Palestinian women carry food near a donation point provided by a charity group in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on November 30, 2023, amid a truce in fighting between Israel and Hamas. (Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)


Houthis warn against renewed fighting in Gaza, extension of truce still under discussion: Day 55 of the Hamas-Israel war

What you need to know

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of his latest visit to the region.

Israeli rockets exploded over Lebanon after sirens sounded in northern Israel following reports of an "aerial infiltration."

Two Israeli soldiers were "lightly wounded" in a car-ramming attack at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas will release “ten Israelis, two of whom also have Russian nationality,” on Thursday.

22:48 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our LIVE coverage of day 55 of the Hamas-Israel war.

You can read a summary of today's events here.

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

21:15 Beirut Time

International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan is in Israel at the invitation of survivors and family members of the victims of the Oct. 7 attacks, according to a tweet from the ICC's official X account. 

Khan will also visit Ramallah to meet with senior Palestinian officials, according to the tweet.

The ICC investigates four categories of international crime, including genocide.

21:03 Beirut Time

The Houthi group's military spokesman Yahya Saree confirmed the group's "full readiness to resume its military operations against Israel ... if [the latter] decides to resume its aggression against Gaza."

Saree added in a statement posted on X that the Houthis "will not hesitate to expand their military operations against the Israeli entity to include targets that [Israel] may not expect on land or at sea."

He also said that the Houthis will "continue to block Israeli ships in the Red Sea and will take further measures to ensure the full implementation of this decision."

Finally, he said that the group's military operations "will stop as soon as the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip stops."

20:57 Beirut Time

The United States will continue efforts with Qatar and Egypt to extend a humanitarian pause in the Israel war with Hamas in Gaza and condemns the shooting attack by Hamas gunmen of three people at a Jerusalem bus stop, the White House said on Thursday, reports Reuters.

US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said that when Israel decides to resume its attacks on Hamas, it will have continued support from the United States.

20:24 Beirut Time

The media director at the Rafah Crossing said only seven fuel and gas trucks entered Gaza through the crossing today, according to Al-Jazeera.

20:12 Beirut Time

Asked how long the military incursion in Gaza will last, Israeli Chief of Staff Halevi replied: "More than a few more weeks."

US Secretary of State Blinken clarified that, if the operation continues in its current scope and intensity, the international pressure on Israel and the US will increase significantly.

20:00 Beirut Time

Missiles were launched from Gaza towards the Gaza envelope — the populated areas in the southern district of Israel within 7 km of the Gaza Strip — according to al-Hadath.

Israel's Iron Dome system was activated in Gaza border communities, though the reason is still being examined, reports Haaretz. Al-Jazeera also reported a missile interception operation over the Israeli city of Netivot.

19:36 Beirut Time

It is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror,” Pope Francis reportedly told Israeli President Isaac Herzog by phone in early October, according to The Washington Post. 

Citing a senior Israeli official familiar with the call, The Post reported that Herzog insisted that Israel's incursion in Gaza was necessary to defend its people, but the pope was adamant. Pope Francis reportedly said those responsible for the Oct. 7 attack should be held accountable, but not civilians.

19:31 Beirut Time

Israel's top diplomat said Thursday he was recalling the country's envoy to Madrid over "outrageous remarks" by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez questioning the legality of Israel's military campaign in Gaza.

"Because of the outrageous remarks by the Spanish prime minister, who again repeated baseless claims, I have decided to summon the Israeli ambassador in Spain for consultations in Jerusalem," Foreign Minister Eli Cohen wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The move came after an interview in which Sanchez said he had "serious doubts" over the legality of Israel's actions in the war-torn Gaza Strip, an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity, saying it was "not the first time" the Spanish leader had expressed such views. 

19:25 Beirut Time

The Palestine Red Crescent Society's staff and volunteers received 1,132 aid trucks via the Rafah border crossing since the beginning of the truce until yesterday, the organization announced today on X (formerly Twitter).

19:11 Beirut Time

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club released a list containing the names of 30 Palestinian prisoners who are expected to be released tonight.

The list includes the names of eight women, and 22 male children. They are the seventh round of prisoners set to be released as part of the exchange deal and extended truce between Israel and Hamas.

18:32 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue the war until it is done "freeing all [Israeli] hostages, completing the elimination of Hamas and ensuring that no threat like this will ever come from Gaza again," according to a post on X by Netanyahu spokesperson Ofir Gendelman.

"Hamas is trying to murder us everywhere," Netanyahu added after meeting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. "We have sworn, I have sworn, to eliminate Hamas. Nothing will stop us." 

On another note, Netanyahu ordered the demolition of the homes of two people who committed an attack in Jerusalem earlier today, according to Gendelman.

The prime minister also ordered a massive arrest campaign of those involved in the attack. Twenty-three people were already arrested this afternoon, although it hasn't been verified whether this is related the shooting.

18:10 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday, reports the US State Department.

During the meeting, Blinken and Abbas addressed the ongoing efforts to expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. They explored the possibility of maximizing humanitarian pauses for this purpose, added the State Department.

Blinken condemned "extremist violence" against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and said he would "continue to insist on full accountability for those responsible" for such acts.

17:41 Beirut Time

One of the hostages released by Hamas this afternoon and transferred to the Red Cross is Israeli-French, according to an announcement from the Israeli ambassador to France in a post on X.

17:37 Beirut Time

Israeli security forces arrested 23 "wanted" people in the occupied West Bank, an army spokesperson says, according to a report from Haaretz. The army says around 10 of those arrested are Hamas operatives.

According to Palestinian prisoner associations, Israel arrested at least 133 Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the first four days of the truce, during which 150 Palestinian prisoners were freed — almost as many arrests as releases.

17:29 Beirut Time

Five artillery shells fell on the outskirts of the town of Marwahine (Sour district) in Southern Lebanon, security sources and residents tell our correspondent in the south.

Al-Manar's correspondent also reported shelling on the outskirts of Marwahine claiming that shells fell near a UNIFIL site in the area. He added that shells also targeted the outskirts of Ramyah (Bint Jbeil district).

16:58 Beirut Time

Two Israeli hostages have been transferred to the Red Cross and are on their way out of Gaza, according to reports from AFP and the Israeli army, citing the humanitarian organization. 

16:55 Beirut Time

 Israel's President Isaac Herzog and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold a meeting in Tel Aviv today following the announcement of an extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas just before it was due to expire. (Credit: Saul Loeb/Reuters)

16:45 Beirut Time

Hamas military wing al-Qassam Brigades declared its "full responsibility" for the Jerusalem bus stop shooting this morning and "called for escalation," in a post on their official Telegram account.

AFP previously reported that three people were killed this morning and six others injured, three of them seriously, in the West Jerusalem attack, not including the two shooters who were killed on the scene by two off-duty soldiers and an armed civilian, according to Israeli police.

The military wing of Hamas claim this operation is in retaliation for the "killing of children and women in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, the desecration of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites, and a direct warning message against the violations practiced by [Israel's national security minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir and his gang against the ... prisoners in [Israeli] prisons."

Hamas also named two of its members who were killed during this operation: Murad Muhammad Nimr (38 years old) and Ibrahim Muhammad Nimr (30 years old).

15:57 Beirut Time

Israeli and US officials are discussing the idea of expelling thousands of lower-level militants from Gaza as a way to shorten the war, according to The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ compared this idea with the US-brokered deal that allowed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and thousands of fighters to flee Beirut during Israel’s 1982 siege of the capital.

A proposal for how to govern a post-Hamas Gaza, developed by the Israeli military’s think tank and viewed by The Wall Street Journal, starts with the creation of what it calls “Hamas-free safe zones” that would be ruled by a new Gaza authority backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A senior Israeli official said it isn’t clear that Hamas fighters would take the option of exile if offered, according to WSJ.

15:51 Beirut Time

Antony Blinken stressed the need to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank in a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog today, AFP reports. 

Already today there were two violent incidents in the occupied West Bank, one this morning in which two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a busy bus stop, killing three, and another a little over an hour ago in which a car drove into a checkpoint. Hamas took credit for the bus stop shooting, calling for escalation. 

15:10 Beirut Time

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14:57 Beirut Time

Displaced Palestinians queue for food donations in Rafah, Gaza city. (Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)

14:56 Beirut Time

Pope Francis urged Israeli President Isaac Herzog to not "fight terror with terror" in a previously undisclosed phone call that was made at the end of October, The Washington Post reports.

According to The Post, Herzog pushed back against the Pope's comments during the call, arguing that the Israeli government was doing what it needed to in Gaza to defend itself. The pontiff responded by telling Herzog that, while those responsible for the Oct. 7 attack should be held to account, civilians should not pay the price as well.

The Israelis, believing that the exchange was "bad," decided to not make the call public.

The Pope has been a vocal critic of Israel's bombardment of Gaza which has killed over 14,000 people, the vast majority of whom are civilians, and previously stated on Nov. 22, during a speech in St. Peter's Square, that the fighting has "gone beyond war. This is terrorism."

14:41 Beirut Time

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reports AFP.

Blinken arrived at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in an armored convoy, shortly after meeting in the morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

14:35 Beirut Time

The World Health Organization said on X (formerly Twitter) that since Oct. 7 it has "documented 427 attacks on health care in the occupied Palestinian territory. Attacks have resulted in 566 fatalities and 758 injuries. Health care and civilians must be actively protected."

The Palestinian Red Crescent also said on X that it is "deeply worried about Awni Khattab, our colleague the head of Khan Younis Emergency Medical Center, in Gaza. Israeli forces arrested him [9 days ago] and [till] now his whereabouts are unknown."

13:44 Beirut Time

After a last-minute agreement to extend the Gaza truce for one day, Egyptian and Qatari officials are working to once again extend the truce for two days, Egyptian state media said, according to Reuters.

In addition to the truce, most prisoners would be exchanged and humanitarian aid deliveries into Gaza increased.

13:41 Beirut Time

Two Israeli soldiers were lightly injured following a car-ramming attack at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, AFP reports.

The Israeli army added that the perpetrator of the attack had been killed and the injured soldiers hospitalized.

Hamas also took credit for the shooting attack at a West Jerusalem bus stop reported on earlier in the day. The militant group also called for escalation following the attack.

12:14 Beirut Time

Two Israeli Iron Dome missiles exploded in the sky over the southern Lebanese border town of Rmaish, a source at the Lebanese army told L'Orient Today. "Israel suspected an aerial infiltration, that the (anti-missile defense system) Iron Dome reacted by firing two rockets," the source explained. 

For its part, The United Nation's Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) told Reuters that the Israeli military had allegedly retaliated to cross-border fire from southern Lebanon. Reuters witnesses heard blasts along the southeastern Lebanese frontier with Israel. UNIFIL confirmed to L'Orient Today what had been previously reported, adding that "We can’t confirm whether it reached Israel." Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported that the Israeli army announced that "it intercepted a suspicious aerial target that crossed from Lebanon into Israel," and that siren alarms were activated in northern Israel. 

"We don't have any details on the border incident until now," a Hezbollah spokesperson told L'Orient Today.

12:13 Beirut Time

French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Qatar on Saturday after the COP28 on climate in Dubai, to meet the emir of this mediator country who has played a key role in the release of hostages held by Hamas since its attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the Elysée announced on Thursday.

On the sidelines of the UN conference against global warming organized in the United Arab Emirates where he is going on Thursday, the French president will also have meetings with several leaders of the region in connection with the conflict in the Middle East, among which should include the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman and even the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, reports AFP.

The details of his program will be clarified during the day when he flies to Dubai. Macron is looking to insist on the release of all the hostages, while five French people remain considered as such or missing since October 7, but also for an extension of the truce negotiated in Gaza with a view to a longer term cease-fire.

He also hopes to discuss with his interlocutors the need to work now to put the two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian, back on track.

12:09 Beirut Time

A mosque destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict lies in ruin, amid a temporary truce between the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 29, 2023. (Credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

11:55 Beirut Time

Russia expressed its gratitude to Hamas after the release the day prior of two Russian hostages held while saying it was working to free the other Russian nationals held by the Palestinian Islamist group in Gaza, reports AFP.

"We are grateful to the Hamas leadership for their positive response to our urgent appeals. We will continue to do what is necessary to ensure that other Russians detained in the Gaza Strip are quickly released," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

11:42 Beirut Time

Citing the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza, Pedro Sanchez, Spanish Prime Minister says he doubts Israel is respecting international humanitarian law.

“The footage we are seeing and the growing numbers of children dying, I have serious doubt [Israel] is complying with international humanitarian law,” he told Spanish state-owned broadcaster TVE, in comments relayed by Al Jazeera.

“The indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, including thousands of boys and girls, are completely unacceptable,” he said.

Last week, Sanchez had called for the European Union’s recognition of a Palestinian state, saying the Spanish government might do so on its own.

11:33 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that the ongoing truce between Hamas and Israel has "yielded results" and that he hopes it "can continue," according to AFP.

The US diplomat said that the truce has "hostages have returned home, reunited with their families" all the while it has ensured that "more humanitarian aid to reach innocent civilians in Gaza, who desperately need it."

11:20 Beirut Time

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, at the beginning of his meeting with Israel's President Isaac Herzog, that "we have seen hostages come home and be reunited with their families – and this should continue today. It also made it possible to increase humanitarian aid that reaches innocent citizens in Gaza who desperately need it. The process is producing results. It's important, and we hope that it will continue." Blinken added that he "looks forward to in-depth talks with the Israeli government on the way forward in Gaza," Haaretz reported.

Herzog thanked Blinked for the "enormous work" the U.S. is doing to aid in the release of the hostages, emphasizing that there are around 150 hostages still held in Gaza, according to Haaretz.

11:18 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following an attack in Jerusalem, said that his government would "continue to expand the distribution of weapons to civilians," Haaretz reports.

"This is a measure that has proven itself time and time again in the war against murderous terrorism," he said in comments similar to that of his far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who also insisted on expanding civilian weapon distribution.

10:50 Beirut Time

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said on X (formerly Twitter) that "weapons save lives.”

“Despite the criticism from all kinds of parties, I will continue this policy of handing out weapons everywhere, both to emergency rooms and to civilians,” the far-right ultranationalist minister said.

“We have a strong police force, we have a strong army, but there is no policeman everywhere, so where there are civilian weapons, it can save lives,” he said.

10:35 Beirut Time

Israeli President Isaac Herzog is expected to attend the UN climate conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Thursday, where he will plead with world leaders for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, reports AFP.

His visit to the Gulf country comes after more than seven weeks of war between Israel and Hamas.

10:06 Beirut Time

Three people were killed this morning and six others injured, three of them seriously, in a gun attack on a bus stop in West Jerusalem, according to a new report from the Israeli police, reports AFP.

“Two terrorists who came by car and armed one with an M-16 and the other with a pistol” opened fire around 7:40 a.m. (5:40 a.m. GMT), Jerusalem Police Director Doron Torgeman said. to the press at the scene of the attack. Magen David Adom (Mada), the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, identified one of the two dead as “a young woman of 24 years old”.

Mada first located the attack in East Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel, before specifying that it took place “at the entrance to Jerusalem” (west).

09:29 Beirut Time

Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has arrived in Ramallah after being released as part of the truce between Israel and Hamas, Reuters reported.

Tamimi was detained earlier this month "on suspicion of inciting violence," according to Israel. Her mother has denied the allegation and said it was based on a fake social media post, Reuters reported.

The young activist was being held in "administrative detention," something used by Israeli authorities to indefinitely hold Palestinians on as little as a suspicion.

(Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

09:27 Beirut Time

The Israeli government said it received a new list of women and children hostages in the Gaza Strip to be released by Hamas on Thursday in exchange for a one-day extension of the truce, AFP reported.

“A short time ago, Israel was given a list of women and children in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and therefore the truce will continue,” said the statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office, without specifying the number of hostages to be released, according to AFP.

09:27 Beirut Time

Israel’s military said on Thursday on X (formerly Twitter) that a truce with Hamas will continue “in light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing hostages, and subject to the terms of the agreement.”

Reuters reported that Hamas has agreed to extend the truce for a seventh day.

The six-day halt to fighting in Gaza was set to end at 7 a.m. local time on Thursday and follows the release of a group of 16 Hamas-held hostages on Wednesday night in exchange for 30 Palestinian prisoners.

09:19 Beirut Time

Before we start, be sure to read the Morning Brief to make sure that you are caught up on what has been happening.

Morning Brief

Cabinet delays key issues, French envoy urges election, gunfire across southern border: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

09:18 Beirut Time

Good morning!

Thank you for continuing to join us for our live coverage of the war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. Today marks 55 days since the war began.