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Israeli shelling of South Lebanon continues, Ogero prepares for war, Israel readies Gaza invasion: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday.Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 19 of the Hamas-Israel war here.
Israel shelled the outskirts of Tayr Harfa in southern Lebanon and is said to have damaged a local business, eyewitnesses confirmed to L’Orient Today’s South Lebanon correspondent. Israeli fire targeted the southern Lebanese villages of al-Azziyah Hill, al-Kawzah, al-Khila, al-Ramieh, Aytaroun, Houra, and Yaroun. Hezbollah announced the death of three more of its fighters, raising the party’s number of fatalities since the start of border clashes with Israel to 44. The Israeli military said the shelling was in retaliation to cross-border rocket and anti-tank missile attacks. The Lebanese Army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) jointly extracted an injured person and the remains of another killed yesterday morning by an Israeli drone strike in Kfar Shouba. Hezbollah’s press office said party leader Hassan Nasrallah met with the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to discuss coming steps “at this sensitive stage in order … to stop the malicious and brutal Israeli aggression.”
In a statement a Lebanese Foreign Ministry official reiterated Lebanon’s desire to avoid war, calling upon the UN Security Council to secure an “immediate and urgent cease-fire, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.” Foreign Ministry chargé d’affaires Hadi Hachem decried “Israel’s verbal and military aggression.” UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka told caretaker Defense Minister Maurice Slim the UN is "making intensive efforts to spare Lebanon the consequences of the ongoing conflict."
Ogero announced a series of measures “to ensure the continuity of service in the event of war against Lebanon.” The telecoms provider announced it had implemented “strict security measures,” built redundancy into its network, prepared emergency response teams and was collaborating with authorities. Ogero said that if interruptions occur, priority will be accorded to restore communications to the “Red Cross, Civil Defense services, rescue teams, firefighters, medical and healthcare facilities, as well as military and security institutions.” The government previously announced the approval of a plan to maintain the operation of vital services in the event of a war. Meanwhile, fuel and domestic gas importers maintained that deliveries are continuing as normal and that there were sufficient stocks available to sustain Lebanon. Middle East Airlines is operating at half-capacity, and has issued regular updates to flight schedules, most recently those of next Monday and Tuesday.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said the number of deaths in the enclave since Oct. 7 had risen to 6,546. The updated death toll signaled that an additional 755 people had died since the estimate compiled the day before. Overnight raids on Gaza killed at least 80 people, Hamas said, while Palestinian officials reported that an Israeli drone attack in the West Bank had killed three people. The UN’s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said one of its schools in Rafah was severely damaged by a nearby strike. At least 38 UNRWA staffers in Gaza have been killed in the relentless Israeli bombardment since Oct. 7.
Israel is“preparing for a ground invasion” of Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday. The Israeli military intensified its shelling of Gaza to prepare for such an operation, for which it is reportedly ready and awaiting a political decision. French President Emmanuel Macron and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi jointly called for unimpeded aid deliveries to Gaza and urged Israel to avoid a ground invasion. France deployed the hospital ship Tonnerre to Gaza which, according to Politico, includes a 69-bed hospital equipped with two surgical units and a dentist. UNRWA said Wednesday that "the coming 24 hours are very critical," as fuel shortages threaten to reduce or in some cases halt its operations. Israel banned the entry of fuel into Gaza as part of recently sanctioned aid shipments through the Rafah crossing — which was for the most part closed since the start of the conflict due to Israeli shelling. Gaza health officials and international organizations have said the aid being funneled in is insufficient to meet Palestinians’ needs after weeks of bombardment. Qatar’s Foreign Minister also discouraged a ground invasion of Gaza, saying it would complicate the release of Hamas-held hostages who had been abducted on Oct. 7. Qatar has mediated the release of hostages, four of whom have been released as of Tuesday, leaving 222 people in Hamas captivity.
Israeli ground forces entered the northern Gaza Strip Thursday, attacking multiple Hamas targets before withdrawing, Reuters reported. Video of the overnight action issued by the military showed armored vehicles penetrating the zone, a bulldozer leveling part of a sand berm and tanks firing shells with explosions seen near or amid a row of damaged buildings.
An online military statement said the incursion was carried out "in preparation for the next stages of combat."
Israel began localized ground incursions on Sunday. Israel's Army Radio described Thursday's incursion as the biggest yet. There was no immediate comment from Hamas in Gaza.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “‘No story is worth your life’: Journalists reflect on south Lebanon coverage after Reuters colleague killed”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz