Palestinians stand among the rubble of a building where two rescued hostages were reportedly held in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 12, 2024, (Credit: Said Khatib/AFP)


Biden increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu; Borrell suggests US reconsider arms to Israel: Day 129 of Hamas-Israel war

What you need to know

Two Hezbollah fighters and two Saraya al-Quds fighters were announced killed in southern Lebanon today.

The IMF and World Bank warned that the war on Gaza and the related attacks on shipping through the Red Sea pose serious threats to an already weak global economy.

An Israeli nighttime operation killed around 100 people and freed two hostages held in Rafah.

The Israeli offensive has left more than 28,000 dead in the Gaza Strip, the vast majority of them civilians.

21:59 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our LIVE coverage from day 129 of the Hamas-Israel war.

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

21:58 Beirut Time

This undated handout photograph obtained courtesy of the family shows six-year-old Palestinian girl Hind Rajab. (Credit: Family handout/AFP)

The United States called the death of six-year-old Gaza girl Hind Rajab, who was last heard pleading alone for help, "heartbreaking" and urged ally Israel to ensure an investigation and accountability, AFP reports.

Hind's body was recovered on Saturday along with those of two relatives and two Red Crescent workers who went to find her. She was last heard from more than two weeks earlier in a desperate phone call to the Red Crescent — telling them "I'm so scared" — having been left alone when her family's car came under fire. The family had been trying to flee Gaza City to escape from the Israeli military's advancing troops.

"It is just a devastating account, a heartbreaking account, for this child, and of course there have been thousands of other children who have died as a result of this conflict," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters. "We have asked the Israeli authorities to investigate this incident on an urgent basis. We understand that they are doing so," he said.

"We expect to see those results [in] a timely fashion, and they should include accountability measures as appropriate," he said.

21:23 Beirut Time

Here are updates from southern Lebanon over the last hour:

• The Lebanese branch of Saraya al-Quds announced the death of two of their fighters in an Israeli attack in southern Lebanon.

• The Israeli army struck the outskirts of Ramyeh, Bint Jbeil district, Marwahin, Yarine and Majdilzoun in Sour district, residents of the villages told L'Orient Today's correspondent in the south.

• The Israeli army announced that two anti-tank missiles fell in open areas near Mount Dov in northern Israel.

21:13 Beirut Time

Amnesty International published a new report outlining the findings from several investigations into Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip that demonstrate how "Israeli forces continue to flout international humanitarian law, wiping out entire families with impunity."

"These attacks illustrate that Israeli forces are brazenly flouting international law and contradict claims by Israeli authorities that their forces are taking increased precautions to minimize harm to civilians," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Executive Director of Research, Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns at Amnesty International.

The NGO investigated four strikes — not recorded in the Israeli army's military log — by visiting the sites, taking photos and videos of the destruction, and interviewing a total of 18 people, including 14 survivors and four relatives involved in the rescue operations. The organization also analyzed satellite imagery to corroborate information.

Of the strikes surveyed, the first (Dec. 12 at 3:02 a.m.) killed 25 people, the second (Dec. 14 at 11:45 a.m.) killed 29, the third (Dec. 19, at 1:30 a.m.) killed 22, and the fourth (Jan. 9 around 11:00 p.m.) killed 18.

Testimonies can be read in the full Amnesty report here. 👇

👉 Our report on Amnesty's investigations can be read here.

20:11 Beirut Time

An unexploded Israeli missile was found in the northern Lebanese district of Akkar, the Lebanese Army said in a statement.

The army says the missile fell into Lebanese territories during an Israeli attack on Syria. It also said it is working on dismantling it and moving it to a safe area before detonating it in a controlled environment.

19:48 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden is showing signs of increasing frustration with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, going so far as to call him an “asshole,” and Israeli military operations as “over the top,” according to a report from American news outlet NBC, citing several people directly familiar with Biden’s comments.

According to NBC’s sources, Biden says Netanyahu is “giving him hell” and is impossible to deal with, while Israel’s primary ally struggles to find a solution to the conflict without aggravating its most important relationship in the region.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said that he told Netanyahu the number of Palestinian civilians dying under the Israeli offensive “remains too high.”

There have not been any major policy shifts reflecting Biden’s frustrations, but his administration has begun to weigh the alternatives. US officials told NBC two weeks ago that the government was considering delaying or slowing down weapon sales to Israel as leverage, hoping it would encourage Netanyahu to soften Israel’s military operations.

19:12 Beirut Time

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell encouraged the US to reconsider supplying arms to Israel today, Reuters reports.

Borrell recalled that US President Joe Biden said last week that Israel's response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack had been "over the top" and US and other Western officials had repeatedly said too many civilians were being killed in Gaza.

"Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people being killed," Borrell told reporters after a meeting of EU development aid ministers in Brussels. "If the international community believes that this is a slaughter, that too many people are being killed, maybe we have to think about the provision of arms," he added.

The United States is Israel's most important foreign arms provider. It provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid annually, ranging from fighter jets to powerful bombs. Washington has so far not heeded any pleas to cut such aid.

👉 Read the full report here.

18:52 Beirut Time

In the last hour:

• Hezbollah announced that in retaliation to the targeting of civilians in Lebanon, it attacked at 5:05 p.m. a building located at an Israeli position in the town of Avivim, in which there were soldiers, and "directly hit the target."

• The party also announced having carried out a second attack at 5:55 p.m. on an Israeli position in the disputed Shebaa Farms. The party said they "directly hit" the target.

• The Israeli army targeted a house in the southern Lebanese border village of Blida, Marjayoun district, and the outskirts of Aitaroun, Bint Jbeil district, residents of the villages told our correspondent in the south, Muntasser Abdallah.

18:25 Beirut Time

Belgium has not received clarification yet from Israel on the destruction of its government buildings in Gaza two weeks ago, says Belgium's minister of development cooperation, cited by Reuters. Belgium’s Israeli ambassador had promised an investigation more than a week ago.

On Feb. 2, Belgium summoned the Israeli ambassador after one of the country’s development agency buildings in Gaza City was bombed, with the intention to raise the issue of compensation.

"Attacks on civilian infrastructure breach the principles of international humanitarian law. All parties must adhere to it," Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib posted on X.

The Belgian Ministry for Development Cooperation said it was not aware of any civilian casualties and that the building, which was shared with Handicap International, should have been empty at the time of the bombing.

17:55 Beirut Time

Latest reports from southern Lebanon:

• Hezbollah announced that, in retaliation for Israeli attacks on civilian homes in southern Lebanon, it attacked an Israeli building opposite the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras, Bint Jbeil district, at 3.25 p.m. The party claimed to have "directly hit" the target.

• The Israeli army opened fire in and around the village of Kfar Kila, Marjeyoun district, local residents told L'Orient Today's correspondent in the south.

17:44 Beirut Time

A Skylark-type drone from the Israeli company Elbit Systems during a test flight. (Screenshot from Elbit Systems website)

Yesterday, in one of Hezbollah's communiques, during which the party routinely announces its military actions and the death of its fighters, the party stated it had "taken control of an Israeli Skylark drone, which is in good technical condition." The statement did not specify where or how this interception took place.

What are the specifics of this device, and what does such an operation signify for Hezbollah?

👉 Retired General Khalil Helou spoke with L'Orient-Le Jour to provides some answers.

17:14 Beirut Time

At 7:30 p.m. GMT (9:30 p.m. Beirut time), US President Joe Biden will receive King Abdullah II of Jordan, a fervent supporter of an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The two heads of state will discuss the conflict and long-term prospects for the Palestinian territory.

They will then each address the press at 9:00 p.m. GMT (11:00 p.m. Beirut time).

17:01 Beirut Time

International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, speaks during the World Governments Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 12, 2024. (Credit: Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

The IMF and World Bank warn that the war on Gaza and the related attacks on shipping through the Red Sea pose threats to an already weak global economy, AFP reports.

The world will feel the cumulative effects with increasing impact the longer the fighting drags on, International Monetary Fund's managing director Kristalina Georgieva told the World Governments Summit, an annual gathering of business and political leaders in Dubai.

Also speaking at the summit, World Bank President Ajay Banga said that "what's going on Gaza, but also the challenges of Ukraine ... and the Red Sea" are among the top challenges to the global economic outlook.

"When you add these variables to what is already turning out to be probably the lowest growth of the last 55 years ... that's something we have to keep a close eye on," he said.

👉 Read the full report here.

16:18 Beirut Time

Updates from southern Lebanon:

• Hezbollah announced the killing of two of their fighters, Mohamad Bassam and Ahmad Mhanna, who are from the southern villages of Ainata and Maroun al-Ras respectively. As usual, they did not announce where or when the two fighters died. This raises Hezbollah's death toll to 190 on the Lebanese and Syrian fronts since the war began.

• Hezbollah announced that it attacked spying equipment at 2:40 p.m. located in an Israeli position that faces the southern Lebanese border village of Kfar Shuba. The party also said it attacked an Israeli position facing the southern Lebanese border village of Rmeish with a Falaq-1 missile and "directly hit the target." 

The Falaq-1 missile is an Iranian-made, unguided, surface-to-surface rocket. It weighs around 112 kilograms and has a maximum range of 10 kilometers.

15:55 Beirut Time

Photo released by the Amal Movement press office.

Recent updates from southern Lebanon:

• A funeral ceremony was held in the southern Lebanese municipality of Mansouri, in Sour district, in honor of Mohammad Rabih al-Masri, one of two members of the Amal Movement killed on Sunday by Israeli bombardment on Chihine, also in Sour district. 

• The Israeli army shelled the outskirts of the southern Lebanese border villages of Shebaa, Hasbaya district, and Khiam, Marjayoun district, in the last hour, residents of the villages told L'Orient Today.

15:34 Beirut Time

The British Foreign Office on Monday announced sanctions against four Israeli "extremist settlers" who "violently attacked" Palestinians in the West Bank and called on Israel to take "firmer action" against the settlers.

The sanctions target Israeli settlers who have "violently attacked Palestinians in the occupied West Bank," the Foreign Office said in a statement. Four settlers will be subject to financial and travel restrictions.

The United States announced similar measures on Feb. 1.

14:36 Beirut Time

In a post on X, the Israeli army's Arabic-language spokesperson, Avichay Adraee, reported that the strike on a car in Maroun al-Ras, on the outskirts of Bint Jbeil, had targeted "a car in which members of Hezbollah were traveling." Other strikes by the Israeli army "destroyed a number of terrorist infrastructures in the Adaisseh and Khiam areas," as well as "buildings and a military position in the Tayr Harfa, Jibbain and Maroun al-Ras areas," according to the spokesman.

The strike on the vehicle, reported earlier, wounded a local Hezbollah official, according to security sources.

14:14 Beirut Time

The situation in southern Lebanon over the past two hours:

- An Israeli drone fired a missile at a house on the outskirts of Jibbain (Sour), according to residents. Ambulances headed for the site of the strike, according to the same source.

- A drone also struck the outskirts of Marwahine, in the Bint Jbeil district, according to residents.

14:12 Beirut Time

The situation in southern Lebanon over the past two hours:

- An Israeli drone fired a missile at a house on the outskirts of Jibbain (Sour), according to residents. Ambulances headed for the site of the strike, according to the same source.

- A drone also struck the outskirts of Marwahine, in the Bint Jbeil district, according to residents.

14:03 Beirut Time

Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, said that the solution to ensuring security in Lebanon is "stability in South Lebanon, full and balanced implementation of UN Resolution 1701, with a halt to Israeli violations and withdrawal [from the remaining occupied lands] in accordance with internationally recognized borders." Bou Habib was speaking after talks with the ambassadors of France, Herve Magro, and Spain, Jesus Santos Aguad.

13:10 Beirut Time

Correction: A local Hezbollah official was seriously injured in an Israeli strike on his vehicle in Bint Jbeil, southern Lebanon, a Lebanese security source told AFP and the mukhtar of the village of Maroun al-Ras (Bint Jbeil) told L'Orient Today.

Security sources had earlier told our correspondent that the individual was killed by the strike.

An AFP photographer on the scene was able to see the targeted car, which was badly damaged and had a hole in the roof.

12:47 Beirut Time

Update on the situation in southern Lebanon:

One person was wounded in the Israeli strike carried out earlier on a building in Tayr Harfa, said the civil defense operations chamber of the al-Rissala Scouts Association, affiliated to the Amal movement, an ally of Hezbollah.

Volunteers, dispatched to the scene after the bombing, transferred the wounded man to a local hospital, according to a statement from the association.

11:44 Beirut Time

The Netherlands must stop supplying parts for the F-35 fighter jets used by Israel in the Gaza Strip, a Dutch court ruled on Monday, vindicating human rights organizations.

"The court orders the state to cease all actual export and transit of F-35 parts to the final destination Israel within seven days of service of this judgment," said the Court of Appeal in The Hague.

11:37 Beirut Time

The Gazan Ministry of Health has announced a death toll of 28,340 people, mostly women, children and teenagers, in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement.

It reported a total of 164 dead in the last 24 hours, and 67,984 wounded since the start of the war on Oct. 7.

11:27 Beirut Time

After a calm start to the morning, several attacks were reported during the last hour in southern Lebanon:

- Israeli strikes hit a house in the locality of Tayr Harfa (Sour), according to residents quoted by our correspondent.

- Reconnaissance aircraft were spotted over the Saida region and the Palestinian refugee camps there, our correspondent reports.

- Israeli aircraft fired missiles in the direction of Maroun al-Ras (Bint Jbeil), according to local residents.

- Strikes on the eastern quarter of Khiam (Marjayoun) were also reported.

- The Israeli army also struck the outskirts of Adaisseh (Marjayoun), according to residents quoted by our correspondent.

11:21 Beirut Time

An Israeli drone fired a missile at a car near the government hospital in Bint Jbeil. The attack killed one person in the vehicle, according to security sources quoted by our correspondent in southern Lebanon. The identity of the victim has not yet been disclosed.

11:12 Beirut Time

The head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, felt that the latest Israeli strikes – "which seem to exceed" the rules hitherto observed in this conflict – including an attack on Saturday in Jadra, on the Chouf coast, "do not change anything in terms of the balance of forces."

"These reactions are due to the pain inflicted by the resistance's strikes," he declared during a tribute paid in Ansar (southern Lebanon) to a Hezbollah member "who died on the road to Jerusalem."

By striking deeper into Lebanon, Israel "is trying to say that it is moving towards a widening of hostilities," Mohammad Raad said. "We remain patient, so as not to slide towards [the confrontation] that the enemy wants," he added.

10:56 Beirut Time

Yemen's Houthi rebels announced that they had attacked a US ship in the Red Sea after maritime security companies reported that missiles had been fired at a bulk carrier.

"The naval forces of the Yemeni armed forces targeted the US ship Star Iris in the Red Sea with a number of naval missiles ... and the strikes were precise and direct," said Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree.

10:52 Beirut Time

In a statement, Hamas condemned the nighttime Israeli attack on Rafah, calling it a "horrible massacre against defenseless civilians, children, women and the elderly, all displaced." The Islamist movement denounced "a continuation of the genocidal war and attempts at forced displacement" against the Palestinian people, recalling that Rafah is home to "1.4 million people" and that its streets have been transformed into "camps for displaced people living in extremely difficult conditions." Hamas also criticized Benjamin Netanyahu's government for "ignoring the decisions of the International Court of Justice," which more than two weeks ago called on Tel Aviv to take measures, in particular, to stop any action that could be considered an "act of genocide."

10:42 Beirut Time

"Only continued military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our hostages. We will miss no opportunity to bring them home," Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, following the release of two hostages in an overnight military operation in Rafah.

"I salute our brave warriors for the bold action that led to their release," he added, according to remarks reported by AFP.

09:51 Beirut Time

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah received the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nakhaleh, according to a party press release issued on Monday morning.

The two leaders reviewed the situation in Gaza and the occupied West Bank "at the level of the terrain, the inhabitants and politics," the text said. They discussed "the support of the axis of resistance on the various fronts," namely Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, as well as "possible developments on the ground and in political contacts."

(Photo: Hezbollah Media Office)

09:49 Beirut Time

The situation this morning in southern Lebanon:

No incidents reported so far, according to our correspondent in the region, Mountasser Abdallah.

Sunday night was also relatively calm, according to security sources quoted by our correspondent. Only machine-gun fire was heard from the Israeli positions of Malkia, opposite Kounin in the Bint Jbeil district, and Ibad, opposite the Lebanese village of Houla in the Marjayoun district.

09:32 Beirut Time

In the Red Sea

A ship was attacked off the southern coast of Yemen, two British maritime safety agencies have reported.

The incident occurred in an area where Yemen's Houthi rebels have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea in recent months, United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.

"The crew is safe and the vessel is heading for its next port of call," it stressed, noting that the incident had taken place before 04:00 a.m. Another safety agency, Ambrey, reported that the Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, "targeted by missiles in two separate incidents," had been hit and sustained damage.

09:29 Beirut Time

Rafah has become the last refuge for Palestinians trapped on the closed border with Egypt, numbering 1.4 million according to the UN, the vast majority of whom are displaced persons fleeing the war that has been raging for four months. The town, now a gigantic camp, is the last urban center where the Israeli army has not yet penetrated, and the main point of entry for humanitarian aid, insufficient to meet the needs of a population threatened by famine and epidemics in the middle of winter.

In a telephone conversation on Sunday, US President Joe Biden urged the Israeli Prime Minister to "guarantee the security" of the Palestinian population. Several states warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe" in the event of an assault on the overcrowded city.

"Victory is within reach," said Benjamin Netanyahu on the US ABC News channel, describing Rafah as Hamas's "last stronghold." Israel will provide "safe passage for the civilian population to leave" the city, he added, without specifying where civilians could take refuge.

09:27 Beirut Time

The situation in Gaza:

Israel carried out a nighttime operation in Rafah, in the southern tip of the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border, which left "around 100 people dead," according to the Gazan Ministry of Health. The strikes carried out as part of this operation hit 14 houses and three mosques in different areas of Rafah, according to the Hamas government.

For their part, the Israeli security services announced that they had freed two hostages kidnapped on Oct. 7 by Hamas fighters during the operation.

"Fernando Simon Marman, aged 60, and Louis Har, aged 70, were rescued during a night operation in Rafah carried out jointly by the Israeli army, Shin Bet (Internal Security) and police," according to a statement from these services.

Taken from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, the two men were taken to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for initial medical examinations. "They are in stable condition," Arnon Afek, the center's director, told reporters.

"Three terrorists were killed in the building where they were being held," according to an initial assessment by the Israeli army, which had previously only confirmed that it had "carried out a series of raids against terrorist targets in the southern Gaza Strip."

09:24 Beirut Time

Be sure to read the Morning Brief so that you are caught up with what happened over the weekend.

Morning Brief

Heavy Israeli bombings, building collapse, missing children found: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

09:21 Beirut Time

Good morning!

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