A column of Israeli army military armoured vehicles moves near the Gaza border in southern Israel on October 14, 2023.
A column of Israeli army military armoured vehicles moves near the Gaza border in southern Israel on October 14, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Israel is focusing its main military activities on Gaza City in the north of the Gaza Strip, as it continues its war against Hamas following last Saturday's devastating attacks. Israel is widely expected to launch a ground invasion of the territory.

Follow the developments on the 8th day of the conflict here:

Prepared for a 'coordinated' offensive: Israeli army

The Israeli military says it has prepared a “coordinated” offensive in the Gaza Strip involving air, ground and naval forces.

In a statement on its website Saturday night, the army said it is “preparing to implement a wide range of offensive operative plans.”

The statement from the Israeli military didn't specify a time frame.

Smoke and fire rise following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip
Smoke and fire rise following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Saturday, October 14, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Iran, Hezbollah urged to stay out of conflict

France is urging Iran and Hezbollah to stay out of the war between Israel and Hamas, warning against an escalation of the conflict.

French officials are in contact with Iranian authorities and Hezbollah representatives as well as other regional players, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said. Macron also spoke with the Israeli and Egyptian leaders.

France is also working to free French-Israeli citizens held hostage by Hamas and to evacuate French citizens living in Gaza.

Palestinians will not leave Gaza: Hamas leader

The leader of militant group Hamas said on Saturday Palestinians will not leave Gaza or the West Bank to migrate to Egypt, after calls from the Israeli army for more than a million of the enclave's residents to leave their homes and head south.

"Our decision is to remain in our land," Ismail Haniyeh added in a televised speech, while addressing Egypt in that part of his address.

Next stage is coming, Netanyahu tells Israeli infantrymen

Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Israeli infantrymen outside the Gaza Strip on Saturday, his office said in a statement, and an accompanying video showed him telling them: "You ready for the next stage? The next stage is coming." He did not elaborate in the video, which showed the infantrymen nodding in response to his question.

Smoke plumes rising above buildings during an Israeli strike on Rafah
Smoke plumes rising above buildings during an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 14, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Palestinians flee northern Gaza as Israel masses troops

Thousands of Palestinians fled the north of the Gaza Strip on Saturday from the path of an expected Israeli ground assault, while Israel pounded the area with more air strikes and said it kept two roads open to let people escape.

Israel had given the population of the northern half of the Gaza Strip until Saturday morning to move south.

As that deadline approached it said it would guarantee the safety of Palestinians fleeing on two main roads until 4:00pm (1300 GMT). The new deadline expired with no immediate announcement from either side of any change in the situation.

Troops were massing around the Gaza Strip, "getting ready for the next stage of operations," military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

China help sought to prevent spread of war

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to seek China’s help in preventing the Israel-Hamas war from spreading.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken called Wang from Riyadh, to ask China to use whatever influence it has in the Middle East to keep other countries and groups from entering the conflict.

Germany urges humanitarian aid for Gaza

Israel's fight against Hamas must be carried out with consideration for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday.

"The fight against Hamas must be carried out with the greatest possible consideration for the humanitarian situation ... This is a huge dilemma that is difficult to resolve," Baerbock said at a news conference in Cairo where she is holding talks with her Turkish and Egyptian counterparts.

A convoy of Israeli armoured personnel carriers (APC) head towards the Gaza Strip
A convoy of Israeli armoured personnel carriers (APC) head towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel on Saturday, October 14, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Deal to let US citizens leave Gaza

Egypt and Israel have agreed to let US citizens leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing on Saturday as Israel carries out strikes against Hamas, a US official said.

The two US partners agreed to keep the sole crossing from Gaza to Egypt open from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm (0900-1400 GMT), said a US official accompanying Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a regional tour.

The official said that the United States did not yet have confirmation that the agreement was being implemented, "but the intention was to have it open."

Qatar, where Blinken visited Friday, has also been involved in the agreement by leaning on Hamas, with which the Gulf nation has close ties, to allow movement, the official said.

The official said that 500-600 US citizens in the Gaza Strip had reached out for information on leaving the hemmed in territory.

The official did not know if other foreign national were able to leave.

Gaza residents must not 'delay' evacuation

The Israeli military said Saturday that Gaza City residents must not delay their departure before a military offensive starts as roads out of the northern part of the territory were again jammed with people leaving.

Military spokesman Richard Hecht said there is a "window" for safe passage to south Gaza between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. Without saying how many days the window would remain, Hecht told reporters: "We know this is going to take time but we recommend people not to delay."

Palestinians search for casualties under the rubble in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 14, 2023
Palestinians search for casualties under the rubble in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 14, 2023

Hamas elite unit commander killed

A Hamas militant who Israel said led a unit of commando forces that gunned down civilians in last week's attack on southern Israel has been killed in an air strike, the military said Saturday.

Israeli military "aircraft killed Ali Qadi, a company commander of the Hamas 'Nukhba' (elite) commando force," a statement said without specifying the location or timing of the strike.

A Hamas official told AFP the Palestinian group had "no comment" concerning the Israeli claim.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Qadi, 37, was a unit commander in the elite Hamas force.

Palestinians flee to southern Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians fled Saturday to southern Gaza seeking refuge after Israel warned them to evacuate before an expected ground offensive against Hamas in retaliation for the deadliest attack in Israel's history.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that nearly a week of fierce bombardment was "just the beginning" as Israel seeks to retaliate against Hamas after their fighters killed more than 1,300 a week ago.

Israeli ground forces made "localised" raids into Gaza in the past 24 hours "to cleanse the area of terrorists and weaponry" and try to find "missing persons", the army said.

At least 1,900 Gazans - most of them civilians and including more than 600 children - have been killed in missile strikes on the densely populated enclave, the health ministry said.

Threat everywhere

"Where to go?" asked Umm Hossam, 29, who was among the thousands fleeing.

"How long will the strikes and death last? We have no homes left, every area of Gaza is under threat," said the 29-year-old, her face streaked with tears,

Hamas took about 150 Israeli, foreign and dual national hostages back to Gaza in the initial attack, Israel has said.

UAE efforts

The militant group said Friday that 13 of them had been killed in Israeli air strikes.

The Gaza evacuation orders sent panic through civilians and aid workers already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade of the Hamas-ruled area. International aid groups warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis after Israel prevented the entry of supplies from Egypt to Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

The latest Israel-Hamas war has claimed more than 3,000 lives on both sides in the week since Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Oct. 7.

Senior Hamas commander killed

A senior military commander of Hamas who headed the Islamist group's aerial operations in Gaza City has been killed in Israeli air strikes, the military said Saturday.

Murad Abu Murad was killed over the past day when fighter jets struck an operational centre of Hamas from where the group carried out its "aerial activity", the military said. There was no immediate confirmation from Hamas.

Some key takeaways from the war so far:

What happened so far

An Israeli shell landed in a gathering of international journalists covering clashes on the border in southern Lebanon on Friday, killing a Reuters videographer and leaving six other journalists injured.

Israel has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine into Gaza. The only crossing point between Egypt and Gaza was shut down Tuesday following nearby Israeli airstrikes. Internet connectivity in Gaza City has been below 20% since Tuesday.

With Israel having sealed Gaza’s borders, the only direction to flee is south, toward Egypt. But Israel is still carrying out airstrikes across the Gaza, and Egypt has rushed to secure its border against any mass influx of Palestinians.

Governments around the world have spent the week trying to evacuate their nationals and dual citizens caught in the conflict after a spate of commercial flight cancellations.

Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists and threatened an unprecedented response to Hamas’ wide-ranging incursion.

The Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, have been killed in Israel — a staggering toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria that lasted weeks. Roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, the Israeli government said.

What is the situation in Gaza?

As airstrikes hammered the territory throughout the day Friday, families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with blankets and possessions streamed down a main road out of Gaza City.

Hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians across the territory wrangled over the agonizing choice of whether to stay or go following the Israeli order to evacuate.

Before the evacuation directives, 423,000 Gaza Strip residents had already fled their homes, according to the United Nations. Gaza is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.

Hamas’ media office said warplanes struck cars fleeing south, killing more than 70 people, while Israel’s military said that its troops had conducted temporary raids in Gaza to battle militants. Israel said its soldiers also hunted for traces of some 150 people abducted in Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7.

Americans in Hamas custody

US President Joe Biden spoke with the families of 14 Americans who have been missing since the Hamas attack Friday.

"We're going to do everything in our power to find them," he told CBS's "60 Minutes".

He also stressed that addressing the swelling humanitarian crisis in Gaza was a "priority".

"The overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas and Hamas's appalling attacks, and they're suffering as a result as well," Biden said in a speech.