U.S. President Joe Biden warned that an Israeli re-occupation of Gaza would be a “big mistake” in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes.” He also said that the Palestinian militant group Hamas should be eliminated entirely, but that “there must be a path to a Palestinian state.”
The White House has so far fully supported what it says is “Israel’s right to defend itself.” Israel is on its 10th day of an aerial bombardment campaign of the Gaza Strip, over which it has ordered a total siege, cutting off water, food and electricity supplies to a population of 2 million people.
The siege, which has been criticized by human rights groups for breaking humanitarian law, comes in response to a brutal terrorist attack by Hamas on Oct. 7. The death toll from the conflict so far has risen to at least 1,400 people killed in Israel and nearly 2,700 people killed in Gaza.
The UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, said its aid workers will no longer be able to continue humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip unless new supplies are allowed into the enclave.
Israel’s military continued to urge residents to move from northern Gaza to the south as it pledged to counter Hamas with “an even greater force.” The evacuation orders have been criticized by many humanitarian agencies.
Israel appears to deny cease-fire to allow foreigners out of Gaza Strip
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to deny the existence of a humanitarian corridor allowing the passage of foreign nationals out of the Gaza Strip.
“There is currently no cease-fire and humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the expulsion of foreigners,” it said in a Google-translated statement.
Earlier on Monday, Reuters had reported, citing anonymous Egyptian sources, that the U.S., Egypt and Israel had agreed a ceasefire coinciding with the re-opening of the Rafah border into Egypt — the only crossing out of the besieged Gaza Strip enclosure, otherwise surrounded by Israel and the sea.
Netanyahu’s office did not clarify if the statement referred to this report, which CNBC could not independently verify.
An alert on the site of the U.S. embassy to Israel said, “According to media reports, the Rafah crossing will open at 9am local time on October 16. We anticipate that the situation at the Rafah crossing will remain fluid and unpredictable and it is unclear whether, or for how long, travelers will be permitted to transit the crossing.”
The Israeli Defense Forces late last week urged the 1.1 million residents of the northern half of Gaza to evacuate south, stoking concerns over the possibility of an Israeli ground incursion into the region. Israel, which has amassed substantial troops at the border, said it exclusively targets Hamas military positions.
Humanitarian agencies have repeatedly warned that such a short window for evacuation in the Gaza Strip, which is blockaded on all sides and has been cut off from Israel’s electricity, water, food and fuel supplies, will compound the local civilian crisis.
— Ruxandra Iordache
Biden warns Israel that re-occupying the Gaza Strip would ‘be a big mistake’
Re-occupying the Gaza Strip would “be a big mistake” for Israel, U.S. President Joe Biden said during an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday.
Asked by the interviewer during the program “60 Minutes” if Biden would support an Israeli occupation of Gaza, Biden replied: “I think it’d be a big mistake.”
The Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel has triggered a ferocious Israeli response, with an aerial bombardment and full siege of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. To date in the conflict, officials say that 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, and 2,750 have been killed in Gaza.
Israel has mobilized more than 300,000 reservists and amassed a large number of troops near the Gaza border, suggesting a possible ground invasion of the battered enclave.
Many military analysts say a re-occupation of Gaza by Israel would create an immediate disadvantage for Israeli troops who are not familiar with the lay of the land and would be fighting a deeply embedded enemy waiting to ambush them.
— Natasha Turak
Biden says effort to normalize Saudi-Israel relations still ‘alive’
The latest hostilities triggered by the terrorist attacks of Palestinian militant group Hamas have not ended efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, U.S. President Joe Biden said in a TV interview with CBS News.
Saudi Arabia and a spate of other Arab nations have historically supported the Palestinian people, refusing diplomatic ties with Israel on that account. The U.S. has been pushing for a normalization of relations between its two key allies in the Middle East, Riyadh and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli administration.
“Saudis and Emiratis and other Arab nations understand that their security and stability is enhanced if there is normalization of relations with Israel,” Biden said. “And so I think that it’s still alive, it’s going to take time. Look, this [is] going to take time to get done. It’s going to take time, but the direction, the moving into normalization, makes sense for the Arab nations, as well as Israel.”
Israel made significant inroads in reconnecting with the Arab world through the September 2020 Abraham Accords brokered by the government of former U.S. President Donald Trump. The agreement re-established relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with Sudan and Morocco also recognizing Israel in the years since.
In March this year, a China-mediated deal pushed long-feuding arch-rival Iran — which has backed Hamas — and Saudi Arabia to rekindle diplomatic ties, raising questions over the future of Riyadh’s relations with Israel.
— Ruxandra Iordache
UNRWA says staff are ‘no longer able’ to provide humanitarian aid in Gaza
The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency said its staff are “no longer able to provide humanitarian assistance in Gaza.”
“Gaza is running out of water, and Gaza is running out of life,” the commissioner-general of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement Sunday, warning they will soon run out of food and medicine too.
“There is not one drop of water, not one grain of wheat, not a litre of fuel that has been allowed into the Gaza Strip for the last eight days,” said Philippe Lazzarini. “An unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding under our eyes.”
In a statement to CNBC, Israel’s Defense Forces said: “Israel has no legal obligation to supply Gaza with electricity, fuel or goods. Gaza is independently capable of generating electricity and supplying water.”
The IDF claimed that “90% of Gaza’s water is sourced within the Gaza Strip,” and blamed Hamas militants for destroying the infrastructure at crossings “through which goods pass through everyday.”
The IDF also claimed the militants were diverting resources in Gaza for their own use.
The UNRWA has lost 14 of its staff members and said most of its 13,000 staff in the besieged enclave are now displaced or out of their homes.
“Unless we bring now supplies into Gaza, UNRWA and aid workers will not, be able to continue humanitarian operations,” Lazzarini said.
— Joanna Tan, Natasha Turak
Death toll in Gaza rises to nearly 2,700; Israel’s hostage count jumps to 155
The death toll in Gaza has risen to 2,670 and 9,600 people have been wounded, according to Gaza’s health ministry, as Israel continues its offensive against Hamas militants in the besieged enclave. Deaths in the occupied West Bank also climbed, with 55 people killed and 1,200 others injured.
In Israel, more than 1,400 people have died while 3,500 were wounded, according to the government press office.
The number of hostages believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza jumped to 155, according to IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagar, who did not confirm if it was due to an increase in civilian abductees or combined military-civilian hostages.
— Joanna Tan
Senate leader Schumer says chamber will rush through military aid to Israel
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday that the senate would push through a military aid package to help Israel in its war against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
“We will work to move this aid through the senate ASAP, and the Israeli leaders made it clear to us they need the aid quickly,” said Schumer during a trip to Israel.
He said among Israel’s requests are additional interceptors for its Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been operating non-stop shooting down Hamas rockets from Gaza, and precision munitions.
China says Israel’s actions have ‘gone beyond self defense’ in Gaza
China urged Israel to heed calls from the international community to end its collective punishment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
“Israel’s actions have gone beyond self-defense and it should heed the call of the international community and the Secretary-General of the United Nations to stop its collective punishment of the people in Gaza,” China Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly told his Saudi Arabia counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in a call on Sunday.
Wang’s comments came during a series of calls over the weekend, as world leaders worked to prevent an escalation of the Israel-Hamas war into a broader Middle East crisis.
Read more here.
— Clement Tan
Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:
Iran warns war could expand; China says Gaza offensive is ‘beyond self-defense’