The sun sets over northern Gaza ruins, as seen from Sderot, Israel, Feb. 2, 2024. (Credit: Dylan Martinez/Reuters)


No cease-fire with Lebanon until Israeli residents' 'safe return,' says Gallant: Day 119 of Hamas-Israel war

What you need to know

An Iranian military adviser was killed in a strike blamed on Israel near Damascus.

Sporadic Israeli bombardments in southern Lebanon.

Investigation launched into "terrorist crime" after foiled attempt to attack Israeli embassy in Sweden.

21:37 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our LIVE coverage from day 119 of the Hamas-Israel war.

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

21:36 Beirut Time

Palestinian children wear hazmat suits that are left over from coronavirus pandemic, as displaced people gather in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip earlier today. (Credit: Mahmud Hams/AFP)

21:33 Beirut Time

While in Lebanon, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron gave an interview to Lebanese TV channel LBCI, where he said that he told the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "start talking about the things a Palestinian state can be rather than the things it can't be."

He added that Netanyahu had "not ruled out comprehensively a two-state solution."

👉 Read about Cameron's visit to Lebanon here.

20:34 Beirut Time

US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield says that a draft Security Council resolution put forward by Algeria could jeopardize "sensitive negotiations" aimed at brokering a pause in fighting in Gaza, according to a report from Reuters.

Algeria shared the draft with the 15-member council on Wednesday. It would demand an immediate humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

"This draft resolution could put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy — derailing the exhaustive, ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages, and secure an extended pause that Palestinian civilians and aid workers so desperately need,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters.

20:31 Beirut Time

Senior Beirut-based Hamas official Osama Hamdan highlighted the importance of Israel releasing key Palestinian prisoners, including the popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmad Saadat, during an interview with Lebanese channel LBCI.

"The most important Palestinian prisoners to be released are those sentenced to life imprisonment for committing or leading acts of resistance, regardless of their allegiance," Hamdan told the channel.

19:37 Beirut Time

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Tel Aviv, Dec. 18, 2023. (Credit: Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters)

While visiting a military base in northern Israel, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops: "If Hezbollah thinks that when there'll be a cease-fire in the south we'll stop attacking it – they are greatly mistaken," according to a report from Haaretz.

"I'm saying this directly: We won't stop as long as the residents of northern Israel can't return safely to their homes," Gallant said.

According to The Washington Post, 70,000 residents in northern Israel were evacuated from high-risk areas following the start of cross-border fighting between Hezbollah and the Israeli army on Oct. 8.

19:28 Beirut Time

Canada is looking at imposing sanctions on "extremist" settlers in the West Bank, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a day after US action against four Israeli men accused of being involved in violence in the occupied territory, according to a Reuters report.

"We are looking into how to make sure that those responsible for extremist violence or extreme settler violence in the West Bank are held to account for it," Trudeau told reporters in Waterloo, Ontario.

18:50 Beirut Time

Young Palestinians sit together amid the rubble of a destroyed building in the Maghazi refugee camp, which was severely damaged by Israeli bombardment, in the central Gaza Strip on Feb. 1, 2024. (Credit: Anas Baba/AFP)

Satellite imagery analyzed by the United Nations Satellite Centre shows that 30 percent of the buildings in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged in the Israel offensive in the densely populated Palestinian enclave, Reuters reports.

Air strikes, shelling, and demolitions have razed entire city districts, including much civilian infrastructure.

"In total, a staggering 69,147 structures, equivalent to approximately 30 percent of the Gaza Strip's total structures, are affected," the United Nations Satellite Centre, UNOSAT, said.

It said 22,131 structures in the enclave have been identified as destroyed, with an additional 14,066 deemed severely damaged and 32,950 having sustained moderate damage.

18:44 Beirut Time

The Israeli military said its "Arrow" aerial defense system successfully intercepted a surface-to-surface missile fired at Israeli territory today in the area of the Red Sea, Reuters reports.

The military statement did not provide details on the origin of the launch.

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, have launched wave after wave of exploding drones and missiles at commercial vessels in the Red Sea since Nov. 19, declaring solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. The attacks have resulted in a 30 percent drop in Red Sea container shipping traffic.

17:51 Beirut Time

Here's the latest security update from southern Lebanon:

• The town of Aitaroun, Bint Jbeil district, was targeted with more than 40 artillery shells over the course of one hour, as well as an airstrike that hit a house on the eastern outskirts of the town, as reported by a security source. No injuries have been reported thus far.

• Hezbollah announced that its fighters targeted the Israeli site of Rwaisat al-Alam in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms and the Kfar Shuba heights at 3:50 p.m. In another statement, the party said that "following the targeting of the Rwaisat al-Alam ... [Hezbollah] fighters conducted a missile strike on the deployment of Israeli forces in its vicinity at 4:40 p.m."

• Israeli artillery shelling targeted the outskirts of Rashaya al-Foukhar, Kfar Hammam, and Kfar Shuba, all located Hasbaya district, according to local residents who spoke with our correspondent in the south.

• Missiles were launched from southern Lebanon towards Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, a security source told L'Orient Today.

17:41 Beirut Time

US shipping industry stakeholders told the Transportation Department they "expected increased congestion at some US container ports in the next four to six weeks as shippers re-route cargo to avoid the Red Sea," the department announced, cited by Reuters.

The stakeholders shared their concerns during a call with the department's Office of Multimodal Freight on Thursday, the department said. The call focused on supply chain issues stemming from the situation in the Red Sea, where attacks by Yemen's Houthis have disrupted shipping.

Yemen's Houthi rebels have been carrying out attacks on ships destined for Israel that pass through the vital shipping route, in solidarity — they have declared— with Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

17:33 Beirut Time

Palestinians carrying some belongings walk past ammunition containers left behind by Israeli troops as they flee Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip and move further south earlier today. (Credit: AFP)

17:32 Beirut Time

(Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)

 The United Nations estimates that at least 17,000 children in the Gaza Strip have been left unaccompanied or separated nearly four months into the war, AFP reports.

"Each one has a heartbreaking story of loss and grief," said Jonathan Crickx, spokesperson for the UN children's agency UNICEF in the Palestinian territories.

Crickx says that tracing who the children are is proving "extremely difficult," as sometimes they arrive at hospitals wounded or in shock, and "they simply can't even say their names."

👉 Read the full report

17:11 Beirut Time

(Credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

The UN is concerned about worsening conditions in southern Gaza, saying a surge in people seeking safety in Rafah had made the town a "pressure cooker of despair."

AFP reports the United Nations' humanitarian agency OCHA as saying it was deeply concerned about the escalation of hostilities in Khan Younis, which had resulted in increased numbers heading further south to Rafah in recent days.

"Most are living in makeshift structures, tents, or out in the open," OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told a briefing in Geneva.

Yesterday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issued a statement saying "We are achieving our missions in Khan Younis, and we will also reach Rafah and eliminate terror elements that threaten us," signaling the army's offensive will move into the area packed with displaced Palestinians.

👉 Read the full report here.

16:22 Beirut Time

Hidaya Hamad, director of the Palestine Red Crescent Society's youth and volunteer department in Gaza, was "killed by Israeli occupation fire while at the organization's headquarters in Khan Younis," the humanitarian aid organization announced on X.

Over the past week, fighting has intensified in Khan Younis, notably surrounding the PRCS headquarters and al-Amal Hospital. The PRCS reported that the area had been surrounded by the Israeli army, who demanded everyone — medics at work and displaced people taking shelter — evacuate immediately. The Israeli army denied these claims.

A video posted by the PRCS on X showed people taking shelter while gunfire could be heard just outside the building.

16:14 Beirut Time

Here are updates from the last hour in southern Lebanon:

• Israeli warplanes conducted a series of airstrikes on Maroun al-Ras and Aitaroun, both located in Bint Jbeil district, as well as Jabal Balat on the outskirts of Chihine, Sour district.

• The Israeli army also targeted the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab, Bint Jbeil district, with six missiles, a security source told L’Orient Today.

• Missiles were launched from southern Lebanon towards the Israeli Malikiyah site, located opposite Aitaroun, Bint Jbeil district, according to a security source.

15:03 Beirut Time

Displaced Palestinians were killed and others wounded after Israeli snipers opened fire on the headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, the organization reports on X.

14:36 Beirut Time

The Lebanese-Israeli border in southern Lebanon has seen only a few attacks launched from either side since the morning. Israel fired smoke artillery shots at the south Lebanon border village of Khiam in the Marjayoun district around 10:30 a.m., residents of the village told L'Orient Today.

In the last hour:

•⁠ ⁠Several missiles were fired from Lebanon towards northern Israel around 1:30 p.m., a security source told L'Orient Today. The attack has not been claimed by anyone yet.

•⁠ ⁠The Israeli army shelled areas around the south Lebanon border village of Tayr Harfa in Sour district around 2 p.m., a security source told L'Orient Today.

14:00 Beirut Time

The Gazan Ministry of Health announced a death toll of 27,131 people, mostly women, children and adolescents, in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war. The ministry reported in a press release 112 deaths over the last 24 hours, and a total of 66,287 people injured, according to AFP.

13:04 Beirut Time

The Swedish intelligence service has announced that it has opened an investigation into a "terrorist crime" following the foiled attempted attack on the Israeli embassy in Sweden on Wednesday, according to AFP.

"The preliminary investigation opened by the police on Jan. 31 ... has been taken over by the Swedish intelligence services," they said in a statement, adding that "the criminal qualification has been changed to terrorist crime."

12:50 Beirut Time

Testimonies from Gaza:

In Gaza City, in the north of the enclave, residents found refuge near Shifa Hospital, reports AFP. The army "dropped leaflets asking us to leave, where should we go? Our houses were destroyed, our children were killed," a woman, Abir Al Madhoun, told the agency.

A doctor, Mohamad Ghrab, says he is "the only doctor available, in addition to a few nurses" in this hospital, the largest in the territory, where "the central oxygen station was shut down" by Israeli soldiers when they stormed at the end of November.

11:56 Beirut Time

The Palestine Red Crescent Society has said that it has still not received any news of the ambulance team that was sent over 89 hours ago to rescue a little girl in the north of the Gaza Strip.

"More than 89 hours have passed and the fate of our colleagues Youssef Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun ... sent to rescue Hind, the 6-year-old girl, remains unknown," the organization lamented on X. It also called on "the international community to intervene immediately to pressure the Israeli occupation authorities to reveal the fate of the child and the Red Crescent team."

According to the Red Crescent, the little girl had called for help when she was trapped in the middle of an Israeli deployment, in a car in which the other members of her family had been killed. 

11:35 Beirut Time

Iraq's Al-Noujaba movement, an influential pro-Iranian armed group, has announced that it intends to continue attacking US troops in the Middle East, despite threats of retaliation from Washington following the death of three of its soldiers in Jordan.

"Any (US) strike will result in an appropriate response," Akram al-Kaabi, head of Al-Nujaba, part of the "Islamic Resistance in Iraq" nebula of fighters, also warned in a statement, according to AFP. This grouping "will continue" its actions until its "demands are met" – namely "the cessation of operations in Gaza" and the departure of US soldiers from Iraq.

11:01 Beirut Time

More information on the strike attributed to Israel in the Damascus region:

At least three pro-Iranian fighters were killed in the strike, which took place at dawn on Friday and targeted the area around the capital Damascus for the second time this week according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), cited by AFP.

This strike targeted "a Hezbollah site" south of Damascus, according to the same source. 

10:06 Beirut Time

The situation in southern Lebanon over the past hour and a half:

•⁠ ⁠The Israeli army bombed the outskirts of the border village Naqoura in Sour district, residents of the area told L'Orient Today.

•⁠ ⁠The Israeli army bombed the outskirts of the border village of Ramieh in Bint Jbeil district, residents of the area told L'Orient Today.

•⁠ ⁠Several missiles were fired from south Lebanon towards the northern Galilee in Israel, a security source told L'Orient Today.

•⁠ ⁠Rocket sirens were activated in Northern Israel, Haaretz reported.

10:04 Beirut Time

The Syrian army has claimed that Israel launched an "aggression" from the Golan Heights aimed at southern Damascus, according to a security source quoted by the official Syrian agency SANA and relayed by Reuters.

The troop also reported that its defense system had shot down Israeli rockets, which caused only material damage.

09:46 Beirut Time

Seven employees of a Turkish factory of the American group Procter & Gamble (P&G), who were taken hostage for nine hours on Thursday by an armed man claiming to act "for Gaza," were finally released unharmed.

Read the full story here.

09:26 Beirut Time

The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, announced on the night of Thursday to Friday that she had summoned the Israeli ambassador to Belgium after strikes had “destroyed” the offices of the Belgian development agency in the Gaza Strip.

09:24 Beirut Time

Wrap-up of the night in southern Lebanon according to a security source:

•⁠ ⁠A fire erupted again at a supermarket that was bombed yesterday by the Israeli army in Tayr Harfa (Sour) at around 9 p.m.

•⁠ ⁠Hezbollah announced that it attacked at 9:30 p.m. Israeli soldiers around a military position in the Israeli village of Zar'it said they "directly hit the target." A security source told L'Orient Today that several missiles were launched from Lebanon toward an Israeli position around the same time.

•⁠ ⁠An Israeli drone struck the outskirts of Marwahine in Sour district after 10 p.m.

•⁠ ⁠The Israeli army shelled an area near the Taybeh in Sour district around 1 a.m.

09:21 Beirut Time

In Tel Aviv on Thursday evening, demonstrators once again gathered to demand an agreement to free the hostages, despite the fact that Qatar's foreign ministry had shortly before reported a "first positive response" from Hamas as part of the ongoing negotiations.

"The only way is to reach an agreement," said Moran Zer Katzenstein, 41, at the protest. "I still think that after that, we'll have time to deal with Hamas and remove them from the management and leadership of Gaza (...) but first we have to deal with the hostages."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from hostage families to reach an agreement, and from ministers who are threatening to quit the government if the deal is too generous to the Palestinians.

For more on the influence that the families of the hostages have, click here.

09:12 Beirut Time

The situation in Gaza:

During the night from Thursday to Friday, Palestinian witnesses reported Israeli strikes in the center and south of the Gaza Strip, particularly in the area of ​​Khan Younis.

The Gazan Ministry of Health said that at least 105 civilians were killed as a result of these bombings. 

Officials in Gaza continue to report fighting near the Nasser and al-Amal hospitals in Khan Younis. 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant traveled to Gaza on Thursday to meet with soldiers.

“This war requires national resilience and determination and we must persevere until our missions are completed. And it is much more difficult for Hamas,” he said. “Hamas has 10,000 dead terrorists and another 10,000 wounded who are out of action, a major blow to their capacity,” he added.

09:09 Beirut Time

Be sure to read the Morning Brief so that you can be caught up with what has been going on.

Morning Brief

Nasrallah to speak, Baalbeck MPs demand flour, cease-fire talks in Gaza: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

09:08 Beirut Time

Good morning!

Thank you for joining us for our live coverage of the ongoing war in Gaza.