As the conflict between Israel and Gaza enters its 15th day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Saturday, October 21, 2023:
- The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has opened and 20 aid trucks have entered the besieged enclave. But humanitarian groups say this initial aid is still “a drop in the ocean”.
- The 20 aid trucks are going to be allowed to move to an area between the Egyptian gate and the Palestinian gate. Then the aid is going to be driven to United Nations warehouses from which it will be distributed across the Gaza Strip.
- Israel kept up heavy bombardment of targets throughout Gaza overnight on Saturday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to “fight until victory” following the release of the first two captives by the enclave’s ruling Hamas group.
- The released American captives, Judith Raanan and her daughter Natalie, were abducted by Hamas during its October 7 attack on southern Israel.
- Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, freed the hostages “for humanitarian reasons” after Qatari mediation efforts, its spokesman Abu Ubaida said on Friday.
- Israel’s “complete siege” of the enclave continues and it has said that this will not be lifted unless Israeli hostages are freed.
- The death toll in Gaza has risen to more than 4,200, and 70 percent of the dead are women and children. More than 13,000 people have been injured.
- About 1,400 people were killed in Israel during the Hamas attacks on October 7, and more than 4,000 people have been injured.
- Israel has also called on its citizens to immediately leave Egypt and Jordan, and to try and avoid travelling to other regional countries, as tensions flare over its war in Gaza.
- An estimated 200 Israelis, including 30 teenagers and young children and 20 people over the age of 60, are being held captive in Gaza, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said on Thursday, citing military sources.
- An international conference dubbed the Cairo Peace Summit is under way in Egypt, to discuss ways to “de-escalate” the Israel-Hamas war.
- Egypt opened a summit on the Gaza crisis on Saturday to try to head off a wider regional war but the assembled Middle Eastern and European leaders are expected to struggle to agree on a common position on the conflict between Israel and Gaza.
- Two diplomats said it was unlikely there would be a joint statement from the gathering because of sensitivities around any calls for a ceasefire, and whether to include mention of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.
- UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was important that the conflict between Israel and Hamas didn’t escalate to the wider Middle East.
- “It’s important that the conflict doesn’t escalate regionally. That’s why I’m talking to as many people as I can across the region,” Sunak told reporters this week.
- Clashes on Israel’s border with Lebanon and attempted attacks by Iranian-backed forces elsewhere have fuelled fears of a spillover, particularly if a ground offensive proves bloody.
- Protests are also taking place around the Middle East with thousands of demonstrators protesting against Israel’s actions in Gaza. On Friday people from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Qatar, Yemen and the West Bank took to the streets.