Advertisement

Israel defends Gaza internet blackout

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz (not pictured) in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv , Israel , 28 October 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz (not pictured) in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv , Israel , 28 October 2023 - ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

The Israeli military has defended the complete telecommunications blackout on the Gaza Strip, saying that it will do whatever it has to do to protect its forces.

The entire of the Gaza Strip was knocked offline on Friday night before Israel extended its ground incursion into the north of the besieged enclave.

The Israeli Defence Forces refused to comment on whether they knocked out the cellular signals that left civilians facing bombing without any information and ambulances scrambling to get to the injured without guidance. Only a few people with satellite phones or foreign sim cards have been able to get any messages out.

Asked whether Israel had knocked out cellular services at the start of the ground offensive that began on Friday night, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said: “We do what we have to do to secure our forces for as long as we must, temporary or permanent, as much as we need to and we will not say anything further about that.”

Palestinian cellular providers said that their services had been taken offline because of the Israeli bombardment.

The blackout – which analysts say may have been designed to stop the location of Israeli ground troops from being shared – has worsened Gaza’s already catastrophic humanitarian situation.


09:59 PM BST

Today's live blog is now closed

That’s all for today, we will be back tomorrow with all of the latest from the Israel-Gaza war.


09:51 PM BST

Qatari mediation efforts for hostage release continues

Qatari mediation efforts for the release of hostages held by Hamas are still ongoing, the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Majed Al Ansari told CNN this evening. 

“It is becoming more and more difficult with the current escalation,” he said.

The official added that they were “hopeful” given that Hamas has shown a desire to release the hostages in a prisoner exchange.


09:34 PM BST

Israel will stop Elon Musk from providing Starlink to Gaza

Earlier we reported that Elon Musk had said that Starlink could be used by Gazans if international aid organisations supported it.

The Israeli communications minister is now vowing to stop that from happening, despite the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza that is now compounded by few being able to call for help.

“Israel will use all means at its disposal to fight this,” communications minister Shlomo Kahri posted on X.

“Hamas will use it for terrorist activities. There is no doubt about it, we know it, and musk knows it,” he said.

“Perhaps Musk would be willing to condition it with the release of our abducted babies, sons, daughters, elderly people. All of them!

By then, my office will cut any ties with starlink.”

The Israeli military earlier refused to comment on whether they were behind the cellular blackout but defended the decision saying that it would do anything to protect its forces.


09:29 PM BST

International community must take stronger action to urge Israel to stop the bloodshed, says Doctors Without Borders


09:26 PM BST

Hamas says it wants 'immediate' prisoner exchange for Israeli hostages

The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, has called for an immediate prisoner exchange with Israel.

“We are ready to conduct an immediate prisoner exchange deal that includes the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for all prisoners held by the Palestinian resistance,” Sinwar said in a statement on Saturday night after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with families of the hostages.

Israel estimates that Hamas is holding 230 hostages in the Gaza Strip. War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said in a press briefing alongside Netanyahu tonight that “the ground campaign can help us get our hostages back home.”

The families of the hostages pushed Netanyahu for a prisoner exchange in return for their loved ones. Netanyahu did not make any commitments to an exchange deal but told the families they would “exhaust every option to bring [the hostages] home”.

Hamas has said from the beginning that they took captives with the aim of an exchange for the 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.


09:03 PM BST

We are fighting second independence war against Hamas, Netanyahu says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the conflict against Hamas as a “second independence war”, echoing Palestinian fears that they are facing a second “Nakba”, referring to their mass displacement during the creation of Israel.

At a press conference on Saturday night Netanyahu said: “This is our second independence war. We’re going to save our country. We’re going to fight in the air, ground and we are going to fight and win.”

Israel extended their ground operations into Gaza last night, leaving Gaza in a communications black out as they struck telecommunications infrastructure.

“This is the second stage of the war… Our calls are very clear – to destroy the military and government ability of Hamas and return the victims home,” Netanyahu said.

The current war against Hamas in Gaza is the deadliest of all of Israel’s wars against the enclave, with more than 7,000 people killed in three weeks, according to a toll from the Palestinian health ministry.

“The war inside Gaza is going to be long,” Netanyahu added.


08:37 PM BST

'Israeli obstacles' impeding aid deliveries, Egypt says

The Egyptian foreign ministry has said that Israel is causing “major logistical problems” that is blocking humanitarian aid from being delivered to Gaza.

“It is unfortunate that the process of transporting aid to the Gaza Strip faces major logistical problems imposed by the Israeli side,” an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said.”It is unfortunate that the process of transporting aid to the Gaza Strip faces major logistical problems imposed by the Israeli side,” an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson said.

“The trucks must be inspected at the Israeli Nitzana crossing before they head to the Rafah crossing on a journey that takes a distance of 100 km (62 miles) before they actually enter the Rafah crossing, which causes obstacles that significantly delay the arrival of aid,” the spokesperson added.

Aid officials have said that only “crumbs” of aid have made it into Gaza in comparison to the severe needs of the population.


08:18 PM BST

Hamas chief says they are ready for immediate prisoner swap

Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, has said that they are ready for an “immediate” prisoner swap with Israel.

“We are ready to conduct an immediate prisoner exchange deal that includes the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for all prisoners held by the Palestinian resistance,” Sinwar said in a statement.


08:17 PM BST

IDF refuses to admit whether it knocked out Israeli telecomms last night

Israel’s chief military spokesperson declined to say whether Israel was behind the telecommunications blackout that hit Gaza on Friday, leaving the besieged enclave cut off of from not only the outside world, but the emergency services.

Asked whether Israel had knocked out cellular services at the start of the ground offensive that began on Friday night, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said:

“We do what we have to do to secure our forces for as long as we must, temporary or permanent, as much as we need to and we will not say anything further about that.”


08:06 PM BST

Pictured: Netanyahu's press conference

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (L) address a press conference in The Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, 28 October 2023.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (L) address a press conference in The Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, 28 October 2023. - ABIR SULTAN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:02 PM BST

UNICEF calls for ceasefire


07:55 PM BST

Netanyahu in favour of closing government ministries

Netanyahu said at the end of the press conference that he is in favor of closing down some government ministries and increasing government spending.

“The only economy that interests me now is the economy of munitions,” he said.

He claimed that the economy can handle the war and promised to invest in the Gaza border area.


07:31 PM BST

UAE condemns Israeli ground operations

The UAE has condemned the Israeli ground operations in the Gaza Strip, according to state news agency WAM, citing the country’s foreign ministry.

What had been the first Gulf country to normalise relations with Israel in 2020, also “expressed its deep concern over the Israeli military escalation and exacerbation of the humanitarian crisis that threatens more loss of civilian lives.”


07:29 PM BST

'God Save Gaza'

The War memorial in Whitehall is defaced with 'God save Gaza'graffiti. Thousands of protesters take to the streets of London on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Palestine and to call for an end to Israel's ongoing siege in Gaza.
The War memorial in Whitehall is defaced with 'God save Gaza'graffiti. Thousands of protesters take to the streets of London on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Palestine and to call for an end to Israel's ongoing siege in Gaza. - Andrew Gardiner / Story Picture Agency

07:25 PM BST

Israeli defence minister speaks at press conference

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant has taken the stage after Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I have faith in the…fighters and commanders, the forces, the Mossad and its people and all the defense systems. Together, we’re going to achieve…victory,” he said.

“At this time, we are readying all the front – the north, center and south,” he added.

“We are making…effort in order to return the abductees to us, to our country. It’s a very complicated effort,” said Gallant.

“It’s dealing with reality that we didn’t know [about] in the past. We are ready to do anything… This is not a secondary mission. This is a national priority.”

“As long as the military pressure and fire is going to be increased, as we hit the enemy harder, there’s better chance…that the enemy will agree to solutions to return the loved ones.” Gallant concluded.


07:09 PM BST

Israel expels Turkish diplomats after Erdogan criticises Gaza attacks

Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen has confirmed that he recalled diplomatic staff from Turkey, which was rumoured last week, after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s “harsh” criticism of the Israeli military offensive in Gaza.

Cohen added that he had called for a reassessment of diplomatic ties with Turkey.

At a pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul that attracted hundreds of thousands of supporters today, Erdogan reiterated his belief that Hamas is not a terrorist organisation, but a group of freedom fighters.

“Israel has been openly committing war crimes for 22 days, but the Western leaders cannot even call on Israel for a ceasefire, let alone react to it,” Erdogan told the crowd.

“We will tell the whole world that Israel is a war criminal. We are making preparations for this. We will declare Israel a war criminal,” he said.

Turkey had been advocating itself to play a mediating role in the conflict before Erdogan gave his support to Hamas after the disputed Al Ahli hospital bombing last week.


06:43 PM BST

Erdogan and his wife greet supporters at the pro-Palestinian demonstration in Istanbul organised by his party

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and his wife Emine Erdogan (L) greet supporters during a rally organised by the AKP party in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, in Istanbul
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and his wife Emine Erdogan (L) greet supporters during a rally organised by the AKP party in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, in Istanbul

06:40 PM BST

Families of hostages back prisoner exchange

The representatives for the families of those with hostages held by Hamas have called on Israel to free all Palestinian prisoners in return for their loved ones, according to Times of Israel at a press conference.

“We were very loud and clear in our statements about the situation,” Malki Shemtov, the father of hostage Omer Shemtov, was quoted as saying. “We were speaking about what we feel and the military operation that’s underway. We are very worried about our loved ones who are there and we don’t know if the military operation will take those hostages under consideration, [to make sure] that no one will be injured.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not make any commitments to an exchange deal but told the families they would “exhaust every option to bring them (the hostages) home”.

Hamas has said from the beginning that they took captives with the aim of an exchange for the 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.


06:17 PM BST

Oman, Qatar and Quwait add to statements of discontent from Arab Gulf states

Oman, Qatar and Quwait have become the latest Arab Gulf states today to warn Israel against continued ground operations in the Gaza Strip.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said on X  that an “Israeli ground escalation would have dire consequences for civilians and devastating humanitarian and economic impacts.”

Oman on Saturday accused Israel of committing “war crimes” in Gaza and warned against any further ground maneuvers.

The escalation in Israel’s “brutal war on the Gaza Strip constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said a foreign ministry statement carried by the official Oman News Agency.

A Qatari foreign ministry statement expressed “complete rejection of the indiscriminate bombing of the Gaza Strip and the attempts to forcibly displace its people”. Qatar’s top diplomat said “mediation efforts to release civilian hostages” and to “end the war” were ongoing.

Kuwait charged that “any ground invasion of Gaza... will prove that the Israeli occupation is determined to continue committing crimes against the brotherly Palestinian people”, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Their statements came after Saudi Arabia said it “condemns and denounces any ground operations carried out by Israel due to the threat they pose to the lives of Palestinian civilians”, according to the foreign ministry.

Riyadh cautioned against “the danger of continuing to carry out these blatant and unjustified violations of international law against the brotherly Palestinian people”, warning of “serious repercussions for the stability of the region”.


05:52 PM BST

Egypt warns of grave risks if Israel continues with ground incursion

The Egyptian foreign ministry has warned Saturday there will be “grave risks” and “unprecedented humanitarian and security repercussion” if Israel continues with its ground incursion of Gaza.

The statement cited “deep concern over the grave potential repercussions of the ground military operation, and the expected ensuing increase in the number of victims and injured among children, women and unarmed civilians.” Egypt called the operation a “flagrant violation of the provisions of international law and international humanitarian law.”

The government also renewed calls for aid to be able to enter the besieged Gaza Strip. “Failure to immediately address the demands for a humanitarian truce and facilitating the access of aid to the Strip will inevitably lead to a human disaster and will destabilize regional security in a manner that endangers the stability of the region,” the statement reads.


05:37 PM BST

Israel says war with Hamas has 'entered new phase' with Gaza attacks

Israel’s war in Gaza “entered a new phase” overnight with what Palestinians described as the heaviest bombardment yet as Israel expanded its ground incursion into the enclave.

“We have entered a new phase in the war. We attacked above ground and below ground,” Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said on Saturday.

“The instructions to the forces are clear: the action will continue until further notice.”

The Gaza Strip remains completely cut off from communications after Israeli bombardments put the telecommunications out of service before their ground incursion began, leaving ambulances rushing in the direction of explosions without any guidance, and civilians trapped without any information.

Israel has told Palestinians in Gaza to flee south because ground fighting “will continue”. Air strikes in the south have continued unabated.


05:35 PM BST

World Food Programme says that just two of Gaza's 23 bakeries are still open as the enclave runs out of food


05:07 PM BST

'The objective of this war requires a ground operation': IDF chief of staff

Continuing in his video briefing, IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi has said that “the objective of this war requires a ground operation.”

“The ground forces are currently carrying out an important and complex operation, he said.

“The objective of this war requires a ground operation,” he added, without clarifying the widely held speculations over whether Israel will carry out a full ground invasion of Gaza or continue with the limited raids it has carried out in previous nights.

“Achievements demand risks and, as we know, every victory comes at price. In order to expose and destroy the enemy, there is no other way than to enter its territory with force.”

This action serves all the purposes of the war,” Halevi said.


05:00 PM BST

IDF Chief of staff says every command and branch is prepared for regional developments

The IDF chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, has given a briefing on the next stages of the war.

“This is a war with multiple stages, today we move to the next one,” Halevi said in a video briefing.

“Our forces are currently operating on the ground in the Gaza Strip. These activities are being supported by precise and heavy fire. To date, we have stabilised our defensive line, conducted strikes, our enemy has had hundreds killed and infrastructure destroyed,” he said.

“The best soldiers and commanders – well-trained and prepared – are now operating in Gaza,” he continued.

“We are following regional developments and are prepared for any scenario. Every regional command, force and branch of the IDF is prepared for possible developments and is supporting the war efforts.”

On the Lebanese border with Hezbollah, Halevi said: “we are at a very high level of readiness along the northern border.”


04:49 PM BST

Far too many civilians have been killed, says EU's foreign policy chief

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said that too many civilians have died and that the situation in Gaza is against International Humanitarian Law.

“Gaza is in complete blackout and isolation while heavy shelling continues. UNRWA [the main UN agency in Gaza] 
warns about the desperate situation of Gaza people without electricity, food, water. Far too many civilians, including children, have been killed. This is against International Humanitarian Law,” Borrell posted on X.

“A pause of hostilities is urgently needed to enable humanitarian access,” he continued.

“We condemn all attacks against civilians, including continuing indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel, and we ask the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”


04:40 PM BST

Pro-Palestinian rally holds sit-in at Waterloo station


04:37 PM BST

UN Secretary General slams Israel's decision to escalate instead of pause

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has criticised the “unprecedented escalation” of bombardments on Gaza and urged an “immediate” ceasefire.

“Instead of the pause” he had expected, there has been “an unprecedented escalation of the bombardments and their devastating impacts, undermining the referred humanitarian objectives,” Guterres said on a visit to Doha.


04:19 PM BST

Gaza death toll rises after overnight Israeli onslaught

The death toll in Gaza has risen to 7,650, according to a new release from the Palestinian health ministry.

The latest casualty tolls say that more than 19,450 people are injured in the Gaza Strip.

The UN, rights agencies and journalists have long had to rely on the casualty tolls from the health ministry in Gaza – which is run by Hamas – in times of conflict when foreign journalists and independent experts are not allowed to enter. Rights agencies have spoken out in recent days to confirm that the casualty tolls are usually found to be reliable.

More than 45 per cent of the housing units in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, the health ministry added.


04:05 PM BST

UNIFIL base hit by shell in southern Lebanon

A shell has hit the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission that patrols the border between Israel and Lebanon.

“A shell hit inside the base” in Naqoura, southern Lebanon, according to UNIFIL. Spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said that there were “no injuries but some damage.”

UNIFIL is trying to verify who fired the shell.

“This is not the first time a missile has hit our headquarters, as many of our other sites have suffered damage in the past three weeks,” the statement said. “It is a stark reminder of the fragile, tense and highly volatile environment in which peacekeepers currently operate.”


03:47 PM BST

Elon Musk says Starlink available for Gaza if aid organisations decide

Elon Musk has said that SpaceX’s Starlink will support communication links in Gaza with “internationally recognized aid organizations”.

“No terminals from Gaza have attempted to communicate with our constellation,” Musk said in a post on X, adding that “SpaceX will support communication links with internationally recognized aid organizations.”


03:36 PM BST

Senior Hamas official calls for implementation of UNGA aid decision

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad has called for an immediate implementation of the United Nations’ General Assembly decision to allow aid into Gaza.

Speaking in Beirut, Hamad said: “We consider the decision a victory for our Palestinian people, and we demand that this aid piled up on the Egyptian side be quickly sent and distributed to all areas and hospitals in Gaza Strip.”

His comments came after the UN General Assembly last night voted overwhelmingly in favour of an immediate humanitarian truce, aid to be allowed into Gaza and for the protection of civilians.

The resolution passed with 120 votes for, 14 against and 45 abstentions. The UK abstained from voting.

This is Abbie Cheeseman taking over the live blog from Beirut. 


02:44 PM BST

Watch: Leave northern Gaza now, IDF says ahead of fresh fighting

Across social media critics have been pointing out that the IDF’s message to Gaza is in English, instead of Arabic, and comes after all communications and connectivity has been shut off by Israeli bombing.


02:43 PM BST

Israeli Defence Minister: This is the next stage in the war

Israel has said the expansion of its ground operation in Gaza marks “the next stage in the war”, as it sending in tanks and infantry backed by massive strikes from the air and sea.

“We moved to the next stage in the war,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Saturday

“Last evening, the ground shook in Gaza. We attacked above ground and underground. ... The instructions to the forces are clear. The campaign will continue until further notice.”

His comments signalled the gradual ramping up toward what is expected to evolve into an all-out ground offensive in northern Gaza.

Early in the war, Israel had already amassed hundreds of thousands of troops along the border. Until now, troops had conducted brief nightly ground incursions before returning to Israel.

The burning skies above Gaza on Friday night as Israel continues to bombard the Strip
The burning skies above Gaza on Friday night as Israel continues to bombard the Strip - Ali Jadallah/Anadolu

02:35 PM BST

UN warns of 'potential for thousands more to die' in Gaza

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk warned on Saturday there was the potential for thousands more civilians to die as Israel steps up a ground operation in Gaza.

Israel’s army bombarded the territory on Saturday after fierce overnight assault that rescuers said destroyed hundreds of buildings, three weeks into a war sparked by the deadliest attack in the country’s history, by the terror group Hamas.

“Given the manner in which military operations have been conducted until now, in the context of the 56-year-old occupation, I am raising alarm about the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza and the potential for thousands more civilians to die,” Turk said.

“There is no safe place in Gaza and there is no way out. I am very worried for my colleagues, as I am for all civilians in Gaza.”


02:09 PM BST

Turnout at London Palestine march a possible record

Organisers’ hopes of exceeding last weekend’s record pro-Palestinian march in London appeared to be correct, Steve Bird writes.

Some of the aerial videos and social media posts showed tens of thousands of people on both sides of the road the length of Victoria Embankment, as well as crossing Waterloo Bridge.

At last week’s demonstration police estimated around 100,000 people attended, although protesters claimed the real figure was in the region of 300,000.

Police had said they again anticipate about 100,000 at the latest march. There are similar rallies being held in Manchester and Glasgow.


01:57 PM BST

Jewish groups that backed Corbyn in anti-Semitism row to join pro-Palestine march

Left-wing Jewish groups that backed Jeremy Corbyn during the Labour anti-Semitism scandal are expected to join a pro-Palestinian march on Saturday.

A post published on Twitter said a number of Jewish organisations will attend Saturday’s “March for Palestine” in London.

According to the post, the groups will form a “Jewish bloc” at the march. “Join Jewish Comrades on Saturday 28th October 11:30 to demand ceasefire now”, it said.

One of them, Jewish Voice for Labour, which is not affiliated to the Labour Party, was supportive of Mr Corbyn, the former Labour leader, and received criticism for claiming that the anti-Semitism scandal which engulfed the party during his tenure was “exaggerated”.

Read more here


01:33 PM BST

Woman toppled by police horse at Palestine march

A woman has been knocked over by a police horse startled by fireworks let off at the pro-Palestinian march in London.

A number of the horses bolted at the sound of the fireworks near the Houses of Parliament.

The woman was knocked to the floor and trampled on but appeared to be fine when brought back to her feet. Red and green flares were also let off by protesters.


01:32 PM BST

Egypt's president warns of 'ticking time bomb'

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday warned against any expansion of the conflict in Gaza, saying the region risked becoming a “ticking time bomb”.

He also said his country’s sovereignty should be respected after drones were intercepted after entering Egyptian air space on Friday.

Israel on Friday said it was the target of the drones which it blamed on Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi movement.

Egypt’s military said the drones, which fell on the Egyptian towns of Taba and Nuweiba near the Israeli border, injuring six, originated in the southern Red Sea but did not say who launched them.

“Regardless of where it comes from, I have warned of the expansion of the conflict. The region will becoming a ticking time bomb that impacts us all,” al-Sisi said.


12:23 PM BST

In pictures: Pro-Palestine protesters gather in London

Activists are gathering ahead of Saturday afternoon's huge march in London
Activists are gathering ahead of Saturday afternoon's huge march in London - Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire
Some 100,000 people are expected at the rally
Some 100,000 people are expected at the rally - Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire
1,000 police officers are on duty for the march
1,000 police officers are on duty for the march - HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP

12:10 PM BST

Pro-Palestine marchers descend on London again

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have gathered in central London with banners and posters ahead of the latest march.

Demonstrators have been told to stick together and not to talk or interact with the police.

Protesters are already chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, despite warnings that it could amount to a hate crime.

Some 100,000 protesters are expected for the third mass pro-Palestinian march in as many weeks in the capital, along with more in other cities.

Last week’s march landed the Metropolitan Police in a major row after protesters were not arrested for chanting “jihad” and other apparently anti-Jewish remarks.


11:57 AM BST

Lebanon issues airport alert as border tensions rise

The Lebanese authorities on Saturday issued precautionary guidance for evacuating Beirut International Airport and its surrounding facilities in case of emergency, as tensions rise on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

The guidance for Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, which lies on the southern fringe of the capital, did not indicate any immediate escalation on the border.

There have been daily but relatively contained exchanges of fire there recently between Israel and the heavily armed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

In 2006, the airport’s runways were hit by Israeli airstrikes, forcing it to close, as part of reprisals following Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers.

Israeli soldiers patrol on a street in Sderot, near the border with Gaza, in Israel
Israeli soldiers patrol on a street in Sderot, near the border with Gaza, in Israel - HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

11:52 AM BST

Radio silence from Scottish First Minister's in-laws in Gaza

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said he has not heard from his in-laws in Gaza as the territory comes under heavy bombardment from Israeli armed forces.

Mr Yousaf said on Saturday he had been unable to contact his wife’s mother and her husband after communications were cut off as bombing of the Gaza Strip intensified.

Writing on X, he said: “Thank you for your good wishes, I’m afraid we have not heard from my in-laws.

“My concern is for all the innocent people suffering for a crime they did not commit. If you did not vote for peace, while children are dying, then I do not know how you sleep at night.”


11:49 AM BST

Hamas 'trying to find eight Russian-Israeli hostages'

Hamas is trying to locate eight Russian-Israeli dual citizens that were taken hostage during the Palestinian militant group’s attack on Israel in order to free them on Moscow’s request, Russian news agencies reported on Saturday.

“From the Russian side, via the foreign ministry, we received a list of citizens that have dual citizenship,” a Hamas representative was cited as saying by the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.

“We are looking for those people... It is hard but we are looking. And when we find them, we will let them go.”


11:36 AM BST

Israel has right to self-defence, Foreign Secretary stresses

The Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has reiterated that Israel has a right to defend itself after Hamas’s attack on October 7 that left 1,400 people dead.

He said the Palestinian terrorist group “habitually embed military capabilities within civilian infrastructure” in a move he said was “internationally recognised” as “completely inappropriate”.

“Of course we are having conversations and will continue to have conversations with the Israeli military about the preservation of civilian life, about the adherence to international law,” he added.

“But they do have a right to self-defence and throughout this operation, since the atrocities of October 7, Hamas and other terrorist organisations have consistently bombarded Israel from Gaza, from among civilian infrastructure.”

Palestinian youths waving Hamas flags clash with Israeli Defence Forces during skirmishes at a checkpoint on Friday
Palestinian youths waving Hamas flags clash with Israeli Defence Forces during skirmishes at a checkpoint on Friday - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

11:20 AM BST

Bombing focused on hospital shields

Witnesses said most of the overnight bombing in Gaza was concentrated on areas around two hospitals - Al-Shifa and the so-called Indonesian hospital - located in Jabaliya district of northern Gaza.

The strikes left wide craters in the streets and flattened many buildings in the area.

Just hours before Israel intensified its bombardment on Friday, its army spokesman Daniel Hagari accused Hamas fighters of waging war on Israel from Gaza’s hospitals and using civilians as “human shields”.

The IDF has claimed that Hamas terrorists are hiding in tunnels beneath hospitals – and eliminating this network is crucial to defeating them.


11:14 AM BST

Watch: First glimpse of Israel ground mission


10:52 AM BST

Israeli forces expanding humanitarian efforts

Israel’s military spokesman Daniel Hagari said its forces were “broadening the humanitarian effort” on Saturday and would allow trucks carrying food, water and medicine to enter southern Gaza.

It comes as the UN health agency, Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups said they remain unable to communicate with their teams in the besieged Gaza Strip for up to 12 hours.

Tedros Adhanom, head of the World Health Organization, said the blackout has made it “impossible for ambulances to reach the injured.”

More than 1,400 people were slain in Israel during Hamas’ Oct 7 attack and at least 229 hostages were taken into Gaza. Palestinian militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.


10:41 AM BST

Communications blackout hampering rescue efforts

Internet access and the phone network have been completely cut across the Gaza Strip amid the intensification in Israeli operations.

Authorities in Gaza accused Israel of taking the measure “to perpetrate massacres with bloody retaliatory strikes from the air, land and sea”.

AFP journalists in Gaza confirmed they were only able to communicate in limited areas where they could connect to Israeli networks across the border, or via satellite phone.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said the “disruption affects the central emergency number 101 and hinders the arrival of ambulance vehicles to the wounded” in the ongoing strikes.


10:31 AM BST

Israel's military 'thwarted missile fire from Lebanon'

Israel’s military said on Saturday it had stopped a surface-to-air missile fired from Lebanon at one of its drones, and was responding by striking the launch site.

“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) thwarted a surface-to-air missile that was fired from Lebanon toward an IDF UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). In response, the IDF is striking the origin of the missile’s fire,” it said.

Israeli tanks and troops move near the border with Gaza on Saturday
Israeli tanks and troops move near the border with Gaza on Saturday - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

10:22 AM BST

What happened overnight?

In case you’re just joining us, here are the main developments from the first night of Israel’s expanded ground operation in Gaza.

  • Israel says it has struck 150 “underground targets” in northern Gaza during an intense night of raids that hit “terror tunnels, underground combat spaces and additional underground infrastructure”.

  • The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) claimed that its fighter jets had killed the head of Hamas’ aerial wing, Asem Abu Rakaba, who had helped to plan the Oct 7 terror attack and was responsible for the group’s UAVs, drones, paragliders, aerial detection and aerial defence.

  • A Gaza maritime commander was among the other Hamas chiefs killed, the IDF said.

  • The 2.3 million people living in Gaza remain under an almost complete blackout, with internet and phone services cut for more than 12 hours and ambulances struggling to reach the wounded.

  • Rear Admiral Daniel Hagar of the IDF said on Saturday morning that “the forces are still in the field and continuing the war”, with tanks rolling through northern Gaza.


10:14 AM BST

Air strikes 'change landscape' of northern Gaza

Israeli air strikes destroyed hundreds of buildings in the Gaza Strip overnight, the civil defence service in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory said on Saturday.

“Hundreds of buildings and houses were completely destroyed and thousands of other homes were damaged,” Mahmud Bassal, a spokesman for the Gaza Civil Defence told AFP, adding that the intense bombardments had “changed the landscape” of northern Gaza.

Smoke rises from an explosion in Gaza on Saturday
Smoke rises from an explosion in Gaza on Saturday - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

10:03 AM BST

Watch: IDF tanks in Gaza

Fighting is raging beyond dawn in Gaza after Israel expanded its ground operation with infantry and armored vehicles backed by “massive” strikes from the air and sea.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari of the IDF said on Saturday morning that “the forces are still on the ground and are continuing the war”.

The military has released videos showing columns of armored vehicles moving slowly in open sandy areas of Gaza, the first visual confirmation of ground troops.

Previously, troops had conducted brief nightly ground incursions before returning to Israel.


09:41 AM BST

Where are the hostages, Israeli families ask

Families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza have demanded an immediate government explanation about the fate of the captives after strikes intensified.

The main group representing some 229 people believed abducted in the October 7 attacks by Hamas sought an immediate meeting with Israeli ministers.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement on Saturday that relatives were angry over the “absolute uncertainty regarding the fate of the hostages held (in Gaza), who were also subject to the heavy bombings”.

“None of the war cabinet bothered to meet with the families to explain one thing - whether the ground operation endangers the well being of the 229 hostages in Gaza,” the group said.

“The families are worried about the fate of their loved ones and are waiting for an explanation. Every minute feels like eternity.”


09:39 AM BST

Stop this madness, says Turkey's president

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called on Israel to “immediately stop this madness” and end its “attacks” on targets in Gaza after Israeli forces intensified strikes on the Palestinian territory.

“The Israeli bombardments on Gaza intensified last night and once again targeted women, children and innocent civilians and worsened the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” Erdogan said on X.

“Israel must immediately stop this madness and end its attacks.”


09:14 AM BST

Hamas maritime commander wiped out too

Israel has now claimed to have killed both Hamas’s maritime and aerial commanders overnight.

The Israel Defence Forces’ spokesman General Daniel Hagari told a news conference this morning:

The IDF is continuing with significant massive attacks from the air and from the sea and the killing of terrorists.

Overnight the ISA and the IDF have killed off additional Hamas commanders, terrorists, among them the commander of the aerial force of Hamas who was a key participant and planner of the October 7 massacre.

In addition to him we killed the maritime commander of Gaza and other commanders - these are the spearhead terrorists of Hamas, therefore their targeting is a significant phase of progress in the combat and means we are going to fight a weaker enemy.

He added that “eradicating Hamas” and “a national effort to bring back the hostages” remain the two goals of the military operation and “we are extensively deployed and readily alert”, including in northern Gaza.


08:58 AM BST

Beware Iran, Cleverly tells pro-Palestinian protesters

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has warned the more than 100,000 pro-Palestinian activists marching on London and other British cities on Saturday to beware fake news from Iran.

He tells reporters this morning:

Many people will recognise that there has often been attempts to subvert the actions of other people - it is perfectly possible to support the Palestinian people but also to condemn Hamas.

But sadly we do see people being manipulated, subject to disinformation, distortion and sadly I do think a small minority within those protests have got very much more negative aims.

I would say to everyone involved in the protests - be conscious of disinformation and manipulation.


08:52 AM BST

WHO out of touch with health facilities in Gaza

The World Health Organization (WHO) has lost contact with its staff and health facilities in Gaza, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.

He tweeted: “Evacuation of patients is not possible under such circumstances, nor to find safe shelter.

“The blackout is also making it impossible for ambulances to reach the injured.

“We are still out of touch with our staff and health facilities. I’m worried about their safety.”


08:47 AM BST

James Cleverly pours cold water on ceasefire calls

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has insisted that the demands for a ceasefire from many Left-wing commentators “aren’t going to help the situation”.

“Calls for a ceasefire in the abstract aren’t going to help the situation - we have consistently sought to bring about pauses to facilitate the inward passage of the humanitarian aid that we are providing, and the release of hostages and the evacuation of British nationals in Gaza,” he tells reporters.

“Of course we want to see this resolved, we want to see Israel safe, peaceful and secure, but as yet I have seen or heard nothing from Hamas that gives me any confidence that either desire or would abide by calls for a ceasefire.”


08:39 AM BST

The scene as daylight breaks in Gaza

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel on Saturday
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel on Saturday - Ohad Zwigenberg/AP
Israeli soldiers drive with an armoured personnel carrier (APC) on patrol near the border with Gaza
Israeli soldiers drive with an armoured personnel carrier (APC) on patrol near the border with Gaza - HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:29 AM BST

On the ground in Gaza: Ambulances playing guesswork

With much of the Gaza Strip still in a communications blackout, we’re getting little information from there, but here’s what BBC journalist Rushdi Abualouf has reported from Khan Younis this morning.

There was a huge bombardment in the north of Gaza strip on a scale we’ve never seen before.

Huge flames could be seen rising into the sky – it seemed they were using different types of bombs.

At the hospital here ambulance drivers told me they couldn’t communicate with anyone, so they were just driving in the direction of the explosions.

There’s been panic everywhere.


08:23 AM BST

In pictures: Gaza alight from air strikes

Smoke rises and billows in different regions of Gaza
Smoke rises and billows in different regions of Gaza - Ali Jadallah/Anadolu
Israel is trying to wipe out the Hamas terrorist group
Israel is trying to wipe out the Hamas terrorist group - Ali Jadallah/Anadolu
It is the 21st day of the Hamas-Israel war
It is the 21st day of the Hamas-Israel war - Ali Jadallah/Anadolu

08:09 AM BST

Israeli military update: 'Destroy everything touched by hand of Hamas'

Here’s the latest statement from the Southern Command of Israel’s IDF military:

We are using fire that has never been seen before in the Gaza Strip. From the air, from the ground or from the underground - the IDF will eliminate every senior or junior terrorist and every terrorist infrastructure of Hamas.

RMA (Head of the Air Operations Group), Lt. Col. Gilad Keinan added:

In the attack flight tonight, about a hundred fighter jets dropped hundreds of weapons and destroyed hundreds of targets of the Hamas terrorist organization.

The Air Force is prepared for the continued development of the campaign, and works together with all the bodies in the IDF when the goal is clear - to destroy everything touched by the hand of Hamas.


07:56 AM BST

Hostage negotiator: This is the deal Israel should strike over Hamas captives

Israel should release all of its female Palestinian prisoners to secure a deal for the hostages held by Hamas, the country’s best-known negotiator has said.

Gershon Baskin, who oversaw the freeing of Gilad Shalit, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier, called on the government to offer up 34 jailed Palestinian women and 190 teenagers.

Mr Baskin dealt with Hamas in the historic 2011 deal that saw Pte Shalit released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

On Friday, a Hamas leader said the terrorist group was proposing to free all foreign hostages in exchange for a five-day ceasefire, United Nations-supervised supplies of aid and fuel, and the release of all Palestinian women and teenagers.

Read more here


07:43 AM BST

Hamas 'using hospital as a shield'


07:39 AM BST

Hamas terror tunnels under Gaza City are the key target

Israeli warplanes have bombed Hamas tunnels and underground bunkers in the northern Gaza Strip overnight, signalling a further escalation in the territory’s ruling militant group.

Fighter jets hit dozens of underground targets, knocked out communications and created a near-blackout of information, largely cutting off the 2.3 million people in Gaza from the outside world.

The Israeli military said on Friday it was expanding ground operations in the territory, another sign that it was moving closer to an all-out invasion of Gaza.

Military officials have said a key target would be Hamas’ extensive network of tunnels and underground bunkers, much of it located under Gaza City in the north of the territory.

The Palestinian telecom provider, Paltel, said the bombardment had caused “complete disruption” of internet, cellular and landline services. It meant details of what happened were not immediately clear.


07:34 AM BST

War rages in Gaza Strip

Battles raged in Gaza on Saturday after Israel’s army expanded ground operations three weeks after experiencing the deadliest attack in the country’s history.

The United Nations warned of a looming “unprecedented avalanche of human suffering” inside the Gaza Strip, after weeks of relentless Israeli bombing, while the General Assembly called for an “immediate humanitarian truce”.

“We are confronting an Israeli ground incursion in Beit Hanoun (in the northern Gaza Strip) and east Bureij (in the centre) and violent engagements are taking place on the ground,” Hamas’s armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said.

Israel launched its bombardment of Gaza after Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking nearly 230 others hostage.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said Friday that Israeli strikes had now killed 7,326 people, more than 3,000 of them children.


07:11 AM BST

Pictured: Israeli soldiers prepare for ground operation

Israeli soldiers prepare for the scenario of ground maneuvers at an undisclosed location near the border with Gaza, in Israel,
Israeli soldiers prepare for the scenario of ground maneuvers at an undisclosed location near the border with Gaza, in Israel,
Israeli soldiers prepare for the scenario of ground maneuvers at an undisclosed location near the border with Gaza
Israeli soldiers prepare for the scenario of ground maneuvers at an undisclosed location near the border with Gaza
Israeli soldiers prepare for the scenario of ground maneuvers at an undisclosed location near the border with Gaza
Israeli soldiers prepare for the scenario of ground maneuvers at an undisclosed location near the border with Gaza

06:46 AM BST

Israel strikes 150 ‘underground targets’ overnight

The Israeli army said its fighter jets had struck 150 “underground targets” in northern Gaza during an intense night of raids in its war against Hamas.

A military statement said the sites hit included “terror tunnels, underground combat spaces and additional underground infrastructure. Furthermore, several Hamas terrorists were killed.”


06:28 AM BST

Israel claims it has killed head of Hamas aerial wing

The Israeli military said is has killed the head of Hamas’ aerial wing, who had helped plan the Oct 7 attack by the terrorist group on Israel’s southern towns.

The Israeli Defence Forces said its fighter jets struck Asem Abu Rakaba, head of the Hamas Aerial Array, who was responsible for Hamas’ UAVs, drones, paragliders, aerial detection and aerial defence.

“He took part in planning the massacre in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip on October 7th. He directed the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on paragliders and was responsible for the drone attacks on IDF posts,” the IDF said.


05:29 AM BST

Pictured: ‘The largest civil disobedience New York City has seen in 20 years’

Thousands of protesters forced the closure of Grand Central station in New York on Friday night in a large sit-in against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

The demonstration, made up mostly of Jewish New Yorkers, took over the main hall of the iconic station and blocked its main concourse.

Organisers called the peaceful sit-in “the largest civil disobedience New York City has seen in 20 years”.

The New York Police Department said at least 200 people had been arrested, while protest organisers put the number at more than 300.

Read more: Massive pro-Palestine protest shuts down Grand Central station in New York

Thousands of Jews and allies hold an emergency sit-in, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza at New York's Grand Central Station
Thousands of Jews and allies hold an emergency sit-in, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza at New York's Grand Central Station
People demonstrate calling for a cease-fire amid war between Israel and Hamas, at Grand Central Station in New York City
People demonstrate calling for a cease-fire amid war between Israel and Hamas, at Grand Central Station in New York City
Protesters gather at Grand Central Terminal during a rally calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Friday
Protesters gather at Grand Central Terminal during a rally calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Friday

04:40 AM BST

Hamas vows to respond with ‘full force’

Hamas said on Saturday its militants in Gaza were ready to confront Israeli attacks with “full force” after Israel’s military widened its air and ground attacks on the Palestinian enclave.

The terrorist group that rules Gaza said its fighters were clashing with Israeli troops in areas near the border with Israel after the IDF intensified attacks in the Strip.

A cut-off in internet and phone services - which telecoms firms and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said was a result of Israeli bombardments - has been continuing for more than 10 hours.


03:28 AM BST

US reminds Israel about ‘importance of protecting civilians’

The US defence secretary has “underscored the importance of protecting civilians” during operations in Gaza in a call with his counterpart in Israel.

The Pentagon said Lloyd Austin spoke on the phone with Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, about the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is stepping up its military onslaught.

It comes after John Kirby, the US National Security spokesman, said on Friday that the White House backed a pause in the fighting to allow aid to get in, even as Israeli forces were expanding their operations.

“We would support humanitarian pauses for stuff getting in, as well as for people getting out, and that includes pushing for fuel to get in and for the restoration of electrical power,” Mr Kirby said, adding that more than one pause might be needed.

The US would not draw “red lines” for Israel in how they prosecute the war but would continue to have conversations about “the manner they’re doing this”, he added.


02:36 AM BST

Protesters shut Grand Central station in New York

Hundreds of protesters demanding a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas forced the closure on Friday of Grand Central Terminal, one of New York City’s major transit hubs, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

“Grand Central Terminal is closed until further notice due to a protest,” the MTA said on its website, urging commuters to use alternate stations and plan for extra travel time.

“Mourn the dead, and fight like hell for the living,” read one banner raised inside the building.

Images on social media showed protesters pouring out of the train station and onto 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, and a large crowd being detained by law enforcement.

Protesters at Grand Central Station
Protesters at Grand Central Station - AP

01:51 AM BST

Gaza blackout ‘risks providing cover for mass atrocities’

The near-total telecommunications blackout in Gaza risks providing cover for “mass atrocities”, the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch said on Friday, as Israel relentlessly bombards the Palestinian territory.

“This information blackout risks providing cover for mass atrocities and contributing to impunity for human rights violations,” the group’s senior technology and human rights researcher, Deborah Brown, said in a statement.


01:05 AM BST

Manchester and Glasgow braced for pro-Palestine rallies

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters are expected to take to the streets of Britain on Saturday as Israel steps up its offensive on Gaza.

Police expect about 100,000 people to join a demonstration in London demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, with other rallies organised elsewhere in the UK - including in Manchester and Glasgow.

The Metropolitan Police said officers are expected to intervene if protesters use the word “jihad” in chants in London over the weekend.

A video emerged of a pro-Palestinian protester chanting “jihad” at one event last week, but officers had said no offences were identified in the footage from the demonstration.

Read more: Calling for jihad is not an automatic hate crime, says CPS chief


12:41 AM BST

‘I just prayed they wouldn’t be killed’

The heartbreaking hostage ordeals of Israeli families desperate for their loved-ones to come home alive.

Children and the elderly raped, beheaded, tortured.

These are their stories.

Read our special report, The Missing


12:20 AM BST

Shame on you, Israel tells UN after ceasefire vote

The UN General Assembly on Friday called by a large majority for an “immediate humanitarian truce” in Gaza, on the 21st day of the Israel-Hamas conflict as the Israeli army announced it was extending its ground operation into the shattered territory.

The non-binding resolution, criticized by Israel and the United States for failing to mention Hamas, received 120 votes in favor, 14 against and 45 abstentions from UN members.

Israel angrily dismissed the measure, and said the country would use “every means at our disposal” in confronting Hamas.

“Today is a day that will go down as infamy. We have all witnessed that the UN no longer holds even one ounce of legitimacy or relevance,” Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan said, telling the assembly: “Shame on you.”

“Israel will continue to defend itself. We will defend our future, our very existence by ridding the world of Hamas’s evil so that it can never threaten anyone else again,” he said.

Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan said the UN vote would go down in infamy
Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan said the UN vote would go down in infamy - REUTERS

12:18 AM BST

Today's top stories

  • Israel’s ground forces expanded operations in Gaza on Friday night

  • Israel accused Hamas of using the Strip’s 1,500-bed Al-Shifa hospital as a shield for the group’s command structure

  • Internet and phone services collapsed, largely cutting off Gaza’s 2.3 million trapped residents from the outside world

  • The latest escalation followed two overnight tank raids into the Strip which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said were missions to start to prepare the ground for an offensive

  • The country’s war cabinet reportedly made the decision to expand operations after talks on a possible hostage release ended in a stalemate

  • Hamas called on the world to “act immediately” to stop Israel pounding the territory

  • John Kirby, the US National Security spokesman, said that the White House backed a pause in the fighting to allow aid to get in

  • Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said Gaza faced “an unprecedented avalanche of human suffering”