It has been more than two weeks since Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza, launched a terrorist attack that killed 1,400 Israelis. Since then, the Hamas-run health ministry has said that more than 5,000 people have died in retaliatory strikes by Israel. It has not been possible to independently verify the death toll in Gaza.
Here is what we know about some of the most pressing issues raised by the war and the complex negotiations taking place to resolve them, including efforts to get more aid into Gaza, bring trapped foreigners out, free hostages taken in the surprise attack and keep the war from spreading.
Aid for Gaza
After more than a week of diplomatic wrangling, an aid convoy of 20 trucks laden with food, water and medicine passed into Gaza from Egypt on Friday, followed by an additional 14 trucks on Sunday and 20 on Monday. Aid workers were distributing supplies to displaced families in southern Gaza.
Aid officials say Gaza needs scores more trucks to cross every day to meet even basic needs and begin to alleviate the humanitarian crisis that has gripped the enclave in the two weeks since Israel declared a complete blockade of the strip.
Negotiations are continuing on the pace of the deliveries and other issues, including whether fuel can be trucked into Gaza. The United Nations and aid groups have urged that fuel be delivered as quickly as possible, calling it an essential lifeline to keep hospitals, bakeries, water desalination plants and other civilian infrastructure operating.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that medical supplies it had sent to Gaza had reached some hospitals and clinics, but because there was no guarantee of safe passage, they had not reached the biggest hospitals, which are in the north of the territory.
More than 200 people were taken hostage during the deadly Oct. 7 assault on Israeli border communities, according to the Israeli military. The captives include children and older people. Two — an Israeli-American mother and daughter — were released on Friday for what Hamas described as “humanitarian reasons” after mediation by Qatar, a tiny Gulf nation that has ties to the militants. And two older Israeli women were released on Monday.
Yocheved Lifshitz, one of those women, said her abductors took her through a network of tunnels — “it looked like a spider web,” she said — until they reached a large hall where they had gathered about 25 people. She said doctors visited to check on them. Ms. Lifshitz said it appeared the militants were prepared to hold them for a long time.
Hamas has said the hostages are being held in “safe places and the tunnels of the resistance,” although it has also made unverified claims that several have been killed in Israeli airstrikes. It has also said other groups are holding some of the hostages.
Israel’s military said Tuesday that it was asking residents of Gaza to provide information about the hostages, and was willing to offer protection and compensation in return.
Foreigners and dual citizens in Gaza
Hundreds of people with foreign passports are trapped in Gaza, and scores gather most days near the Rafah crossing with Egypt, desperate to escape. Diplomats say little progress has been made on securing them safe passage. There are as many as 600 Americans; 1,200 European Union citizens, including from Sweden, Romania, France, Germany, Spain and other countries; 300 Canadians; 200 British citizens; and 45 Australians in Gaza, according to diplomats.
Some foreign citizens sought to leave through the Rafah crossing when aid trucks entered on Saturday, but Hamas blocked their way, Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, said Monday. “We do believe that Egypt is ready to process American citizens if they can make it to Egyptian authorities,” he told reporters. “Hamas just has to stop blocking the exit.”
Mr. Miller said the United States had been sending messages on the matter to Hamas through “a number of partners.”
A possible ground invasion
In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack, Israel began calling up army reservists and preparing to invade Gaza to try to eliminate Hamas. It began warning residents of Gaza to move southward for their own safety, while senior Israeli commanders began making public references to the planned assault.
Yet more than two weeks on, the ground invasion has not materialized. U.S. officials say that the Biden administration has advised Israel to delay an invasion in order to allow more time for negotiations to release the hostages, for more humanitarian aid to reach the territory and for the military to carefully consider its attack plan. But some in Israel are becoming frustrated with the delays.
A wider war
Escalating clashes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, as well as Israeli strikes in Syria and in the occupied West Bank, have intensified fears of a wider regional conflict. Israeli authorities have evacuated towns and villages along the border with Lebanon, and Lebanese civilians have begun fleeing their homes on the other side.
The United States has been working behind the scenes to urge Israel against launching a pre-emptive strike on Hezbollah — which, like Hamas, is backed by Iran — out of concern that Israel would struggle in a two-front war. U.S. officials are also concerned that if Israel enters Gaza, Iran-backed militias in the region will intensify attacks on U.S. interests.
Vivian Yee, Aaron Boxerman and Adam Goldman contributed reporting.