Israel Hamas war: Two American hostages freed as Israeli airstrikes continue in southern Gaza

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By Joshua AskewGiulia Carbonaro
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Follow live updates of the Israel-Hamas war.




  • An Israeli invasion of Gaza appears imminent, with the country's defence minister telling troops they will soon see the Palestinian enclave "from inside"
  • Some 20 lorries loaded with aid are waiting to cross Egypt's border with Gaza
  • More than 3,700 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Hamas' surprise attack on 7 October on southern Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people
  • US President Joe Biden has compared Hamas to Russia, saying he would ask Congress for billions in dollars of military funding for Israel

That's our live blog coming to a close today.

Read below to see how events unfolded on Friday.

We're back Saturday morning with all the latest overnight developments at 08:00 CET.

Thanks for reading.


Biden asks for billions to support Israel and Ukraine

US President Joe Biden asked Congress for €99 billion ($105 billion) in emergency funds, including $10.6 billion in military support for Israel and $61.4 billion to continue helping Ukraine with both military and financial assistance.

The president asked for €8.5 billion ($9 billion) in humanitarian assistance for Israel, Gaza, and Ukraine.


London police report a 1,353% increase in anti-semitic offences

The Metropolitan Police in London reported a 1,353% climb in anti-semitic offences this month compared to the same time last year, while Islamophobic offences were up 140%.

"Regrettably, despite the increased presence of officers, we have seen a significant increase in hate crime across London", the police said in a statement.

"Between 1 October and 18 October, we saw 218 antisemitic offences compared to 15 in the same period last year. Similarly, we saw an increase in Islamophobic offences from 42 to 101."

The Met Police reported making 21 arrests for hate crime offences in the community.


Photos: Destroyed buildings on the outskirts of Gaza City

Palestinians walk by the buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment on al-Zahra, on the outskirts of Gaza City, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Ali Mahmoud
AP Photo/Ali Mahmoud
AP Photo/Ali Mahmoud


More than 4,100 Palestinians killed since the start of the war, say Gaza authorities

At least 4,137 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombings since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest update by the Ministry of Health in Gaza. Of this, 16 were killed in the Greek Orthodox church of Saint Porphyry in Gaza City.

Another 13,162 are estimated to have been injured, according to the report.


Egypt blames Israel for blocking aid to Gaza, criticises Western media

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry lashed out at "Western media", saying they are unfairly targeting Egypt over the closure of the Rafah crossing and blaming the country for the alleged obstruction of third-country nationals.

"Promoting displacement scenario, holding Egypt responsible for the Crossing closure despite Israeli targeted attacks and refusal of aid entry and recently insinuating Egypt responsibility for obstructing third-country nationals exit", a spokesperson for the ministry wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Rafah crossing is open and Egypt is not responsible for obstructing third-country nationals exit", the ministry added in another tweet.


Tens of thousands of Egyptians demonstrate for Gaza

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration organised by the government in Cairo, with many wearing kaffiyehs and waving the Palestinian flag.

Egypt should be opening the Rafah border to the passage of trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza today.

Protesters shout anti-Israel slogans during a rally to show solidarity with the people of Gaza after Friday prayers at Azhar mosque, the Sunni Muslim world's premier Islamic institution, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Amr Nabil

Guterres calls for aid trucks to 'urgently' enter Gaza

Speaking from the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the immediate opening of the crossing to allow trucks carrying humanitarian aid to "proceed urgently and as soon as possible" to the Palestinian enclave.

"We have seen many trucks loaded with supplies on this side of the border. These trucks are not just trucks, they are a lifeline, the difference between life and death for so many people in Gaza.

"Seeing them trapped here makes me very clear: what we need is for them to move, to move to the other side of the wall as quickly as possible and in as many as possible," he told a press conference from the border.


Israeli army believes 'majority of hostages' in Gaza alive

In a statement released on Friday, the Israeli army said that "the majority of the hostages" taken by Hamas during its 7 October attack were "alive".

"Of the approximately 200 hostages currently in Gaza, more than 20 are minors and between 10 and 20 are over 60 years old. The majority of the hostages are alive," the spokesman said, without elaborating.

Israel says Hamas has freed two American hostages who had been held in Gaza since militants rampaged through southern Israel on the 7th of October. The hostage release Friday came even as Israeli airstrikes continued to hit southern Gaza, an area swelled by civilians who fled there from the north on Israeli instructions.

Israel was also evacuating a sizable town near the Lebanese border in the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil, Kiryat-Shmona has a population of 20,000 people.

Palestinians in Gaza reported heavy airstrikes in the southern city of Khan Younis, where civilians had been told to seek safety amid Israel's bombardment of areas closer to the Israeli border.

Meanwhile, French military intelligence assessed on Friday that the most probable hypothesis for the explosion at Gaza City’s al-Ahli Hospital was that it was caused by a Palestinian rocket that was carrying an explosive charge of about 5 kilograms that possibly misfired.

Several rockets in the arsenal of the Palestinian militant group Hamas carry explosive charges of about that weight, including an Iranian-made rocket and another that is Palestinian-made, said a senior French military intelligence official.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence assessment, cleared to do so by President Emmanuel Macron in what was described as an attempt to be transparent about the French findings.

The official said none of their intelligence points to an Israeli strike.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza trying to find a way to get badly needed aid into the enclave.

The war, which is in its 15th day, is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that 4,137 Palestinians have been killed and more than 13,000 others wounded.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack two weeks ago when Hamas militants stormed into Israel. In addition, 203 people were believed captured by Hamas during the incursion and taken into Gaza, the Israeli military has said.

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