Oct 16 (Reuters) - Israeli forces kept up their bombardment of Gaza after diplomatic efforts to arrange a ceasefire to allow foreign citizens to leave and aid to be brought into the besieged Palestinian enclave failed.
U.S. officials warned that the war between Israel and militant group Hamas could escalate, as American warships headed to the area amid growing clashes on Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
* White House officials are hoping a crossing into Egypt can be opened for a few hours to allow people to leave Gaza before an expected Israeli ground offensive, the White House said. "Right now it's still closed," spokesman John Kirby said.
* Russian President Vladimir spoke to five major players, including Iran and leading Arab powers, to try and secure a ceasefire.
* Iran warned Israel of escalation if it failed to end aggressions against Palestinians. Its foreign minister said other parties in the region were ready to act, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
* The expected Israeli ground offensive and air strikes have raised fears of unprecedented suffering in the narrow, impoverished Gaza Strip. The fate of 4-year-old Fulla Al-Laham is just one of many heartbreaking examples: her grandmother said an air strike hit the family home, killing Fulla's parents, siblings and members of her extended family.
* Military forensic teams in Israel examined the bodies of victims of the Hamas attack, and found multiple signs of torture, rape and other atrocities, officers said.
* "There is no safety, even when you're at the crossing you're afraid," Hadeel Abu Dahoud told Reuters. "Nowhere is safe in Gaza. Wherever we go, there's shelling, shelling, crying, screaming, blood."
* Half of Israel's hotel rooms were being used to house families evacuated from communities near the Gaza Strip after the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas gunmen, the head of the Israel Hotel Association said.
* Pope Francis' representative in the Holy Land said he was willing to exchange himself for Israeli children taken hostage by Hamas and held in Gaza.
* Cancelled tours, empty hotels: Israeli and Palestinian tourism reels as the conflict escalates.
* Gaza health officials are storing the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli air strikes in ice-cream freezer trucks because moving them to hospitals is too risky and cemeteries lack space.
* China's foreign minister Wang Yi met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Beijing, and exchanged views on the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
* U.S. and Israeli officials are discussing the possibility of a visit to Israel soon by U.S. President Joe Biden.
* Malaysia does not agree with Western pressure to condemn Hamas, its prime minister said, despite international outrage over the militant group's unprovoked and deadly attack on Israel.
* Egypt said it stepped up diplomatic efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.
* Blinken will return to Israel on Monday, a senior State Department official said, extending his Middle East shuttle diplomacy by a day.
* A group of U.S. senators will travel to the Middle East to encourage Israel and Saudi Arabia to continue talks on normalizing relations, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
INSIGHTS AND EXPLAINERS
* How Hamas secretly created a 'mini-army' to fight Israel.
* Hamas uses a global financing network to funnel support from charities and friendly nations, passing cash through Gaza tunnels or using cryptocurrencies to bypass international sanctions.
* What are the origins of Hezbollah: Iran founded it in 1982 to export its 1979 Islamic Revolution and fight Israeli forces after their 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
MARKETS AND BUSINESS
* Defense funds saw sharp inflows as the conflict threatened Middle East stability.
* Brent oil futures steadied above $90 a barrel on Monday after topping that level on Friday, as investors waited to see if the Israel-Hamas conflict escalates further.
* Saudi Arabia's $778 billion sovereign wealth fund has mandated banks to arrange a bond sale, the first high-profile debt issue from the region since the Hamas attack.
* Stablecoin issuer Tether has frozen 32 cryptocurrency wallet addresses containing a combined $873,118 it said were linked to "terrorism and warfare" in Israel and Ukraine, the company said.
*Crude oil held above $90 a barrel, equities slid and the safe-haven dollar was firm amid heightened anxiety over escalating violence in Gaza and the prospect the conflict could spread in the region. (Compiling by Stephen Farrell, Robert MacMillan and Diane Craft; Editing by Sandra Maler, Miral Fahmy and Bernadette Baum)