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Israel-Hamas war: UNRWA says 1 million displaced in Gaza

Published October 15, 2023last updated October 16, 2023

The UNRWA's communications director said the displaced were moving "all over the Gaza Strip." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his expanded Cabinet for an emergency meeting. DW has the latest.

A view shows the remains of a Palestinian house destroyed in Israeli strikes in the central Gaza Strip October 15, 2023.
A number of buildings in Gaza have been destroyedImage: Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The UNRWA says at least 1 million Gaza residents have been displaced in the past week
  • Netanyahu has convened his expanded Cabinet for an emergency meeting, as the IDF says it is preparing for a "coordinated" offensive
  • Germany has issued travel warnings for Israel, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, as military flights took people out of Tel Aviv
  • High-profile talks in neighboring Egypt as US' Blinken visits
Skip next section US: Illinois man charged with hate crime after killing Muslim boy
October 16, 2023

US: Illinois man charged with hate crime after killing Muslim boy

A 71-year-old man from Illinois in the United States accused of stabbing a 6-year-old boy to death, and seriously wounding a 32-year-old woman, was charged with a hate crime on Sunday.

Police allege he singled out the victims because of their Islamic faith and as a response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In recent days, police in several American cities and federal authorities have been on high alert for crimes motivated by antisemitic or Islamophobic sentiments. FBI officials, along with Jewish and Muslim groups, have reported a surge in hateful and threatening rhetoric.

In the Chicago-area case, officers found the woman and boy on Saturday at a home in Plainfield Township, some 40 miles (65 km) southwest of Chicago, the Will County Sheriff's Office said in a statement posted on social media.

The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital after being stubbed 26 times with a military-style knife with a 7-inch (18-cm) serrated blade, the Will County Sheriff's Office said.

The woman had multiple stab wounds but was expected to survive.

Skip next section Abbas comments on Hamas adjusted
October 16, 2023

Abbas comments on Hamas adjusted

The Palestinian Authority's official news agency published comments on Sunday by President Mahmoud Abbas that suggested Hamas did "not represent" the views of the Palestinian people.

However, those comments, published by WAFA on its website, were later removed and rewritten as: "The president stressed that the policies, programs, and decisions of the PLO represent the Palestinian people as their sole legitimate representative, and not the policies of any other organization."

Skip next section Biden 'confident' Israel will follow the rules of war
October 16, 2023

Biden 'confident' Israel will follow the rules of war

US President Joe Biden said he is "confident" Israel will act under the rules of war as it continues to react to last weekend's attack by the Islamist-militant group Hamas.

In an interview with "60 Minutes," Biden however cautioned Israel not to reoccupy Gaza.

"Look, what happened....in my view, is Hamas, and the extreme elements of Hamas don't represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza again."

Biden said that while Hamas must be eliminated, there should also be a path laid out towards a Palestinian state.

The president added that the threat of terrorism in the US had increased due to the unrest.

Gaza airstrikes continue as Israel prepares ground assault

Skip next section Hamas does 'not represent Palestinian people.' says Abbas
October 16, 2023

Hamas does 'not represent Palestinian people.' says Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that the policies and actions of Hamas "do not represent the Palestinian people", the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Sunday.

The only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people is the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and not Hamas, he affirmed.

He made the comments during a phone call with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday.

"The president affirmed his rejection of the killing of civilians on both sides and called for the release of civilians, prisoners and detainees on both sides," according to the Wafa report. 

Abbas leads the Fatah faction within the PLO that have been at loggerheads with Hamas since 2007 when it seized power in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is considered a terror group by the US, EU and Israel among others.

Skip next section EU condemns Hamas terror attacks and underlines need for humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza
October 15, 2023

EU condemns Hamas terror attacks and underlines need for humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza

The European Union "condemns in the strongest possible terms Hamas and its brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks across Israel," the European Council said on Sunday.

It set out a common position across the block ahead of a special summit of EU leaders on Tuesday.

"We strongly emphasize Israel's right to defend itself in line with humanitarian and international law in the face of such violent and indiscriminate attacks," the statement issued by European Council President Charles Michel said. 

It called for the immediate release of "all hostages without any precondition" and said it was working to provide urgent humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.

"We underline the need to engage broadly with the legitimate Palestinian authorities as well as regional and international partners who could have a positive role to play in preventing further escalation," the bloc said.

Skip next section Israeli ground offensive a 'matter of when rather than if,' analyst tells DW
October 15, 2023

Israeli ground offensive a 'matter of when rather than if,' analyst tells DW

Jonathan Spyer, a British-Israeli analyst and journalist focused on the Levant and Middle East strategic affairs, tells DW that the imminent Israeli ground offensive to dismantle Hamas miltary targets in the Gaza Strip is "a matter of when rather than if."

"A massive force has now been assembled on the Gaza border, and I think it will be going in probably in the days ahead," Spyer said.

"Israel feels, at least at this stage, that time is still on its side, that it still has time to finish preparations and to enter Gaza under conditions it regards as optimal," he said.

The offensive, however, is going to be a lengthy one because there would be a number military challenges and because the goal of the Israeli offensive is to stamp out Hamas militants. 

"The clear goal of this Israeli campaign, as outlined or as expressed by the Israeli national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, in a speech yesterday, is to destroy the Hamas government in Gaza," Spyer said. "Not simply to weaken its capabilities but to remove it from power. That's quite a clear goal and certainly the Hamas authority will wish to defend itself, its existence."

Netanyahu: 'We are at war'

Skip next section 'The people of Gaza are not our enemy,' IDF spokesman tells DW
October 15, 2023

'The people of Gaza are not our enemy,' IDF spokesman tells DW

The Israeli military's goal in the Gaza Strip is to "destroy Hamas infrastructure," a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) told DW. "The people of Gaza are not our enemy," he added.

"Our instructions to the people of Gaza to move south are a humanitarian effort in order to keep them out of harm's way. It's our [way] to differentiate terrorists and non-combatants," said Peter Lerner of the IDF's evacuation orders issued to over 1 million civilians in northern Gaza. These have been criticized as "impractical" and "impossible" by human rights groups and aid organizations.

"Hamas have utilized civilian infrastructure, they've put drones with explosives on the rooftops of houses, they've put rockets in the basements of high rise buildings, they’re [operating] command and control positions out of public infrastructure," Lerner said.

"The people of Gaza need to move and I'm very glad that they are listening to us because, as we've seen over the last few days, Hamas is trying to prevent people from evacuating from what is going to be our conflict zone, our ground of operations," Lerner claimed.

Hamas has denied this but the group did tell people to ignore the evacuation order. Hamas’ media office said airstrikes hit cars in three locations as they headed south, killing 70 people, the Associated Press reported. Lerner however said the IDF believed this report to be mistaken. 

"Our investigation has come to the conclusion there was no IDF action in that area," he said. "The images suggest that the explosion came from underneath, not from above. And we intend to expose the images that we have from this incident to actually prove that."

Skip next section Palestinian death toll rises to 2,670, Gaza's health ministry says
October 15, 2023

Palestinian death toll rises to 2,670, Gaza's health ministry says

The number of people killed by Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip has risen to at least 2,670, the enclave's health ministry announced on Sunday.

A further 9,600 people have been injured, it said.

Over 1,300 Israelis were killed in attacks by Hamas militants last Saturday. Since then, Israeli forces have been bombing the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is based, ahead of an anticipated ground offensive.

The Israeli military has urged around a million civilians in Gaza to evacuate southwards, something human rights and health organizations have suggested is very difficult, if not impossible. 

Skip next section Blinken says Arab states don't want conflict to spread
October 15, 2023

Blinken says Arab states don't want conflict to spread

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Cairo after his tour of Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt that US allies in the region were determined to stop the conflict between Israel and Hamas from spilling over into the wider region. 

"What I've heard from virtually every partner was a determination, a shared view, that we have to do everything possible to make sure this doesn't spread to other places," Blinken told reporters on Sunday. 

"No one should do anything that could add fuel to the fire in any other place," he said. "It's clear from my conversations with all of these other countries, that they strongly share that view and they're using their own relationships to try to make sure that this doesn't happen." 

Blinken also said that he was confident that the Rafah border crossing with Egypt "will be open" to send aid into the blockaded Gaza Strip before too long. 

"We're putting in place with the United Nations, with Egypt, with Israel, with others, the mechanism by which to get the assistance and to get it to people who need it," he told reporters.

The US has also appointed a veteran former diplomat, David Satterfield, to work as a special envoy on bringing humanitarin aid into Gaza, Blinken said. Satterfield, 68, served in several diplomatic roles in the region during his career. He had left US government service last summer, taking up a position at a Texas university.

Skip next section Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
October 15, 2023

Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel

Both Hezbollah and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) report attacks on Israeli posts near the border with Lebanon. 

The IDF said that nine rockets were fired towards Israeli territory, five of which were intercepted. 

"The IDF is currently striking the launch site in Lebanon," it said on social media. 

The pro-Iranian group Hezbollah, meanwhile, said it had renewed attacks on Israeli posts near the border "with the direct and necessary weapons." 

The military wing of Hamas, the al-Qassam Brigades, in Lebanon also said it had hit northern Israel with 20 missiles "in response to the occupation's crimes against the people in Gaza." 

There have been several exchanges of fire across the border in the past week — usually with each side claiming their actions are a response to an attack by the other. 

Shortly before the IDF reporting more rocket fire, Israel's Defense Ministry had published a video in which Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said "we have no interest in a war in the north, we don't want to escalate the situation" during a troop visit.

"If Hezbollah opts for war, they will pay a very high price," Gallant said. "But if they restrain themselves, we will respect that and keep the situation as it is."

Skip next section 1 million displaced in Gaza in past week, UNRWA says
October 15, 2023

1 million displaced in Gaza in past week, UNRWA says

One million residents of Gaza have been displaced in the past week, since Israel began bombarding area after Hamas attacks on October 7 killed over 1,300, the UNRWA said.

UNRWA Communications Director Juliette Touma told DW on Sunday that the displaced had been moving "all over the Gaza Strip." UNRWA stands for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine. 

"The number is likely to be higher as people continue to leave their homes," Touma also told the French news agency AFP.

Israel has been urging Gaza's roughly 2.3 million citizens to move southward, particularly out of Gaza City, as it prepares for a ground offensive.

Skip next section Netanyahu convenes new expanded Cabinet, says working with 'united front'
October 15, 2023

Netanyahu convenes new expanded Cabinet, says working with 'united front'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers Israel would "demolish Hamas" during an emergency meeting he convened, the first of its kind for the country's expanded Cabinet.

Netanyahu on Thursday announced the formation of an emergency national unity government, bringing in political opponents even after a period of severe resistance to his coalition's domestic policies such as its judicial reform plans

It includes Benny Gantz, a senior opposition figure from the centrist Blue and White alliance and a former defense minister.

Held in the military headquarters in Tel Aviv, the meeting began with ministers standing for a moment's silence, in memory of around 1,300 killed in Hamas' deadly attacks on October 7.

The prime minister said all ministers were "working around the clock, with a united front." 

The show of unity "sends a clear message to the nation, the enemy and the world," Netanyahu said.

Skip next section Third German air force flight out of Tel Aviv of the weekend
October 15, 2023

Third German air force flight out of Tel Aviv of the weekend

Bundeswehr evacuation flight to Germany 15.10.2023
Germany started on Saturday evacuating its citizens from Israel with military airplanesImage: Bundeswehr

A German evacuation flight has taken off from Tel Aviv, carrying 82 passengers, Germany's air force said on Sunday.

"Almost done: We are on our way back. We were able to take 82 passengers this time," the Luftwaffe said on social media.

Earlier on Sunday, the German Bundeswehr announced that an Airbus A321 landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. The plane took off from the Western city of Cologne.

Germany's military announced plans on Saturday to fly remaining citizens who wish to leave out of Israel, after German carrier Lufthansa halted air traffic into and out of the country.

Skip next section Pope urges Gaza humanitarian corridors
October 15, 2023

Pope urges Gaza humanitarian corridors

Pope Francis has called for humanitarian corridors in Gaza, to help those in the besieged area as Israel bombards it and prepares for a ground invasion, in response to Hamas' October 7 attacks which killed around 1,300 people.

"Humanitarian law must be respected, especially in Gaza, where it is urgent and necessary to guarantee humanitarian corridors and help the population," Pope Francis said, during his weekly address to the crowds in St. Peter's square.

Growing anger in Israel over the plight of hostages

The pope also renewed his appeal for the release of hostages held by the militant group Hamas since the attacks.

"I strongly ask that the children, the sick, the elderly, women and all civilians do not become victims of the conflict," Pope Francis said. 

Skip next section US to evacuate citizens via sea
October 15, 2023

US to evacuate citizens via sea

The US government has announced a sea evacuation route for citizens wishing to leave Israel.

On Monday, US nationals and immediate family members with a valid travel document can leave via the Haifa port on a ship bound for Cyprus, the US Embassy in Jerusalem said on Sunday.

"Boarding will proceed in order of arrival and is on a space-limited basis," the embassy said, clarifying that boarding would begin at 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and that citizens must not arrive at the passenger terminal past 9 a.m.

Israel is home to tens of thousands of US citizens. Hamas' October 7 terror attacks killed 29 of them, and 15 more are missing and believed to be among those held hostage by the militant group since the attacks.

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