Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 8, 2023 (Mahmoud Hams/ AFP)


More than 7,000 deaths in Gaza: Hamas-Israel war, day 20

What you need to know

International pressure is growing to delay any invasion of Gaza, not least because of hostages.

The Gaza Health Ministry says there have been 6,546 deaths in the enclave since the start of the war. Israel says that more than 1,400 people were killed since Oct. 7. 

About 1.4 million people — more than half the population of Gaza — have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

12 of Gaza's 35 hospitals have closed due to damage or insufficient fuel.

France will send a navy ship to support hospitals in Gaza, Egypt will send key supplies by plane.

21:12 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our LIVE coverage of Day 20 of the Hamas vs Israel conflict.

We'll be back tomorrow with more news updates and analysis, right here at L'Orient Today.

21:11 Beirut Time

IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari said Thursday night that no fuel is currently entering the Gaza Strip, according to orders from the political establishment.

"Fuel is a central issue," Hagari said, "Part of their [Hamas'] activity relies on fuel."

21:10 Beirut Time

The Palestinian Red Crescent says it received 12 trucks from their Egyptian counterparts at the Rafah border crossing, containing water, food, medicines, and medical supplies. So far, a total of 74 trucks have been received, but fuel has not yet been allowed to enter the Strip.

20:39 Beirut Time

The Israeli army and the Shin Bet assassinated three senior commanders of Hamas' Gaza City Brigade, an Israeli army spokesperson announced on X.

The assassinations targeted the commander of Hamas' Daraj Tufah battalion, Rafat Abba, and his deputy, Ibrahim Jadbah, as well as Hamas combat and administrative assistance commander Tareq Ma'ruf.

Daraj Tufah is a battalion within the Gaza City Brigade, which is considered Hamas' most important brigade. Its fighters played a significant role in the attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

20:25 Beirut Time

Lebanon's Civil Defense says one of their members was lightly injured by a mine explosion while trying to extinguish fires in Alma al-Shaab.

Civil Defense also said it left the area and handed the task over to the Lebanese Army due to the dangers involved. Earlier, a Civil Defense spokesperson told L'Orient Today that Israeli strikes prevented them from extinguishing fires in Alma al-Shaab.

20:08 Beirut Time

Israel has no interest in war with any other foe other than Hamas, and its ground operation in Gaza will come when conditions are right, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday.

"We are waging war on the southern front against Hamas, prepared for any development in the north, Hezbollah is suffering many losses. However, we have no interest in expanding the war," Gallant told reporters after he was asked about the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.

Asked about a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, Gallant said: "The day it will come is not far off ... the maneuver will start when conditions are right." Gallant would not comment on the possibility of a Qatari-mediated hostage release but said, "any channel is a possibility as long as the goal is met." 

19:56 Beirut Time

Hezbollah did not claim any military operation against the Israeli army in southern Lebanon today, for the first time since Oct. 13.

A Hezbollah spokesperson told L'Orient Today this is "probably due to military reasons."

19:39 Beirut Time

A man was killed around 6 p.m. on Thursday in South Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, sources at the camp told L'Orient-Le Jour. 

Ahmad Diab, the brother of a member of al-Chabab al-Moslem ("Muslim Youth"), was shot in the Safsaf district, before succumbing to his injuries in hospital, according to a Palestinian source.

A member of the Fatah Movement was also wounded in the exchange of fire, though the group denied any involvement. Joint security forces intervened to restore the calm in the camp.

In July and early September, deadly fighting broke out between Palestinian Islamist factions and Fatah fighters inside Ain al-Hilweh.

19:34 Beirut Time

Iran's foreign minister says Hamas is ready to release civilian prisoners to Tehran, reports Reuters.


19:13 Beirut Time

"A remotely manned aircraft recently attacked a terrorist squad that tried to launch anti-tank missiles from Lebanese territory at an [Israeli army] base," the Israeli army said in a statement.

19:13 Beirut Time

Iran's foreign minister says that if "genocide" in Gaza continues, US will not be spared "from this fire," reports Reuters.

18:43 Beirut Time

The severe fire that broke out overnight Thursday near the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab due to Israeli airstrikes is still burning, a spokesperson for the Civil Defense told L'Orient Today.

Though the Civil Defense managed to extinguish the part of the blaze that was approaching the village, the flames were still severe on the village outskirts. The spokesperson said Israel is intentionally preventing Civil Defense teams from extinguishing the remaining flames.

"With our clear firefighter trucks, if we get bombarded every time we approach the outskirts, what does this tell you?" the spokesperson asked.

18:42 Beirut Time

"It's a tough battle, but ... we have no choice in Lebanon but to fight this enemy who can attack our country at any time when the opportunity arises," said Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah during a Thursday speech at the funeral of a party fighter in the village of Aita al-Shaab, Bint Jbeil.

"This battle is like no other," he added. What we see in 2023 is very different from what we used to see. The enemy hides and conceals many losses, while we are proud of our martyrs, and we announce [our losses]."

"Our fighters ... are not killed at home or on the roads, but on the front line in a difficult battle where the enemy launches its missiles and cannons while hiding behind the borders. This has never happened in the history of the conflict with the Israeli enemy," said Fadlallah.

18:29 Beirut Time

Hamas's armed wing said Thursday that "almost 50" Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip since the Oct. 7 attacks have been killed in Israeli bombing raids on the Palestinian territory.

"Al-Qassam Brigades estimates that the number of Zionist prisoners who were killed in the Gaza Strip as a result of Zionist strikes and massacres has reached almost 50," the group said in a statement issued on its Telegram channel.

AFP was not immediately able to verify the claim. Israel launched a massive air and artillery bombardment of Gaza after Hamas carried out its attacks on southern Israel.

Earlier, the Israeli army said 224 people were abducted by militants during the attack that left 1,400 people, mostly civilians, dead.

17:02 Beirut Time

The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Morocco on Thursday condemned the targeting of civilians and violations of international law in Gaza, which has been under Israeli bombardment.

Their joint statement mentioned that the right to self-defense does not justify breaking the law and neglecting Palestinians' rights.

The Arab foreign ministers also condemned forced displacement and collective punishment in Gaza, the statement added.

17:00 Beirut Time

UNIFIL told L'Orient Today that it detected fire between Lebanon and Israel, near Blida, Marjeyoun, earlier today and later near Aytaroun, Bint Jbeil.

A source in Lebanese Civil Defense told L'Orient Today that Israeli forces are trying to obstruct fire brigades and the Lebanese Army from reaching burning forests near Aita al-Shaab, Bint Jbeil, by firing shells in its vicinity.

According to the state-run National News Agency, the exchange of fire threatens homes in Aita al-Shaab.

UNIFIL also said it has been working with Lebanese authorities to extinguish fires burning near Alma ash-Shaab, Sour, as a result of exchanges of fire along the Blue Line. The fires are burning in minefields, which makes them more complicated to extinguish, according to the same source.

16:31 Beirut Time

Upon his arrival at an EU summit in Brussels, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that an Israeli military operation to eliminate Hamas was necessary, but that it had to be carried out within the limits of the international law of war and cause minimum damage to Gaza's civilian population.

"Unfortunately, a military operation must take place to eliminate Hamas," Rutte said, according to Reuters. "There is no other way. Otherwise Israel cannot survive in the long term. But it must be done with a minimum of damage to the civilian population."

16:28 Beirut Time

UNIFIL told L'Orient Today that it had earlier today detected a fire near Blida (Marjayoun district), in the vicinity of Lebanon's border with Israel, and later near Aytaroun (Bint Jbeil distict).

A Civil Defense source told L'Orient Today that Israeli forces are firing shells in vicinity of forest fires near the town of Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil district) in an effort to obstruct the work of fire brigades and the Lebanese Armyto control the flames.

According to state-run National News Agency, the Aita al-Shaab blaze threatens homes in the town.

UNIFIL also said that it has been working together with Lebanese authorities to extinguish fires burning near Alma al-Shaab (Sour district), as a result of exchanges of fire along the Blue Line. These fires are occurring in mine fields, which makes them more complicated to extinguish, UNIFIL said.

16:00 Beirut Time

Image: A girl who fled her home amid Israeli air strikes shows the camera a plate of food collected at a food distribution point a United Nations-run center in Khan Yunis, where she and her family are sheltering in tents, in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 26, 2023. (Credit: Mohammed Abed / AFP)

15:39 Beirut Time

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that nobody should expect Turkey to remain silent in the face of the violence in Gaza.

In a speech in Ankara, Erdogan said there was no difference between Gazan, Palestinian, Israeli, and Syrian children in the eyes of Turkey. He also said Turkey would intensify its efforts with Egypt to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

15:24 Beirut Time

Israeli fighter jets carried out an air strike based on military intelligence and eliminated Hassan Al-Abdullah, commander of Hamas' Northern Khan Yunis Rockets Array. The claim was posted on the Israeli military's X, formerly Twitter, account.

15:21 Beirut Time

Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan told Pope Francis in a phone call on Thursday that Israeli Attacks on Gaza amount to a massacre, according to a statement from the Turkish president’s press office, and that the ensuing silence of the international community has been “Embarrassing.”

In the call, Erdogan said that all countries must raise their voice against the humanitarian crisis in the region, according to a statement from the president's office.

The call took place in the morning, following a request made by Erdogan, a Vatican spokesman said in a note.

"The Pope expressed his pain for what is happening and reiterated the position of the Holy See," the spokesman added, "hoping that the two-state solution can be reached as well as recognising a special status for the city of Jerusalem."

14:31 Beirut Time

Lebanon's Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri spoke Thursday about Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon and "Israel's use of internationally prohibited weapons and munitions in its attacks, specifically phosphorous shells," state-run National News Agency reported.

Earlier, residents of Alma al-Shaab in Sour district called UNIFIL, the Lebanese Army and Lebanon's Civil Defense forces to intervene quickly to extinguish fires that broke out in the area as a result of the Israeli bombing.

"Fires caused by internationally banned white phosphorus shells are the responsibility of the international community and all the international delegates who are gathering in the region," Berri said.

Berri remains in contact with the army command, the interior ministry and Civil Defense, NNA said, in order to assist in quickly extinguishing the fires.

According to a statement issued by the ministry of interior's general directorate of civil defense, the ministry gave directives to Civil Defense centers in all districts of the South and Nabatieh governorates to support Lebanese Army units and UNIFIL to extinguish the fires that erupted in the forests along the Southern border after Israeli shelling, notably on the outskirts of the towns of Aita al-Shaab, Rashaya al-Foukhar, Alma al-Shaab, Labbouneh, Ras al-Naqoura and Dhayra.

Civil Defense brought reinforcements from Damour, Saida, Jbeil, Ghobeiry, and Shehim to help control the fire as quickly as possible, the statement adds.

According to the statement, efforts to extinguish the fires have been ongoing since 7 a.m. amid extremely dangerous security conditions as Israeli shells continue to fall and the presence of cluster bombs and mines buried in border areas.

14:17 Beirut Time

Gaza's Health Ministry has announced that 7,028 people had been killed since the start of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on October 7. Of that number, 2,913 were children. The ministry, said 1,709 women have been killed and another 18,484 wounded. – AFP

13:38 Beirut Time

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13:27 Beirut Time

URGENT: The Israeli army has fired at least one round of phosphorus ordnance on the outskirts of the town of Aita al-Shaab, in southern Lebanon, a military intelligence official told L'Orient Today, confirming information previously broadcast by the Hezbollah-affiliated channel Al-Manar.

13:02 Beirut Time

“Israel must stop threatening Lebanon with attacks and trying to take it back to the stone age,” said Lebanon’s Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib at a meeting with nine European ambassadors.

“A ceasefire would pave the way for a reduction in tensions in the region, and prevent the conflict from spreading,” continued the minister in a post on the ministry’s X (formerly Twitter) account.

12:39 Beirut Time

Israel's artillery targeted the outskirts of the town of Blida, in the Ghasuna area of Marjayoun district, with two 155 mm shells "with the aim of terrorizing farmers who were picking olives" near the borders, according to state-run National News Agency.

Hezbollah's Al Manar TV also reported the news, saying that Israel's artillery twice fired on the eastern outskirts of Blida.

Contacted by L'Orient Today contacted to confirm the report the Lebanese Army was unable to do so.

Meanwhile, residents of Alma al-Shaab in the Sour district called UNIFIL, the Lebanese Army and Lebanon's Civil Defense forces to intervene quickly to extinguish fires that broke out in the area as a result of the Israeli bombing, which are now threatening homes in the town and have already destroyed large areas of the town’s vineyards, NNA reported.

L'Orient Today contacted UNIFIL and the municipality of Alma al-Shaab but they were not immediately available for comment.

12:33 Beirut Time

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Thursday that years-worth of military and other measures would be required to restore security to the southern region after Hamas' cross-border attack from Gaza of Oct 7. – Reuters

12:03 Beirut Time

The Lebanese Red Cross reported to L'Orient Today that the bodies of two individuals "targeted by Israeli bombardment" and six wounded had been transferred to Yaroun, South Lebanon, on Wednesday night.

They were transferred to the government hospital in Bint Jbeil, in coordination with the Lebanese army and UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). The Red Cross did not specify whether the two dead were Hezbollah fighters, the party having announced the death of two of its fighters in the morning.

11:21 Beirut Time

The Israeli military said Thursday that the number of people confirmed held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Hamas' Oct 7 cross-border raids had reached 224, and could rise further. – Reuters

11:13 Beirut Time

Caretaker Telecoms Minister Johnny Corm announces that mobile providers Alfa and Touch have submitted a "contingency plan" in the event of a war breaking out in Lebanon.

The Lebanese public company Ogero, responsible for managing fixed-line telephony and internet services in Lebanon, Wednesday issued a statement announcing a series of measures “to ensure the continuity of its services in the event of war against Lebanon.”

11:01 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced this morning two deaths among its fighters: Hussein Hariri and Ali Jawad.

The total number of casualties among Hezbollah fighters since Oct. 7 now stands at 46, according to our count.

10:59 Beirut Time

"No place is safe in Gaza" because of the Israeli bombardment of the territory, warns the UN humanitarian affairs coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Lynn Hastings, quoted by AFP.

In a statement, the coordinator said that the "advance warnings" issued by the Israeli army to the population to evacuate the areas it intends to target "make no difference."

10:57 Beirut Time

Amnesty International said Wednesday that Israeli army threats ordering residents of northern Gaza to leave may amount to war crimes.

The Israeli army dropped leaflets on northern Gaza Oct. 21, ordering residents to evacuate immediately. The leaflets declared that the residents' lives were at risk and explicitly stated that “anyone who chooses not to leave from the north of the [Gaza] Strip to south of Wadi Gaza may be determined an accomplice in a terrorist organization.”

A week earlier, the Israeli army told 1.1 million Palestinians in the north of the Gaza Strip to head to the south of the enclave.

Reacting on these developments, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser Donatella Rovera said that “declaring a whole city or region a military target flies in the face of international humanitarian law, which stipulates that those carrying out attacks must distinguish at all times between civilians or civilian objects and military objectives, and that they must take all possible measures to spare civilians and civilian objects. Violating the principle of distinction [between civilians or civilian objects and military objectives ] by targeting civilians ... is a war crime."

Rovera added that these leaflets may amount to the war crime of collective punishment for holding hundreds of thousands of civilians responsible for acts they did not commit, based solely on the fact that they are staying in their homes when they have nowhere safe to go amid a relentless campaign of Israeli bombardment across the entire Gaza Strip.”

Finally, Amnesty International called again on the Israeli authorities to immediately reverse the forced “evacuation” orders. Amnesty also said that the distribution of humanitarian aid must be unconditioned and that sufficient amounts of aid, including fuel, must be allowed into Gaza.

10:52 Beirut Time

Testimonial from Gaza: Haitham, a 40-year-old Palestinian, married with four children, comes from Al-Karama district in northern Gaza. He and his family have taken refuge with relatives in Khan Younis. There are five families living in a four-bedroom apartment.

"What's happening in Gaza is a massacre, a genocide, there are no military targets ... It's a humanitarian catastrophe against the Palestinian people. What do they want? Are innocent, peaceful people in their homes military targets?" asks Haitham, speaking to our journalist Amélie Zaccour from Al-Shifa hospital. "How, in the name of humanity, in the name of civilization, in the name of God, where are these targets? Demolishing and destroying homes to achieve their goals? How?

"How? How do they achieve their goals? By killing children and women?"

"The occupation and the Israeli army have today committed a major crime in Gaza. My sister, her husband, her father-in-law, his wife, their son and his family are all under the rubble," he laments. "A six-storey building was completely bombed and razed to the ground, with over 50 families inside. Hundreds of people like me are waiting for the wounded and martyrs to be identified."

(Image: Gaza City after another Israeli strike, Oct. 25 2023. Credit: REUTERS/Yasser Qudih)

10:27 Beirut Time

Image: Musician Jawaher al-Aqraa plays in the kitchen of her home in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, Oct. 24, 2023. Aqraa told AFP that music was a means of “escaping” her daily life in Gaza, that helps “cover the noise of Israeli bombing.” (Credit: Eyad Baba / AFP)

09:49 Beirut Time

(Image: This screen grab taken from footage released by the Israeli army on Oct. 26, 2023, shows a “targeted raid” in northern Gaza with tanks and infantry. Israeli tanks took part in this incursion overnight in northern Gaza, the army said in a statement, as it prepared its forces for a ground invasion. [Credit: Israeli Army / AFP])

08:48 Beirut Time

The war raging between Israel and Hamas is already battering the economies of nearby countries, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund told a Saudi investor forum on Wednesday, reports Reuters.

Israel's neighbors are feeling the effects, especially those that rely on tourism, Kristalina Georgieva said at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"You look at the neighboring countries -– Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan –- there the channels of impact are already visible," Georgieva told an audience that included global banking elites.

"Investors are going to be shy to go to that place. Cost of insurance -- if you want to move goods, they go up," she added. 

Indeed, in Lebanon, insurance companies behave as if the country was already at war. 

08:31 Beirut Time

7- Israeli ground forces operated within the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, attacking multiple Hamas targets before withdrawing, the Israeli military said in a statement on what Israel's Army Radio described as the biggest incursion of the current war, reports Reuters. 

Video of the overnight action issued by the military showed armored vehicles proceeding through a sandy border zone. A bulldozer is seen leveling part of a raised bank, tanks fire shells, and explosions are seen near or amid a row of damaged buildings.

The military statement posted online said the incursion was carried out "in preparation for the next stages of combat", a possible reference to the large-scale invasion that Israeli leaders have threatened as part of the war to destroy Hamas.

"The soldiers have since exited the area and returned to Israeli territory," the military statement added.

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.

08:16 Beirut Time

6-The Lebanese public company Ogero, responsible for managing fixed-line telephony and internet services in Lebanon, issued a statement on Wednesday announcing a series of measures "to ensure the continuity of its services in the event of war against Lebanon."

This announcement comes as Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging bombardments since the outbreak of the war between Hamas and the Israeli state on Oct. 7. The spillover of the conflict has affected southern Lebanon and has resulted in several casualties in Lebanon so far.

"The aim of these measures is to minimize potential service interruptions and ensure support for essential communications," the office explained.

Click here for more details on the measures announced. 

07:57 Beirut Time

5- The Israeli military said late Wednesday that its aircraft struck at Lebanon in retaliation for the earlier launch of a surface-to-air missile.

"A short while ago, the IDF Aerial Defense Array intercepted a surface-to-air missile fired from Lebanon at an IDF UAV (drone)," the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement, as reported by AFP. 

"In response, IDF aircraft struck the source of the launch," it added.

Israel's military also struck military targets inside Syria early on Wednesday in retaliation for what it said were launches towards Israel.

The strikes killed eight soldiers, according to Syrian state media.

07:52 Beirut Time

4- The UN says 12 of Gaza's 35 hospitals have closed due to damage or insufficient fuel, and a key UN aid agency serving almost 600,000 Palestinians "began to significantly reduce its operations," reports Reuters.

Israel has cut off Gaza's normal supply corridors for water, food and other necessities, and fewer than 70 relief trucks have entered the impoverished territory since the war began.

None contained fuel, which Israel fears Hamas will use for rockets and explosives.

Aid agencies have warned that more people will die if medical equipment, water desalination plants and ambulances stop operating because of a lack of fuel.

Once the generators stop, hospitals will "turn into morgues", the Red Cross has warned. Hospitals are also struggling with a shortage of medicines and equipment.

"There's not enough anaesthetic," said Ahmad Abdul Hadi, an orthopaedic surgeon working at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis.

"The wounded are in severe pain but we can't wait for the procedure, so we're forced to do the operation. We performed a number of surgeries without anaesthetic. It's tough and painful, but with the lack of resources, what can we do?"

07:47 Beirut Time

3- Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday on a nationally televised address that the country is readying a ground war in Gaza. 

He said : "We are in the midst of a campaign for our existence."

He boasted of "raining down hellfire on Hamas" and killing "thousands of terrorists."

Netanyahu said his war cabinet and the military would determine the timing of a "ground offensive" to "eliminate Hamas" and "bring our captives home."

"I will not detail when, how or how many," he said.

07:26 Beirut Time

2- International pressure is growing to delay any invasion of Gaza, not least because of hostages. More than half the estimated 220 hostages held by Hamas have foreign passports from 25 different countries, the Israeli government said. Many were believed to have had dual Israeli nationality.

The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. and Israeli officials, reported that Israel had agreed to delay invading Gaza for now so that the United States could rush missile defenses to the region to protect U.S. forces there, reflecting its concern the Gaza war may spread to other parts of the Middle East.

U.S. officials told Reuters that Washington had raised its concerns with Israel that Iran and Iranian-backed Islamist groups could escalate the conflict by attacking U.S. troops in the Middle East.

An Israeli incursion into Gaza could be a trigger for Iranian proxies, they said.

Israeli tanks and troops are massed on the border with Gaza awaiting orders. Israel has called up 360,000 reservists.

07:23 Beirut Time

Here's what you need to know to start your day: 

1- At the United Nations, Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution calling for pauses in hostilities to allow much needed food, water and medicine to be delivered to Palestinian civilians. The United Arab Emirates also voted no, while 10 members voted in favour and two abstained.

Russia made a rival proposal that advocated a wider ceasefire, but failed to win the minimum number of votes.

Israel has resisted both, arguing that Hamas would only take advantage and create new threats to Gaza civilians.

Limited deliveries of food, medicine and water from Egypt restarted on Saturday through Rafah, the only crossing not controlled by Israel.

06:47 Beirut Time

Good morning. 

We're back with our live coverage of the Hamas-Israel war, on its 20th day.