People watch as others search for victims amid the rubble of a smouldering building, following an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 6, 2023. (Credit: Mahmud Hams/AFP)


Israeli army enters 'the heart' of Khan Yunis city, southern Gaza: Day 61 of the Hamas-Israel war

What you need to know

Gazans live in "utter horror," UN rights chief says.

Russian President landed in Abu Dhabi in the first leg of his day-long tour to the Gulf.

Israel continues to shell southern Lebanon with the outskirts of Yaroun targeted by a drone strike.

According to OCHA, Rafah is now the only place in Gaza where humanitarian aid is still distributed.

The Israeli army claims to have killed "most senior commanders" of Hamas brigades operating from a network of tunnels in the northern Gaza Strip.

22:11 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our LIVE coverage on day 61 of the Hamas-Israel war.

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

21:10 Beirut Time

Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari says "Yemen's Houthis pose a global terror threat," Haaretz reports.

The Houthis have launched numerous ballistic missiles from Yemen to Eilat, southern Israel, since the beginning of the war.

21:08 Beirut Time

French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna, along with representatives of some 50 countries and international organizations, is reiterating her call for respect for international law in Gaza and urges a "new, immediate and lasting humanitarian truce," according to the French Foreign Ministry.

21:04 Beirut Time

Israel's military says its forces in Gaza are operating "in the heart of Khan Younis" for the first time, Reuters reports. Yesterday the army also announced fighting "in the heart of Khan Yunis," but today's report clarifies them having entered the city proper, within the Khan Yunis governorate.

It said soldiers "arrived at the center of Khan Yunis and began targeted raids in the heart of the city," which it identified as a symbol of Hamas' military and administrative rule.

"The soldiers eliminated [fighters], destroyed [Hamas] infrastructure and located weapons," the statement said.

Khan Yunis is the second largest city in the Strip and the largest in the southern areas of the enclave. Before the truce, Khan Yunis governorate was designated as a "safe zone," and the Israeli army pushed Palestinians to move there from northern areas. Al-Jazeera reports that 215,000 displaced people are sheltering in 34 UNRWA shelters there, joining the original population of 430,000.

19:40 Beirut Time

Israeli criticism of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is "a problem for the staff" and "can endanger hostages," said the organization's president, Mirjana Spoljaric, speaking to Keystone-ATS, the Swiss national news agency, on Wednesday.

Mirjana Spoljaric returned to Geneva on Tuesday after a visit to the Gaza Strip. The ICRC helped transfer to Israel more than one hundred of the 240 hostages abducted during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Despite this commitment, the Red Cross was criticized by Israeli authorities and relatives of the hostages who accused the humanitarian organization of not doing enough to meet those still being held in Gaza and bring them medication.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Mirjana Spoljaric to contact Qatar to demand visits to the Hamas hostages. "It has been proven that they have an influence on Hamas," he said.

19:31 Beirut Time

Nine Palestinians were killed and several others were injured in an Israeli bombardment of a house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian medical sources, Reuters reports.

An UNRWA report released Monday concluded almost one million displaced people have moved into Middle, Khan Yunis, and Rafah areas in Gaza, fleeing bombardments and a ground invasion in the Central and North areas of the Strip.

19:27 Beirut Time

The war between Israel and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip "may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns the Security Council, according to Reuters.

Guterres invoked the rarely used Article 99 of the founding UN Charter that allows him to "bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."

"We are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system. The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region," Guterres wrote in a letter to the 15-member council.

"Such an outcome must be avoided at all cost," he said.

19:17 Beirut Time

Israeli forces are encircling the house of Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza, says Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, according to reports from Reuters.

"Yesterday I said that our forces could reach anywhere in the Gaza Strip. Today they are encircling Sinwar's house. His house may not be his fortress and he can escape but it's only a matter of time before we get him," Netanyahu said in a recorded video statement.

18:52 Beirut Time

Yemen's Houthis said the group launched several ballistic missiles at military posts in the Israeli city of Eilat, the group's military spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.

Following the alarms that were activated in Eilat, the Israeli army said that the Israeli Arrow system intercepted a ballistic missile above the Red Sea and the missile did not enter Israeli territory, reports Haaretz.

18:26 Beirut Time

The US Navy shot down a drone that originated from a part of Yemen controlled by the Houthi group this morning, a US defense official told Reuters.

There was no damage to US Navy vessels or injuries to US personnel in the attack, said the US official, who declined to be named.

Earlier today, Britain's Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency and British maritime security company Ambrey reported an incident involving a suspected drone over the Red Sea west of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. UKMTO warned vessels transiting the area to exercise caution.

18:24 Beirut Time

The Israeli army announced that it detected several launches from Lebanon towards Israel and that its forces were attacking the launch site, according to Haaretz.

A rocket fell in an open area near the town of Margaliot, and several more fell in the orchards of the town of Shtula, Haaretz reported.

18:23 Beirut Time

BREAKING: Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said that Israel "will restore security to [Israeli] residents through an international political arrangement to remove Hezbollah beyond the Litani [river], based on UN Resolution 1701," according to the Israeli army radio network.

"If the arrangement is not successful, Israel will act militarily to remove Hezbollah from the border," Gallant added.

17:56 Beirut Time

Hezbollah claimed its responsibility for several attacks this afternoon:

. The Hadab Al-Bustan and al-Dhayra sites were hit at 3:30 p.m.

. Three gatherings of Israeli soldiers were hit; one in the site of Jal al-Alam at 3:50 p.m., another the area opposite the town of Aita al-Shaab at 4 p.m. and a third near the barracks of Mitat also at 4 p.m.

. The site of al-Malikiyah was attacked at 4:15 p.m., and the Ramim barracks was targeted five minutes later.

. The site of al-Raheb was attacked at 4:30 p.m.

Moreover, the party also announced the death of its fighter Ali Hassan al-Atat.

17:47 Beirut Time

An exodus of Palestinians from Gaza would be 'catastrophic,' says UN refugee chief.

17:28 Beirut Time

According to the Lebanese Ministry of Health, 94 people were killed and 406 others were injured in southern Lebanon between Oct. 7 and Dec. 5, 2023.

An additional 55,185 people have been displaced, according to the ministry's latest report.

17:08 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced that it hit the Ruwaisat al-Qarn site in the Shebaa farms with a guided missile at 2:10 p.m.

16:59 Beirut Time

Al Jazeera Gaza correspondent Momen Al-Sharafi's father, mother and a number of his siblings were killed in Israeli bombing on the Jabalia camp

16:17 Beirut Time

75 Palestinian journalists and media workers were killed by the Israeli army in the past two months, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says in a statement.

16:10 Beirut Time

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen yesterday revoked the Israeli residency visa of UN humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings because she "did not condemn Hamas."

"Someone who did not condemn Hamas for the brutal massacre of 1,200 Israelis ... but instead condemns Israel ... cannot serve in the UN and cannot enter Israel!" Cohen posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Earlier on Tuesday, Hastings said that "the conditions required to deliver aid to the people of Gaza do not exist" and that "the quantities of relief supplies and fuel allowed in are utterly insufficient."

"Announcements of establishing so-called safe zones and tented cities without assurances that people will be able to move freely and that assistance can be delivered where there is need are alarming. These zones cannot be safe nor humanitarian when unilaterally declared," Hastings added in a statement published on the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' website.

16:00 Beirut Time

France condemns Israeli shelling in South Lebanon that killed a Lebanese soldier, says a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry.

"France is gravely concerned by the ongoing clashes on the border between Lebanon and Israel. France condemns the Israeli strike which cost the life of a member of the Lebanese armed forces, and sends its sincere condolences to the victim's relatives," said the ministry spokesperson in a daily briefing.

One Lebanese soldier was killed and three wounded when Israeli shelling hit near a border village in South Lebanon, the Lebanese Army said in a statement on Tuesday.

15:57 Beirut Time

Eight shells have fallen between Houla and Mays al-Jabal, residents told L'Orient Today.

15:49 Beirut Time

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai will visit South Lebanon on Thursday "to express his solidarity with the Lebanese inhabitants and displaced persons in the border regions," the Catholic Information Center announced in a press release.

The head of the Maronite Church will be accompanied by "a delegation from the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops, including the Council's Secretary General, Father Claude Nadra," the statement added.

Patriarch Rai's tour will begin at the Maronite Archdiocese of Sour and will include a visit to the city's Catholic Archdiocese, the statement continued. It will also include "a meeting with representatives of the region's Muslim and Christian spiritual communities."

15:05 Beirut Time

Residents of Khiam (Marjayoun district) in southern Lebanon told our correspondent Mountasser Abdallah that two shells fell near their village, with no damage reported for the moment.

14:47 Beirut Time

France is deeply concerned by the continuation of clashes on the border between Lebanon and Israel,” says the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

France "deplores the Israeli strike which cost the life of a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces" and expresses "its most sincere condolences to his loved ones," adds the Quai d'Orsay in a press release.

The ministry's spokesperson, Anne-Claire Legendre, continues by saying that "France reiterates its support for the Lebanese army, guarantors of the unity and stability of the country. It recalls its attachment to the sovereignty of Lebanon and for the full implementation by all parties concerned of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.

“It is up to all parties to exercise the greatest restraint in order to prevent a regional conflagration from which Lebanon will not recover,” warns Paris. “These clashes involve the security of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), whose capacity for action and security must absolutely be preserved.”

14:42 Beirut Time

The director of UNICEF ​​condemned the "sexual violence" committed against Israeli women on Oct. 7, a condemnation that Israel considered late and insufficient because it did not mention, according to it, their perpetrators, the armed men of Hamas.

“The accounts of sexual violence committed on Oct. 7 in Israel are horrific,” UNICEF director Catherine Russell wrote on X on Tuesday.

“Survivors must be heard, supported and cared for. Allegations must be fully investigated. We condemn gender-based violence and all forms of violence against women and girls,” she said. she added.

14:39 Beirut Time

Palestinian mourners and masked armed fighters walk in the funeral procession of two men who were fatally shot during a raid by Israeli troops early in the morning, in the occupied West Bank, on Dec. 6, 2023 in the village of Tubas. (Credit: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

14:38 Beirut Time

Israeli bombing targeted the outskirts of the town of Tyr Harfa (Sour district) and shelling was renewed between the towns of Majdal Zoun (Sour district) and Jibbayn, a source at the Lebanese army told L'Orient Today. Three shells landed in Halta (Hasbaya district) and Kfar Shouba (Hasbaya district), our correspondent in the south reported, citing a security source. According to the security source, Kounin in Bint Jbeil was also targeted by Israel.

14:11 Beirut Time

Residents of the village of Aita al-Shaab report that an uninhabited house was targeted and hit by an Israeli strike, according to our correspondent in the region, Muntasser Abdallah.

14:04 Beirut Time

A surface-to-air missile (SAM) was intercepted after it was launched from the Red Sea at Israel, the Israeli military says in a post on X.

"The launch of a surface-to-surface missile toward Israeli territory was identified and successfully intercepted in the area of the Red Sea by the Arrow Aerial Defense System," the army says. "The target did not cross into Israeli territory and sirens sounded according to protocol."

13:52 Beirut Time

Breaking: The Israeli drone strike which targeted the village of Mais al-Jabal (Marjayoun) in southern Lebanon early in the afternoon left one dead and two injured, reports a Lebanese army source contacted by L'Orient Today and another security source cited by our correspondent in the region, Mountasser Abdallah.

13:35 Beirut Time

Hezbollah, in a statement, claimed the attack on the Israeli "Radar site" in the Shebaa Farms using "suitable weapons" and they scored "direct hits."

13:08 Beirut Time

Israeli airstrikes continue to target several areas in southern Lebanon. Residents of Mais al-Jabal (Marjeyoun district) informed our correspondent in the region, Muntasser Abdallah, that an Israeli drone struck a house in the eastern part of the village with a missile. The drone is also targeting the Qindaouli area, west of Mais al-Jabal. So far, no casualties have been reported.

Residents of Majdal Zoun (Sour district) also reported artillery fire near their locality, with more than a dozen shells reportedly falling. In Jibbin, within the same district, residents reported two shells landing. Residents of Shihine also observed strikes.

In Firdais (Hasbaya district), according to a security source cited by our correspondent, two shells have fallen. Another shell landed on the main road of the village without causing any injuries.

12:27 Beirut Time

Residents of the town of Shmastar and villages west of Baalbek in the Bekaa organized a popular reception for the Lebanese army soldier, Abdul Karim al-Mekdad, who was killed yesterday in southern Lebanon by an Israeli airstrike.

His coffin arrived at his hometown in Shmastar, wrapped with the Lebanese flag as a crowd of residents from the town and neighboring villages gathered, amid a state of sadness and anger, according to L'Orient Today's correspondent in the region Sarah Abdallah.

Women scattered rice and roses over the coffin, while a group of military personnel and comrades gave a military salute to the slain soldier.

Upon the arrival of the body, the soldier's brother, Ali al-Mekdad, stepped forward and presented his brother's death as a dedication to the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, who has vowed to fight Israel.

(Photo: Sarah Abdallah)

12:22 Beirut Time

Turkey rejects plans to create a buffer zone in Gaza after the end of fighting in the enclave, its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that such a plan was "disrespectful" to the Palestinians, reports Reuters.

The agency reported last week that Israel had transmitted plans for the buffer zone to several Arab states and Turkey.

Erdogan said the future of Gaza after the war "should be decided by the Palestinian people" and that Israel should return the territories it occupies, according to the Haberturk broadcaster and other sources.

12:21 Beirut Time

Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Abu Dhabi, according to Russian media, the first stop on a diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, intended to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and oil, reports AFP.

“Putin’s plane landed in Abu Dhabi,” state agency Ria Novosti reported on Telegram. The Russian president must notably address "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," as well as the reduction in oil production within the framework of OPEC+ of which Russia is a member, according to the Kremlin.

11:54 Beirut Time

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warns that the situation in Gaza is “getting worse each minute.”

The UNRWA said people fleeing Israeli attacks have nowhere safe to turn, as all shelters are already beyond capacity.

“Another wave of displacement is underway in Gaza,” UNRWA said in a post on X, calling the entire Strip “one of the most dangerous places in the world.

“There is nowhere to go as shelters, including [those of] UNRWA, are overflowing.”

11:52 Beirut Time

The Israeli army demanded that the Red Cross be given "access to hostages" that are being held in Gaza, AFP reports.

"Every minute in captivity puts the lives at risk" of the hostages, declared Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari. "The international community must act. The Red Cross must have access to the hostages," he said. A target of criticism in Israel, the ICRC reminded AFP at the end of November that it did not know where the hostages were and could not gain access to them due to a lack of agreement from their jailers.

11:31 Beirut Time

Breaking: An Israeli drone targeted the outskirts of the town of Yaroun in the district of Bint Jbeil with a missile, but there is no information available yet regarding any injuries, a security source and a Lebanese army source told L'Orient Today.

11:11 Beirut Time

The southern town of Mais al-Jabal witnessed heavy Israeli bombardment last night.

Some of these shells were phosphorous bombs, whose use against civilian targets is banned by international law. The head of the municipality of the town, Abdul-Monem Choukeir, who spoke this morning to L'Orient Today's correspondent in southern Lebanon, Muntasser Abdallah, described it as an insane night where the sounds of shelling were incessant.

"The shelling hit the town center, the public square, and targeted several homes. One of these homes was inhabited by a family, a father, his wife, and their children. Thankfully, they were miraculously spared from injury," Choukeir said. The town center, specifically the public square, was directly targeted, resulting in several homes being hit. Doors were blown off, glass shattered, and debris scattered in the streets, Choukeir said.

The head of the municipality noted that last night's heavy bombing increased the anxiety of the remaining people in the town. "Despite the hardships...some small shops are still open, providing essential supplies to the residents who chose to stay in the town. However, they close immediately when the shelling begins and reopen when it subsides, at least to ensure the availability of bread and essential goods."

10:44 Beirut Time

Israeli shelling was renewed Wednesday morning on the outskirts of the southern towns of Tayr Harfa and Naqoura (Sour district), a source at the Lebanese army confirmed to L'Orient Today.

Two Israeli artillery shells had fallen earlier this morning on the outskirts of the southern town of Naqoura along with three shells fired by an Israeli tank targeted the outskirts of Aita Shaab (Bint Jbeil district), the military source confirmed, as well as L'Orient Today's correspondent in the South.

10:26 Beirut Time

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah said Wednesday that Ahmed Ghanam, a 30-year-old Palestinian who was injured by Israeli army fire last week in Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank, died of his injuries, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

10:12 Beirut Time

Russian President Vladimir Putin is traveling to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia today where he will hold talks with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Reuters reports that this is a "rare trip abroad to discuss oil, OPEC+ and the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine." Mr Putin is also due to meet with Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi.

The Kremlin said Mr Putin would discuss energy cooperation, particularly within the framework of OPEC+, whose members pump more than 40 percent of the world's oil. “Close coordination between Russia and Saudi Arabia in this framework is a reliable guarantee of maintaining a stable and predictable situation in the global oil market,” the Kremlin said. They will also discuss Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the situation in Syria and Yemen, as well as broader issues relating to stability in the Gulf

09:47 Beirut Time

The head of Chinese diplomacy Wang Yi spoke by telephone on Wednesday with his American counterpart Antony Blinken about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to their respective ministries, reports AFP.

“The top priority is for a cease-fire to end the fighting as soon as possible,” Wang Yi said during the call, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

09:46 Beirut Time

Israeli army commander-in-chief says the troop's "top priority" is retrieving hostages, despite a wave of criticism from former captives and hostage families over Israel's handling of the crisis the government of the Hebrew state.

In a publication on X, General Herzi Halevi assured that Israeli commanders were ready to "do everything to bring back the hostages while destroying Hamas."

09:45 Beirut Time

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that Al-Aqsa Hospital, located in Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip, is lacking medical equipment, in a post on X.

“There are currently 700 patients admitted to the hospital, and new patients are arriving all the time. We lack essential supplies to treat them,” explains Marie-Aure Perreaut Revial, MSF emergency coordinator in Gaza.

09:26 Beirut Time

The Israeli army has announced they are reviewing a strike that killed one Lebanese army soldier and injured three others in southern Lebanon.

“The Lebanese Armed Forces were not the target of the strike. The...[Israeli army] expresses regret over the incident. The incident is under review,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

The Lebanese army had announced that a sergeant was killed when Israel shelled an army position on Tuesday. Three others were reported to have been injured in the strike, a source at the Lebanese army had told L'Orient Today Tuesday, noting that their conditions were stable.

The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, noted in a statement on Tuesday it was the first Lebanese army soldier killed during the hostilities and that the Lebanese army had not engaged in conflict with Israel.

09:17 Beirut Time

In South Lebanon:

An uneasy calm prevails this morning in the region, despite the fact that three Israeli shells fell on the outskirts of the village of Blida, according to L'Orient Today's correspondent in southern Lebanon.

During the night, intense Israeli bombardments targeted several localities, including Mais al-Jabal, the outskirts of Houla and Wadi Slouki.

09:16 Beirut Time

In Lebanon:

On Tuesday, two people were killed in Israeli bombings against South Lebanon. Those killed were a soldier, the first to be killed since the start of the conflict, and a Syrian national, in two separate attacks.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, the army identified the soldier killed as Sergeant Abdel Karim Mokdad, 27 years old and born in Lassa in the district of Jbeil. The troop explains that the soldier was killed following an Israeli bombardment against a Lebanese army position in South Lebanon on Tuesday, without further details. The soldier's funeral will take place today at 2 p.m. in Shmestar, in the Bekaa.

09:14 Beirut Time

•⁠ According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Rafah is now the only place in Gaza where humanitarian aid is still distributed, in limited quantities. Aid practically no longer arrives in Khan Younis, and access to areas further north has been cut off since the resumption of fighting.  

09:13 Beirut Time

•⁠ On the humanitarian front, the World Food Program (WFP) stressed that the distribution of humanitarian aid was now "almost impossible" in the Gaza Strip and that the resumption of hostilities "will only intensify the catastrophic food crisis which already threatens to overwhelm the civilian population."

09:12 Beirut Time

• On its Telegram channel, the Israeli army also claimed to have killed "most of the senior commanders" of the Hamas brigades operating from a network of tunnels in the north of the Gaza Strip, and released a photo showing five senior leaders of the Palestinian movement whom it says it "eliminated," AFP reported.

09:10 Beirut Time

•⁠ ⁠Sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad told AFP that their fighters are carrying out violent clashes with Israeli troops in an attempt to prevent them from entering Khan Younis and areas east of the city, as well as in nearby refugee camps.

•⁠ ⁠According to the press office of the Hamas government, artillery fire caused "dozens of deaths and injuries" during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday in several villages east of Khan Younis, and the Israeli army also attacked several other areas of the Gaza Strip.

•⁠ ⁠According to the Hamas Ministry of Health, Israeli airstrikes on the Nousseirat camp, in the center of the territory, left six dead and 14 injured. According to the same source, other strikes on the Jabalia camp left several dead and injured and the director of a clinic in Khan Younis, Ramez al-Najjar, was killed in an Israeli raid on his home.

09:09 Beirut Time

“Our forces are surrounding Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip,” Israeli Army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said in a statement. “We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and we are now carrying out operations against its strongholds in the south,” he continued.

“Our forces find weapons in almost every building and house, terrorists in many houses and confront them,” he added.

09:08 Beirut Time

What you need to know this morning:

•⁠ ⁠The Israeli army surrounds the large town of Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, where some of the most intense fighting in two months of war against Hamas is raging, AFP reported. On foot, on motorbikes, crammed into carts or their luggage piled on the roofs of their cars, thousands of civilians continue to flee towards the south, cornered in an increasingly cramped perimeter near the closed border with Egypt and faced with a catastrophic humanitarian situation.

09:03 Beirut Time

Make sure that you read the latest Morning Brief to make sure that you are caught up with what has been happening.

Morning Brief

Lebanese soldier killed, UN-mediated talks with Israel, Rain floods Beirut again: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

09:03 Beirut Time

Good morning!

Thank you for joining us for day 61 of our live coverage of the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza.