International Committee of the Red Cross confirms two women held hostage in Gaza released by Hamas

The release is the second time the militant group has freed hostages seized in its bloody 7 October cross-border incursion into Israel.

The hostages were identified by Israeli media as Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper of the Israeli kibbutz of Nir Oz.

In a statement, Hamas said it had released them for humanitarian reasons.

Israel has demanded the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas.

The Islamic militant group is believed to be holding over 200 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual nationals.

Hamas released two other hostages – an American mother and her teenage daughter – on Friday.

UK government concludes that hospital bombing was not Israel

The British government says it has concluded that a devastating explosion at a hospital in Gaza was likely caused by a misfired missile from within Palestinian territory, rather than an Israeli strike.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told lawmakers in the House of Commons that based on an intelligence assessment, “the British government judges that the explosion was likely caused by a missile, or part of one, that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel.”

The conclusion tallies with assessments by U.S. and French officials about the cause of the explosion at the al-Ahli hospital on Tuesday.

Officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza have blamed it on an Israeli airstrike and said the blast killed almost 500 people. A U.S. intelligence report estimated that somewhere between 100 and 300 Palestinians were likely killed.

Sunak told British lawmakers that the U.K. stood by Israel in its war against Hamas but would also work to ensure that “a constant stream of aid” reached civilians “suffering terribly” in Gaza. He announced 20 million pounds ($24 million) in U.K. humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Israeli warplanes bombed areas of Gaza where civilians had been told to go for safety

Israeli warplanes struck targets across Gaza on Monday, including in areas where Palestinian civilians have been told to seek refuge, after another small aid shipment was allowed into the besieged Hamas-ruled territory.

Israel has still not allowed any fuel to enter Gaza, where there has been a power blackout for nearly two weeks. Hospitals say they are scrounging for generator fuel in order to keep operating life-saving medical equipment and incubators for premature babies, with an estimated 130 premature babies at "grave risk" in six neo-natal units in Gaza.

On Monday, Hamas said 5,000 civilians had been killed by Israeli bombardment, but that figure cannot be independently verified, and Hamas has inflated casualty figures in the past. Still, with hospitals overflowing and unable to cope with the influx of dead and injured people; and images of homes obliterated by Israel bombs, it is easy to see the civilian death toll climbing steadily.

Israel is widely expected to launch a ground offensive in Gaza following Hamas’ brutal 7 October rampage into southern Israeli communities. Tanks and troops have been massed at the Gaza border, and Israel says it has stepped up airstrikes in order to reduce the risk to troops in the next stages.

Fears of a widening war have grown as Israeli warplanes have struck targets in the occupied West Bank, Syria and Lebanon in recent days. It has frequently traded fire with Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, which is armed with tens of thousands of rockets.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops in northern Israel on Sunday that if Hezbollah launches a war, "it will make the mistake of its life. We will cripple it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the consequences for it and the Lebanese state will be devastating.”

Activists hold up a banner denouncing Israeli PM Netanyahu for Israel’s actions during the war with Hamas, outside ICC at The Hague, 23 October 2023
Activists hold up a banner denouncing Israeli PM Netanyahu for Israel’s actions during the war with Hamas, outside ICC at The Hague, 23 October 2023 - Aleks Furtula/AP

Pro-Palestinian activists block ICC building entrance

Dutch authorities detained 19 activists who occupied the entrance to the International Criminal Court on Monday, denouncing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israel’s actions during the war with Hamas.

Activists from the Extinction Rebellion group took over a bridge in front of The Hague-based court just after noon, carrying a banner that read “Netanyahu is a war criminal.”

The Dutch branch of the activist group, which was originally set up to campaign against climate change, has staged several other pro-Palestinian actions since Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October.

“The demonstration did not cause any disturbance to the ICC normal activities. The situation was addressed by the ICC security with the police,” said ICC spokesperson Sonia Robla.

After police released the 19 following their brief detention, they joined a small pro-Palestinian protest outside the ICC’s grounds.

The demonstration took place as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrived in the Middle East to meet with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel arrests Hamas suspects

Israel says it has arrested 37 Hamas members in overnight raids in the West Bank.

In total, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) says they have detained 800 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 500 associated with Hamas, since the war with Hamas began on 7 October.

United Nations and Red Crescent workers prepare the aid for distribution to Palestinians at UNRWA warehouse in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.
United Nations and Red Crescent workers prepare the aid for distribution to Palestinians at UNRWA warehouse in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. - Hassan Eslaiah/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Third aid convoy enters Gaza on Monday, says Red Crescent

A third aid convoy reportedly entered the Gaza Strip on Monday, under Israeli siege and shelling, on both the Egyptian and Palestinian sides of the Rafah border crossing.

An anonymous Egyptian Red Crescent official said a total of 34 trucks were already granted access between Saturday and Sunday; the first convoys to enter since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Meanwhile, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell called on Monday for "more aid, more quickly" for the Gaza Strip, besieged by the Israeli army, stressing that the question of a humanitarian pause would be debated by the 27 Member States.

"What is important? More aid, more quickly", he insisted, stressing that the few dozen lorries that had passed from Egypt to Gaza were "insufficient".

"Personally, I think that a humanitarian pause is necessary to allow humanitarian aid to be distributed", he declared on his arrival in Luxembourg for a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

According to Borrell, this option, also called for by UN boss Antonio Guterres, will be on the agenda for discussions in Luxembourg as well as in Brussels, where the leaders of the EU-27 are due to meet for a summit on Thursday and Friday.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky stressed how difficult he felt this objective would be to achieve at this stage because of the attitude of Hamas.

"There is a terrorist organisation that controls Gaza, that sends rockets every day, that has carried out a barbaric attack on Israeli territory", he said. "The question is therefore how such a ceasefire could be put in place; it must apply to both sides", he added.

"We will not be able to stem the humanitarian catastrophe if the terrorism in Gaza continues in this way", echoed the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock.

"It is essential to fight terrorism (...) and at the same time, everything must be done to alleviate the incredible suffering of the two million Gazans. It's squaring the circle. But we must square the circle together", she continued.

On the ground, as a second convoy of trucks entered the Hamas-ruled territory on Sunday, US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "affirmed that there will now be a continuous flow of this crucial assistance into Gaza", according to a White House statement.

On Saturday, at a "Peace Summit" in Cairo, Antonio Guterres called for "action now to end the nightmare", calling for a "humanitarian ceasefire".

"The people of Gaza need much more. Massive deliveries of aid are necessary", the UN secretary-general hammered home, despite the fact that only a few dozen lorries had passed from Egypt to Gaza -- a figure that was totally insufficient for the UN.

A Palestinian carries a child pulled out of a building hit in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023.
A Palestinian carries a child pulled out of a building hit in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023. - AP Photo

Israel steps up attacks on Gaza as humanitarian aid trickles in

Israel's military spokesman says his country is stepping up attacks on Gaza, amid growing expectations that a ground offensive into the enclave could begin soon.

Israeli warplanes struck targets across Gaza and two airports in Syria on Sunday, as well as a mosque in the occupied West Bank allegedly used by militants. According to a spokesperson, “dozens” of Hamas fighters were killed.

Hamas' health ministry said the deadliest Israeli raids took place in Deir al-Balah, where 80 people including women and children died and several buildings were destroyed. Raids also targeted Khan Younes and Rafah in the south of Gaza.

Israeli authorities said late Sunday they had allowed a second batch of aid into Gaza at the request of the United States. COGAT, the Israeli defence body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said the aid included water, food and medical supplies, and that everything was inspected by Israel before it was brought into Gaza.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees confirmed the arrival of 14 trucks but Israel has so far not allowed any fuel to enter Gaza.

Relief workers said far more aid was, and the UN's humanitarian agency said Saturday’s convoy carried about 4% of an average day’s imports before the war and “a fraction of what is needed after 13 days of complete siege.”

The Israeli military said the humanitarian situation was “under control,” despite the United Nations' demands.

The UN is calling for at least 100 trucks a day for the 2.4 million Gazans deprived of everything.