The Waxing Gibbous moon rises as an Israeli Air Force fighter aircraft flies over the Israel-Lebanon border area on Feb. 22, 2024. (Credit: Jalaa Marey/AFP)


Israel approves sending negotiators to Paris for peace talks: Day 139 of Hamas-Israel war

What you need to know

Israel is building a militarized corridor through the center of the Gaza Strip.

Foreign ministers from 26 EU countries signed a letter calling for Israel not to go through with its military operation on Rafah.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for at least eight attacks against Israel today.

The Israeli army offensive in Gaza has claimed 29,410 lives, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health.

22:48 Beirut Time

That concludes our live coverage of the Gaza war for today — thanks for following along. We'll be back tomorrow with more news updates and analysis, right here at L'Orient Today.

22:44 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced that its fighters attacked the Israeli Yoav Barracks in northern Israel at 7 p.m. with Katyusha rockets, in "response to the attacks on villages and civilian homes, the latest being in Kfar Roummane," north of Nabatieh which killed two people this afternoon. This is the first time Hezbollah is targeting the Israeli Yoav Barracks since Oct. 8.

The party also targeted the Israeli Kilaa Barracks at 7:10 p.m. "with dozens of Katyusha rockets, inflicting direct hits” in retaliation for the Kfar Roummane attack, according to an official statement.

21:38 Beirut Time

People gather as an ambulance arrives at the scene where an Israeli drone shot two guided missiles at a building in Kfar Roummane near the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh, on Feb. 22, 2024. (Credit: Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

21:34 Beirut Time

⚡ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war Cabinet has approved sending negotiators to Gaza truce talks taking place in Paris, Reuters reports, citing Israeli army radio.

Last week, Netanyahu announced that he had ordered the Israeli delegation not to return to Cairo for scheduled peace talks, citing “no new proposal” from Hamas. The reports that negotiators will travel to Paris hints at potential progress in mediation efforts — led by Qatar, Egypt, and the US.

Brett McGurk, US President Joe Biden's Middle East adviser, was in Israel today. According to a White House statement on Wednesday, McGurk’s visit was geared toward trying to encourage Israel to re-engage with negotiations, and with the intention of discussing Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

21:15 Beirut Time

A Haaretz investigation has revealed that an Israeli man who escaped the Nova music festival on Oct. 7 was shot and killed by a volunteer security squad in the southern Israeli village of Alumim. His girlfriend was also shot, but survived and shared her story with the Israeli newspaper.

Haaretz also conducted interviews with the victim's family members, village members and security personnel, analyzed footage and listened to recorded phone calls.

On Feb. 6, Reuters reported that Israel had begun investigating possible “breaches of the law” by its forces on Oct. 7 following a steadily developing discourse around the events of that chaotic and bloody day — how they are understood, and who is blamed for what.

👉 Read about the Haaretz investigation here.

20:29 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced the death of two of its fighters. The first is Hassan Mahmoud Saleh, born in 1973 in the town of Adsheet, in Marjayoun district, in southern Lebanon. The second is Hisham Hussein Abdallah, born in 1987 in the town of Khiam, also in Marjayoun district.

The statements did not give further information and concluded that Saleh and Abdallah "ascended to martyrdom on the path to Jerusalem," the phrase used by the party to describe members killed while fighting Israel.

This afternoon, we reported that two people had been killed in an Israeli airstrike that targeted one apartment in a residential building in Kfar Roummane, just north of Nabatieh.

This brings the total number of Hezbollah member killed since Oct. 8 to 208.

19:22 Beirut Time

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack carried out at 5.40 p.m. on "a building used as a shelter by Israeli soldiers" at an army post in Manara, located opposite the Lebanese border town of Hula, as well as a second attack on a similar building in Metula, opposite Kfar Kila.

These attacks come "in response to the Zionist aggressions on villages and homes" that took place today, according to the party statement.

18:55 Beirut Time

Israel is seeking Palestinians who are not affiliated with Hamas to manage civilian affairs in areas of the Gaza Strip designed as testing grounds for post-war administration of the enclave, a senior Israeli official told Reuters today.

But Hamas said the plan, which the Israeli official said would also exclude anybody on the payroll of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority (PA), would effectively mean an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and was doomed to failure.

The Israeli official said the planned "humanitarian pockets" would be in districts of the Gaza Strip from which Hamas has been expelled, but that their ultimate success would hinge on Israel achieving its goal of destroying Gaza's ruling party across the tiny coastal territory, which it has governed since 2007.

👉 Read the full report here.

18:30 Beirut Time

Smokes rises from the site of an Israeli strike on Kfar Roummane, north of Nabatieh on Feb. 22, 2024. (Photo circulated by residents and verified by L'Orient Today's correspondent in the South.)

18:24 Beirut Time

Chris Osieck, an open source intelligence (OSINT) researcher, collaborator with Geoconfirmed, and contributor to Bellingcat, shared satellite imagery on his X account showing the exact coordinates of the Israeli strike that targeted Kfar Roummane this afternoon. 

18:11 Beirut Time

🔴 BREAKING: Two people have been killed by the Israeli drone attack that targeted an apartment building in Kfar Roummane this afternoon, according to a medical source who spoke with our correspondent in the South. The source added that the toll could rise, as the injuries are critical.

We initially reported five injuries from the attack, which struck the southern Lebanese town that is located just north of the city of Nabatieh. All five were transported to a Nabatieh hospital where two later succumbed to their wounds.

17:57 Beirut Time

In a joint statement co-signed by the foreign ministers of 26 European countries, and published by Sweden today, officials expressed concern that an Israeli assault on Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians are hemmed in with nowhere to go, would “worsen an already catastrophic humanitarian situation and prevent the urgently needed provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance.”

“This requires an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a sustainable cease-fire, the unconditional release of all hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance,” says the statement, released by Sweden.

17:43 Beirut Time

A Palestinian man being treated at a Gaza hospital for severe bruising on his face, cuts on his fingers and other injuries said Israeli soldiers beat him with chunks of masonry and chairs after bursting into his home on Feb. 20.

The account by Ramadan Shamlakh, 22, which Reuters could not verify from another source, was the latest in a series of allegations of mistreatment of Palestinians by Israeli forces since the start of their war against Hamas.

The Israeli army says it treats detainees in accordance with international law. However, Haaretz reported yesterday that the Israeli army Military Advocate General sent a letter to army commanders in which she wrote that during the war on Gaza she had encountered actions by soldiers that "deviate from orders and disciplinary boundaries – and have crossed the criminal threshold."

👉 Read Shamlakh's testimony here.

17:27 Beirut Time

More information about the recent Israeli airstrike on Kfar Roummane: Five individuals have been injured. Two of them are in critical condition, and have been transported to hospitals in Nabatieh, a medical source told L'Orient Today's correspondent in the South. 

17:17 Beirut Time

Aside from the strike in Kfar Roummane, here are other updates from southern Lebanon:

• Israeli military aircraft bombed houses in the town of Blida, in Marjayoun district, twice today, according to residents who spoke with our correspondent in the South.

• Hezbollah announced that its fighters targeted the Israeli Birkat Risha position, located opposite the town of Boustane, in Sour district, at 3 p.m.

• The Israeli army posted footage of its air attacks in the area of Maroun al-Ras, Kfar Kila and Khiam, in southern Lebanon, claiming it hit military targets and “terrorist infrastructures” belonging to Hezbollah. 

17:11 Beirut Time

Several people have been injured in an Israeli drone strike that targeted one apartment in a residential building in the center of the southern Lebanese town of Kfar Roummane, which sits near the northern entrance of the city of Nabatieh.

Ambulances have been dispatched to site, according to our correspondent in the south, citing local residents.

17:05 Beirut Time

Yemeni Houthis have introduced “submarine weapons” in their attacks on container ships associated with Israel, the UK, or the US operating through the vital maritime passage along Yemen’s southern and western coasts. The group has been carrying out the attacks since November in solidarity with Palestinians in Israel’s war on Gaza, according to their leader, cited by Reuters.

“Operations in the Red and Arabian Seas, Bab al-Mandab Strait, and the Gulf of Aden are continuing, escalating, and effective,” Abdulmalik al-Houthi added in a televised speech.

👉 Read more about the global effects of Houthi attacks.

16:10 Beirut Time

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has no "plan B" past March should donor countries that withheld funding following Israeli allegations uphold their suspensions, the head of its Lebanon office says, cited by Reuters.

Israel accused 12 of UNRWA's 13,000 employees in the Gaza Strip of taking part in the Hamas-led assault on Israel last year. The claims came after years of Israeli calls for the agency to be disbanded, and as Gazans face widespread hunger and only a trickle of aid into the Strip, which is under Israeli blockade. The strength of Israel's evidence against UNRWA has been called into question by news agencies that viewed the dossier, which was sent to donor countries and triggered the withdrawal of funds

Sixteen countries suspended funding pending an investigation by the UN's oversight office that Lebanon chief Dorothee Klaus said would be ready in a few weeks.

👉 Read the full report here.

14:41 Beirut Time

The Israeli military, in a statement, acknowledged the recent attacks by Hezbollah on Kiryat Shmona and Yuval in northern Israel, adding that the military "struck the sources of the fire."

Specifically, the Israeli army said that it targeted what it claimed was a "Hezbollah military compound" in Maroun al-Ras (Bint Jbeil) as well as other Hezbollah infrastructure in Khiam and Kfar Kila (Marjayoun). The statement ended by saying a tank fired to "remove a threat" in the Jibbain (Sour) area. No casualties have been reported in any of these attacks by Israel on southern Lebanon.

14:33 Beirut Time

The Israeli army says it has found documents purportedly written by Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, suggesting that he had received a “pledge” from Hezbollah and Iran that they would participate in a “liberation project” against Israel, ahead of the October 7 assault, according to a report by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

In the document said to have been found in Khan Younis by Israeli forces, Sinwar reportedly wrote that he had “received a commitment that the axis [Hezbollah and Iran]” would participate and that there would be an operation in the north of Israel, under the title “Occupying the Galilee.”

“In the end, the Ayatollahs in Tehran and Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut disappointed Sinwar,” the paper reports. Though Hezbollah committed its elite Radwan forces along the border, the group “did not know the exact timing of Hamas’s action” and “the order was not given as quickly as Sinwar would have hoped” because Iran held back Hezbollah, allowing Israeli forces to hold the border, according to a source cited in the article.

14:22 Beirut Time

One in six children under the age of two in north Gaza are acutely malnourished, says the UN secretary-general.

Writing on X Antonio Guterres called for “an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.” It is, he says, “the only way to scale up delivery of aid to those who need it most.”

Aid trucks to Gaza have been continually obstructed by Israeli authorities during the Gaza war which started following Hamas's assault on Oct. 7.

12:25 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced that, at 8:15 a.m., it targeted the headquarters for the Israeli military’s 769th Eastern Regional Brigade in Kiryat Shmona. In another statement, Hezbollah said it targeted a building in the Israeli town of Kfar Yuval, also at 8:15 a.m., in response to the Israeli targeting of villages and civilian homes. In a third statement, Hezbollah claimed an attack on an Israeli position in the Shebaa Farms at 11:30 a.m.

11:49 Beirut Time

Five people have been killed amidst intensifying Israeli bombardments in Rafah, southern Gaza,  according to Al-Jazeera.

A journalist from the Qatari news outlet, called Mahmoud, said the strikes hit a home and that “an intense bombing campaign across Rafah city” had “stretched into the early hours of this morning.”

"Overnight, we’re looking at attacks in the eastern part, the northern part and even the western part where literally hundreds of thousands of people have been sheltering," he added.

11:17 Beirut Time

Update on the situation in southern Lebanon in the last hour:

- ⁠The Israeli army shelled an area between the villages of Tayr Harfa and Jibbain, according to residents.

-⁠ ⁠The Israeli army launched airstrikes on Kfar Kila (Marjayoun), Maroun al-Ras (Bint Jbeil), and Khiam (Marjayoun), residents of the villages told L'Orient Today.

-⁠ ⁠Anti-tank missiles were fired at the Israeli town of Moshav near the border with Lebanon border, Haaretz is reporting, citing the Israeli army.

11:14 Beirut Time

A missile attack targeted a ship in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen, causing a fire on board, the British maritime security company UKMTO said on Thursday, according to AFP.

"A ship was attacked by two missiles, resulting in a fire on board," the British navy-run company said, adding that "coalition forces were responding" to the firing.

10:59 Beirut Time

The Gazan Ministry of Health has announced a new toll of 29,410 people killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war, according to AFP.

In a statement, it also reported a total of 97 deaths in the last 24 hours, and 69,465 wounded since Oct. 7.

10:37 Beirut Time

Three men opened fire with automatic weapons on vehicles in a traffic jam near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank near Jerusalem, killing one person and wounding eight others, Israeli police announced.

The attack took place near the settlement of Maale Adoumim, located on a highway between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, the police said in a statement.

"The three terrorists ... got out of their vehicle and began firing automatic weapons at vehicles in a traffic jam on the road towards Jerusalem," the police said. "Two terrorists were neutralized on the spot. Searches at the scene located another terrorist who was trying to escape and was also neutralized," added the police, who deployed reinforcements according to an AFP photographer on the scene.

Read the full story here.

10:07 Beirut Time

A new assessment by US intelligence has found it is “likely” that some staff members of the UN Palestinian agency, UNRWA, participated in Hamas’s Oct 7. attack on Israel – but it cannot verify Israeli claims that a larger group of agency workers had links to militant groups, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Since last month UNRWA has faced a funding crisis as the US and a dozen other countries paused their donations to the agency which supplies vital aid to Palestinians. It came after Israel claimed that at least 12 UNRWA employees were involved in Oct 7.

The US’s National Intelligence Council said it believes the claims are credible but it has “low confidence” because “it doesn’t have its own independent confirmation,” the US paper adds.

09:20 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden's Middle East adviser, Brett McGurk, is expected in Israel today after a stopover in Egypt where new truce talks are being held, according to AFP.

"We want an agreement to be reached ... as quickly as possible," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

The head of Hamas's political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, based in Qatar, is currently in Cairo. On the agenda for discussion is the first phase of a plan devised by the mediating countries – Qatar, the United States and Egypt – which provides for a six-week truce, combined with an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and the entry into Gaza of a large quantity of humanitarian aid.

09:19 Beirut Time

Israel launched new air strikes against Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip last night, according to an AFP journalist.

According to the Gazan Ministry of Health, 99 people were killed overnight in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army offensive has claimed 29,313 lives in Gaza, the vast majority of them civilians, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health.

"We wait for death, day after day," a resident, Wissam Lafi, told AFP in recent days.

09:18 Beirut Time

Wrap-up of strikes between Hezbollah and the Israeli army last night and this morning:

- ⁠9:30 p.m.: Hezbollah attacked an Israeli position facing the southern Lebanese border village of Yarine with a Burkan missile.

- ⁠5:00 a.m.: The Israeli army shelled the valley of Wadi al-Hassan in Majdal Zoun (Sour), residents of the village told L'Orient Today.

•⁠ ⁠In the last 30 minutes: The Israeli army shelled the southern outskirts of the border village of Khiam (Marjayoun), residents of the village told L'Orient Today.

09:16 Beirut Time
09:15 Beirut Time

Good morning!

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