People walk through the rubble of a building heavily damaged by Israeli bombardment, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 11, 2024, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. (Credit: Said Khatib/AFP)


No operation in Rafah without 'credible and feasible plan' for safety of population, Biden tells Netanyahu: Israel-Hamas war, day 128

What you need to know

Egypt reportedly threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if Israeli troops are sent to Rafah.

Netanyahu promised a "safe" evacuation of civilians from Rafah.

The Amal movement has lost eight members since the start of the war and its spillover into southern Lebanon.

21:00 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our LIVE coverage of day 128 of the Israel-Hamas war. We will be back tomorrow with more news updates.

20:21 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today that Israel should not proceed with a military operation in Rafah without a plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there, the White House said, according to Reuters.

Biden's call with Netanyahu came days after the US leader told reporters that Israel's response in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza was "over the top."

The call also focused on ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by the Islamist group Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the White House said.

19:31 Beirut Time

Jordan's King Abdullah participated in an air drop of humanitarian aid to Gaza, state-owned Al Mamlaka broadcaster said today, according to Reuters.

19:31 Beirut Time

⚡ Egypt "totally rejects" Israeli statements on the planned military operation in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million displaced Palestinians are crowded, reports the Egyptian Foreign Ministry quoted by Reuters.

Egypt warned today of "dire consequences" of a potential Israeli military assault on the south Gaza city of Rafah near its border. "Egypt called for the necessity of uniting all international and regional efforts to prevent the targeting of the Palestinian city of Rafah," its foreign ministry added in a statement.

19:18 Beirut Time

"We have quite a hostile environment here for the agency, and there have been some decisions that are starting to have an impact on the agency's ability to function properly," said Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on Friday, quoted by Reuters.

He added that UNRWA was informed by a handling service provider in the port of Ashdod that it could no longer continue to work with UNRWA, following directives from the Israeli authorities.

As a result, a cargo from Turkey, consisting of 1,049 containers of aid including flour, chickpeas, sugar, cooking oil, enough to cover the needs of 1.1 million people for a month, was blocked in said port, said Lazzarini.

UNRWA has informed Turkey of this blockage, he added. There was no immediate comment from the Turkish authorities.

A spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Finance said the matter was in the hands of the government's legal advisor, but made no further comment.

According to Israel, 12 UNRWA staff members took part in the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which led a number of donor countries to suspend funding. The agency has dismissed staff accused of involvement in the attack and launched an investigation.

Read more here.

18:29 Beirut Time

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Israel in the middle of next week, a foreign ministry spokesperson said today, a trip in which she said she plans to urge for a ceasefire as Israel prepares to advance on Rafah, according to Reuters.

18:25 Beirut Time

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Doha on Sunday for talks on securing a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war with the Qatari emir, whose country has been at the heart of mediation efforts and hosts political leaders of Hamas, according to Reuters.

Read more here.

18:18 Beirut Time

The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs "strongly condemns the Israeli plans to invade Rafah, continuing their incessant war on Gaza, and the forced exodus of Palestinians."

In a statement, Bustros Palace "calls on the UN Security Council to assume its responsibilities by adopting a decision for an immediate ceasefire, the entry of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, until the recognition of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital."

18:15 Beirut Time

"The Zionist entity [Israel] and the West are in difficulty today, and the West is now obliged to save this entity, and Israel's escalation in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon is nothing but an attempt to get out of this difficulty," considered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as he received Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Damascus, Syrian news agency SANA reported.

He added that the US stance on the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip "threatens to spread the conflict" by continuing to supply Israel with "lethal weapons, in addition to US attacks in various parts of the Middle East."

Israel "is preparing to continue its crimes at Rafah, while the competent international institutions, notably the UN Security Council, have been unable to stop these massacres," added the Syrian President.

Abdollahian declared that "the Gaza question is now considered the main issue not only at the regional level but also at the international level," noting that "Syria is in the front line to support the Palestinian people and their cause."

(Photo credit: SANA news agency)

17:47 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, two White House officials said, quoted by Reuters.

It will be the first conversation between the two leaders since Biden declared that Israel's military response in Gaza had been "excessive."

Biden, who is spending the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, is expected to speak with Netanyahu on Sunday morning, one of the officials said.

17:46 Beirut Time

The Israeli army has announced that it has attacked "Hezbollah targets" in Lebanon, "terrorist infrastructure" and a "launching point" of the party, at Marwahine (Sour district), says army spokesman Avichay Adraee on X.

"The army attacked a military site, a military building and a terrorist infrastructure used by the organization [Hezbollah] in Ramaya, Yaroun and Shihine," in southern Lebanon, he added, also indicating that a "suspicious target" was targeted near Kfar Kila (Marjayoun district).

17:37 Beirut Time

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack carried out at 4:55 p.m. on a troop of Israeli soldiers on Mount Nézer, in Israel, a mountain located opposite the Lebanese town of Mais al-Jabal (Marjayoun district).

17:22 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview aired today that "enough" of the 132 remaining Israeli hostages held in Gaza are alive to justify Israel's ongoing war in the region, according to Reuters.

Asked how many of the hostages are still alive, Netanyahu said "enough to warrant the kind of efforts that we're doing."

"We're going to try to do our best to get all those who are alive back and, frankly, also the bodies of the dead," he said in the interview with ABC's "This Week" program.

Netanyahu also said that one Palestinian civilian has been killed for every Hamas fighter killed in Gaza.

(Photo credit: X/@ThisWeekABC)

16:53 Beirut Time

The former leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Joumblatt, said he was "in favor of implementing Resolution 1701, provided this is done in agreement with Hezbollah and the Lebanese forces, through the authorities," in an interview with the Russia Today channel. He also called for a stronger role for the Lebanese Army in southern Lebanon.

"Hezbollah and Iran don't want to expand the war, but we'll have to ask Israel and its supporters," said the Druze leader.

Joumblatt also felt that the two-state solution "has been over since the Oslo Accords in 1994."

16:43 Beirut Time

The Amal movement has published the names of its two members killed in the Israeli attack on a house in Shihine (Sour, southern Lebanon).

They are Mohammad Rabih al-Masri, born in 2003, and Hassan Ali Farouk, born in 1996.

16:42 Beirut Time

Events accelerated during the afternoon in southern Lebanon

Hezbollah announced three attacks:

• The first was at 3 p.m. on a group of Israeli soldiers in the "Tayhat triangle," opposite the Lebanese town of Mais al-Jabal (Marjayoun district)

• A second attack was at 3:05 p.m., targeting spy equipment at the Al Abad site, opposite Houla (Marjayoun)

• A third was at 3:20 p.m. on the Rouaissat al-Alam site, between Kfar Shuba hills (Hasbaya) and Shebaa farms

• Residents told our correspondent in the region that an Israeli drone had targeted a pharmacy in Jibbayn (Sour district)

• A spokesman for the Islamic Mission Scouts Association, affiliated with Amal, confirmed that the personnel in the mission and Red Cross ambulances on their way to the scene of the attack in Shihine escaped unharmed after their vehicles were targeted by Israeli fire.

16:34 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today he has not spoken to US President Joe Biden since the president made remarks about Israel's military response to Hamas being "over the top" two weeks ago, according to Reuters.

16:12 Beirut Time

⚡ The Israeli attack on the locality of Shihine (Sour district) destroyed a house and killed two people, according to our correspondent in the region.

The two people killed belonged to the Amal movement, a source from the party told L'Orient-Le Jour.

According to eyewitnesses, ambulances belonging to the Scouts of the Islamic Mission association, affiliated with Amal, narrowly escaped Israeli artillery fire on their way to the scene of the impact in Shihine.

15:52 Beirut Time

France, deeply concerned by the Israeli strikes in Rafah (southern Gaza Strip), urged Israel today to halt the fighting to avoid "a disaster," Christophe Lemoine, deputy spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.

"A large-scale Israeli offensive in Rafah would create a catastrophic humanitarian situation of a new and unjustifiable dimension," he stated. "In order to avoid a disaster, we reiterate our call for a halt to the fighting," he added in the written statement.

15:43 Beirut Time

The US says its forces strike unmanned surface vessels, anti-ship cruise missiles near Yemen

US Central Command (CENTCOM) says its forces had carried out strikes on two unmanned surface vessels and three anti-ship cruise missiles north of Yemen's port city of Hodeidah today that were threatening ships in the area.

"CENTCOM identified these USVs and missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region," it adds.

Feb. 10 Summary of USCENTCOM Self-Defense Strikes in Yemen

"On Feb. 10, between 4 – 5 p.m. (Sanaa time), US Central Command (CENTCOM) forces successfully conducted self-defense strikes against two unmanned surface vessels (USV) and three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM)." — U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) Feb. 11, 2024

15:41 Beirut Time

Latest developments in southern Lebanon (past hour)

• Israeli fighter jets have been bombarding the outskirts of Yaroun and Ramaya (Bint Jbeil district) and Shihine and Marwahine (Sour district), according to local residents' accounts gathered by our correspondent in the region.

• Israeli artillery also bombarded the outskirts of Dhairah, Jibbayn and Tayr Harfa, also in Sour district.

• Ambulances were dispatched to the scene of the attack in Shihine.

15:06 Beirut Time

⚡Citing two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat, the Associated Press is reporting that Egypt is threatening to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if an Israeli ground offensive commences in the southern Gaza border town of Rafah. The sources are cited as speaking to the news agency on condition of anonymity.

More than a million Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah after being displaced by Israel’s bombardment of and ground invasion into the north and center of the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said sending troops into Rafah is now essential to winning the war against Hamas.

Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1978, following the Camp David Accords.

14:47 Beirut Time

The head of Hezbollah's parliamentary group, MP Mohammed Raad, says Israel's popularity has "fallen back to its level of 50 years ago" and Israel's "military capabilities do not allow it to determine the course of a war or have control over how it unfolds," Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reports.

Speaking at a ceremony in Kfar Kila (Marjayoun district) in honor of a Hezbollah fighter killed in the exchange of fire on the border between south Lebanon and Israel, Raad went on to say that Israel "knew" Hezbollah was "hurting" it and causing it "serious difficulties," but that it was trying to incite "some of its allies to take part in the aggression" against Lebanon.

"We are still capable of defending our existence, our homeland, our sovereignty and our security," the MP repeated in his speech, concluding, "we won't give anyone a consolation prize."

14:22 Beirut Time

Thousands of Moroccans once again marched in Rabat today in support of the Palestinian people, calling for an end to normalization between Morocco and Israel and denouncing "genocide" in the Gaza Strip, AFP reports.

"Normalization is treason" and "Stop the massacre" read banners waving in front of the parliament in the Moroccan capital.

More than 10,000 people marched along the main roads in the city center, some carrying huge Palestinian flags, according to AFP journalists.

13:55 Beirut Time

Israeli strikes on the Gaza strip during the past 96 hours have killed two Israeli hostages and seriously injured eight others, Hamas' armed-wing al-Qassam Brigades announced today over the group's Telegram channel, Reuters reports.

"Their conditions are becoming more dangerous in light of the inability to provide them with appropriate treatment. [Israel] bears full responsibility for the lives of those injured in light of their continued bombing," the Hamas statement said.

Militants seized 250 hostages during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. More than 130 of these hostages are still in Gaza. Prior to Hamas' announcement today, an Israeli spokesperson on Tuesday said that 31 of those still in Gaza were presumed dead.

13:37 Beirut Time

The Israel-Hamas war has devastated the economies of both the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, the International Monetary Fund's chief says, adding that only "durable peace" will improve the outlook, AFP reports.

"The Palestinian economy's dire outlook is worsening as the conflict persists," Kristalina Georgieva told the World Governments Summit in Dubai. "Only a durable peace and political solution will fundamentally change it."

"Economically, the impact of the conflict has been devastating," she added. ➡️ More details here.

13:13 Beirut Time

In the press: UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinians, has for years taken seriously and investigated claims of Hamas infiltration of the organization, but its efforts have been met with threats and intimidation, The New York Times reports today, citing current and former UNRWA officials.

According to the report, instead of tackling such allegations systematically, the agency has dealt with them on a case-by-case basis, mostly working in private alongside officials at UN headquarters in New York. It adds that over the years, several employees found to have proven Hamas links were fired, citing one particular 2014 incident.

However, the NYT also relays accounts of death threats, ranging from anonymous emails to a live grenade sent to an UNRWA compound, arriving in response to efforts undertaken to tackle infiltration allegations.

Earlier this month, Israel accused 12 UNRWA employees of involvement in the Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. In reaction, multiple countries suspended funding for the agency.

12:31 Beirut Time

Image: Hezbollah buries one of its members, Mohammad Ali Fayad, in Ansar, in the Nabatieh district. The party had announced the death of the fighter last Friday. A total of 188 Hezbollah members have been killed in Lebanon and Syria since Oct. 8, according to our count. (Credit: Photo released by the Hezbollah press office)

12:24 Beirut Time

⚡ Any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah on the Gaza border will "blow up" the hostage exchange negotiations," Hamas-run Aqsa Television channel has quoted a senior Hamas leader as saying, Reuters reports.

12:03 Beirut Time

Iran's president has called for the exclusion of Israel from the UN. The call came as he celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, marked by rallies in Tehran and Iran's major cities.

"We propose to exclude the Zionist entity from the United Nations," said President Ebrahim Raissi, referring to Israel, a country Iran does not recognize.

Because "what is happening in Gaza today is a crime against humanity, and the supporters of this criminal regime are the United States and certain Western countries," he added during a speech to thousands of people gathered in the capital's Azadi ("Freedom") Square.

11:57 Beirut Time

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is working "tirelessly" to solve the Red Sea crisis, its head Arsenio Dominguez told AFP.

The global transport of goods has been severely disrupted by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels' launching dozens of attacks against ships in the Red Sea since November. The Houthis say they are targeting boats headed for Israel in an act of "solidarity" with inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Its most recent attacks on vessels took place last Tuesday.

The IMO, the United Nations agency responsible for security at sea, is working to ensure that "parties continue to talk so that the situation does not degenerate any further, and we can return to a safe maritime environment," AFP quotes Dominguez as saying.

"We are working tirelessly to coordinate action that will lead to a resolution," Dominguez added. ➡️ Click here for more. 

11:34 Beirut Time

Fighter jets belonging to the Israeli army have once again flown unauthorized above areas across Lebanon.

The condensation trails left by these aircraft were spotted by our journalists and correspondents over Beirut, Batroun (North Lebanon), Faraya (Keserouan) and the western Bekaa.

Image: Planes most likely belonging to the Israeli army are seen above Faraya, in the Kesrouan district, far from south Lebanon. (Credit: MJ Daoud/L'Orient Today)

11:28 Beirut Time

Gaza casualty toll update: A total of 28,176 Palestinians have been killed and 67,784 have been injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7, Reuters reports, citing a Gaza Health Ministry statement.

Some 112 Palestinians were killed and 173 injured in the past 24 hours, the statement adds.

11:26 Beirut Time

The Israeli army has announced it launched a strike targeting a Hamas fighter cell west of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Haaretz reports. The army also claimed to have shot down a fighter operating an anti-tank missile firing post in the town and guided an airstrike on another Hamas site.

10:54 Beirut Time

The Palestine Red Crescent Society has accused the Israeli army of obstructing the supply of medical supplies to the al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, including oxygen cylinders, "for more than a week." The PRCS made its accusation via the social media platform X,  adding that the delay had "led to the deaths of three patients."

The hospital, in the southern Gaza Strip, has been besieged and attacked by the Israeli army on several occasions in recent days.

10:15 Beirut Time

Egypt's Finance Minister Mohamed Maait says part of the impact on Suez Canal revenue of the Red Sea attacks on vessels could be absorbed, thanks to previous growth that had been doing well before the incidents started, Reuters reports.

Maait said the government was planning to rely more on the private sector in terms of project expenditure, adding: "If you look at [project spending] figures for the last seven months, it has dropped by 10 percent." The minister was speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the World Governments Summit in Dubai. 

For months, Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi group has targeted foreign vessels in the Red Sea in what it describes as a show of solidarity with Palestinians following Israel's bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel. As a result, shipping traffic in the Suez Canal and the Red Sea has fallen sharply from its peak in 2023.

10:00 Beirut Time

Here's what's been happening on the Lebanon-Israel border in the past hour: 

* The Israeli army shelled the outskirts of Kfar Kila (Marjayoun district) at around 9.30 a.m., according to reports from residents gathered by our correspondent in south Lebanon.

* Hezbollah announced in a press release that at 9 a.m. it had targeted and hit Israeli spy equipment at the Rouaisat al-Alam site, in the Kfar Shuba hills (near the eponymous locality in the Hasbaya district), and the Shebaa Farms.

09:34 Beirut Time

Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron says the country's economy is strong and will recover from the impact of the war, but he called on the government to address issues raised by Moody's after the agency downgraded Israel's sovereign credit rating, Reuters reports.

"In order to strengthen the confidence of the markets and rating companies in the Israeli economy, it is important that the government and the Knesset act to address the economic issues raised in the report," Yaron said.

On Friday, Moody's downgraded Israel's credit rating from A1 to A2. More details here.

09:28 Beirut Time

In south Lebanon, the night and morning were relatively calm after the intense bombings that left several dead yesterday.

According to our correspondent in the region, Muntasser Abdallah, citing testimonies from residents, Israeli aircraft bombed the outskirts of the town of Houla (Marjayoun district) at around 4 a.m. Yesterday, this border town was targeted several times by the Israeli army.

09:26 Beirut Time

The United States and the EU are concerned about the fate of civilians in Rafah. US President Joe Biden raised his voice against Israel's actions on Thursday, deeming its “response” to the Oct. 7 attack “excessive.”

According to the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, a possible offensive by the Israeli army in Rafah would amount to “an indescribable humanitarian catastrophe."

A few kilometers to the north, in Khan Younis, the fighting is concentrated in the grounds of the al-Nasser Hospital, the largest in southern Gaza, which is besieged by Israeli tanks and where yesterday there were still 300 employees, 450 wounded and 10,000 displaced people, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the enclave.

09:23 Beirut Time

The Israeli army and internal security agency also claimed yesterday to have discovered a Hamas tunnel in Gaza City under the headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

“We have not used this building since we left it and we are not aware of any activity that could have taken place there,” UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini wrote on X, adding that Israel's accusations "deserve an independent investigation."

Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, called for Lazzarini's “prompt resignation,” as did Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.

09:21 Beirut Time

The Israeli operation is causing concern abroad, particularly in Saudi Arabia, whose Foreign Ministry warned yesterday of "very serious repercussions" on the civilian population in the event of a ground operation in Rafah.

“The continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law confirms the need for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to prevent Israel from causing a humanitarian catastrophe,” the Riyadh statement said.

Yesterday, new Israeli strikes targeted Rafah, killing five police officers, according to Palestinian security sources.

Image: People gather around the wreckage of a police vehicle destroyed during an Israeli bombing in Rafah. (Credit: Said Khatib/AFP)

09:10 Beirut Time

The situation in Gaza this morning:

The threat of an Israeli offensive against Rafah persists. Hamas fears "tens of thousands of deaths" among the civilian population should Israel proceed with its operation there.

More than 1.3 million Palestinians currently live in Rafah, according to the UN, the vast majority of whom are civilians who have fled the war that has been raging for four months between Israel and Hamas. Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the preparation of a military operation there on Wednesday.

"Victory is within reach. We are going to do it. We are going to take the last terrorist battalions of Hamas and Rafah, which is the last bastion," Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC News that is scheduled to be broadcast in full today after extracts of it were broadcast yesterday evening.

“We will do this while ensuring safe passage for the civilian population so that they can leave” the area, he added.

09:07 Beirut Time

Good morning, 

We're here on day 128 of the Israel-Hamas war with live updates from Gaza, Israel, southern Lebanon and the wider region.