unmanageable

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip will become 'unmanageable very quickly' Fabrizio Carboni, a senior official with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.

Prepared to battle for months

Hamas responded defiantly Thursday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement the day before that he and opposition leader Benny Gantz had formed a national unity government to lead the country in its war on the Hamas militant group.

Hamas officials vowed that Israel’s united front would not “intimidate or deter the resistance.”

“We have been preparing for this attack for years,” said Mohammad Nazzal, a senior Hamas official. “The resistance fighters have prepared to engage in the most vicious of battles for many months.”

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Israeli soldiers arrive at Sderot, a town close to the Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AP

650,000 people face dire water shortages

The agency, known as OCHA, reported that all 13 hospitals in the territory are only partially operational because of severe shortages of fuel and crucial medical supplies. It said the reduction in water supplies due to Israel tightening its siege on the strip has resulted in dire water shortages for over 650,000 people in the territory of 2.3 million.

Sewage systems have been destroyed, the humanitarian office added, sending fetid wastewater into the streets and posing a health hazard.

No water, fuel to Gaza until hostages freed

Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz vowed Thursday his country would not allow basic resources or humanitarian aid into Gaza until Hamas released the people it abducted during its surprise weekend onslaught.

"Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home," he said in a statement.

Blinken lands in Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Tel Aviv on Thursday as part of a wider Middle East tour to display Washington's solidarity with Israel after the attack by Palestinian Hamas militants and to seek to quell the conflict.

The top U.S. diplomat will also try to help secure the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas " some of whom are Americans " and safe passage of Gaza civilians out of the densely-populated enclave ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion.

Israel preparing for a ground operation

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Israel has called up some 360,000 army reservists and has threated an unprecedented response. Image Credit: AP

The Israeli military says it is preparing for a possible ground operation in Gaza but that the political leadership has not yet decided on one. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters Thursday that forces “are preparing for a ground maneuver if decided.”

Israel has called up some 360,000 army reservists and has threated an unprecedented response to Hamas’ bloody, wide-ranging incursion over the weekend. 

Rockets fired at Tel Aviv

Hamas militants on Thursday fired a barrage of rockets at Tel Aviv in response to Israeli air strikes that targeted 'civilians' in two refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, the group said.

"Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades fired rockets at Tel Aviv in response to (Israeli strikes) targeting civilians in Al-Shati and Jabalia camps," Hamas said, referring to its armed wing, in a text message sent to journalists.

AFP correspondents witnessed dozens of air strikes over 30 minutes on Thursday morning in the direction of Al-Shati camp and in the blockaded strip's north.

Egypt rejects corridors for civilians

The Egyptian government has rejected any proposal to establish corridors out of Gaza for Palestinians fleeing Israel’s bombardment in Gaza, a senior Egyptian official said early Thursday.

The official said they were talking with Israel and the United States about establishing safe corridors inside Gaza and the allowance of humanitarian aid to besieged Palestinians.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media, was responding to White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby, who said that the Biden administration is in active conversations to achieve safe passage out of Gaza for civilians.

Egypt's state-run media reported that Israel's offensive is part of a scheme to empty the enclave.

Israel declines to publish number of rocket interceptions

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Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AP

Israel's military indicated on Thursday that it would not publish the number of interceptions of Palestinian rockets that it has carried out in the Gaza war, citing concern that such information would help Hamas.

"I'm not going to tell the enemy the number of our intercepts," spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht told reporters, outlining what appeared to be a departure from past wartime policy.

Israeli officials have previously said they were planning for possible strains on their supplies of anti-rocket interception missiles in the event of especially heavy fighting.

Red Cross says in contact with Hamas

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is in contact with Hamas and Israel to try to negotiate the release of hostages taken into Gaza, the group said Thursday.

At least 150 Israelis and foreigners - including soldiers, civilians, children and women - have been held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Hamas's surprise Saturday attack on Israel.

"As a neutral intermediary we stand ready to conduct humanitarian visits; facilitate communication between hostages and family members; and to facilitate any eventual release," Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC's regional director for the Near and Middle East, said in a statement.

Hostage-taking is forbidden under international humanitarian law, and anyone detained must be released immediately, Carboni added.

The ICRC urged "both sides to reduce the suffering of civilians".

Death toll in Gaza hits 1,200 people

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Smoke plumes billow during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on October 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

The death toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to 1,200 people, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Thursday, following an increase in Israeli bombardments on the sixth day since Hamas's surprise attack.

"The number of martyrs has risen to around 1,200, and the number of wounded to around 5,600," a spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza said.

US asking countries to use influence on Hamas

The United States is encouraging its international partners to use their influence with Hamas and its supporters in Iran to get the militants to stand down after their assault on Israel, a senior official said Thursday.

The comments came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was heading Thursday to Israel for a visit of solidarity before stops in Jordan and likely other countries in the region.

A senior official traveling with Blinken said that the United States had no issue with reported talks between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

"Frankly, we're asking all of our partners to engage with Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran - with any of that trifecta - with whom they have any channels or relations or what have you, to get Hamas to stand down from its attacks, to release those hostages, and to keep Hezbollah out, and to keep Iran out of the fray," the official said on a refueling stop in Ireland.

At least 340,000 people displaced in Gaza: UN

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees reported Thursday that nearly 218,600 people are sheltering in 92 UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip. As airstrikes and shelling by Israeli Forces continue across the Gaza Strip, more people are seeking emergency shelter. In addition, the agency said, many other people are displaced in government schools and other buildings. In total, at least 340,000 Palestinians have been displaced across the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu creates wartime Cabinet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined with a top political rival to create a wartime Cabinet to oversee the fight to avenge the gruesome weekend attack by Hamas militants.

Netanyahu vowed to “crush and destroy” Hamas. “Every Hamas member is a dead man,” he said in a televised address.

The new Cabinet establishes a degree of unity after years of bitterly divisive politics and at a time when the Israeli military appears increasingly likely to launch a ground offensive into Gaza.

Read more on Israel-Gaza war

What is the situation in Gaza?

As the Israeli military retaliates for the Hamas attack, Palestinians say civilians are paying the price in strikes on Gaza, a small coastal strip of land packed with 2.3 million residents.

The UN says at least 340,000 people have fled their homes, most crowding into U.N. schools. Others sought the shrinking number of safe neighborhoods . Gaza is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.

After nightfall, Palestinians were plunged into pitch blackness in large parts of Gaza City and elsewhere after the power station shut down.

The Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, has only enough fuel to keep power on for three days, said Matthias Kannes, a Gaza-based official for Doctors Without Borders. The group said the two hospitals it runs in Gaza were running out of surgical equipment, antibiotics, fuel and other supplies.

What is the situation in Israel?

In one kibbutz near Gaza, Israeli troops were still removing the bodies of dead Hamas militants who stormed the community and killed more than 100 residents, then battled soldiers for nearly three days.

Major General Itai Veruv told visiting journalists that the military found evidence of Hamas militants cutting throats of bound captives, lining up children and killing them and packing 15 teenage girls in a room before throwing a grenade inside.

An Israeli-American teenager in a kibbutz survived a siege on his home by Hamas attackers over the weekend after his parents shielded him from the gunfire but were killed themselves.

The Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 189 soldiers, have been killed in Israel, a staggering toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria that lasted weeks.