This handout picture released by the Israeli army on Feb. 23, 2024 shows Israeli army soldiers on patrol at an unspecified location in the Gaza Strip. (Credit: Israeli Army/AFP)


Netanyahu's plan for post-war Gaza 'will never succeed,' says Hamas: Day 140 of Hamas-Israel war

What you need to know

Israeli forces shoot at the southern border village of Blida during the funeral for the two Hezbollah-affiliated first responders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents his war cabinet with a plan for Gaza after the war.

Over 29,500 people killed in Gaza since Oct. 7.

01:50 Beirut Time

Our live coverage from day 140 of the Hamas-Israel war is now closed. Thanks for joining us — we'll be back tomorrow with more news updates and analysis, right here at L'Orient Today.

22:25 Beirut Time

Demonstrators held a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the southern Lebanese town of Saida, to call on countries that have suspended funding to the UN agency to reverse their decision.

UNRWA has been at the center of controversy since Israel accused 12 of its employees of involvement in the Oct. 7 attack. Sixteen countries have since suspended their financial aid to the agency, based off of a 16-page dossier presented to the US by Israel, which some have accused of providing insufficient evidence to back its claims.

Waving Palestinian flags, protesters said that "targeting UNRWA is targeting refugees" and "participating in collective genocide." According to our correspondent in the South, Muntasser Abdallah, the Secretary General of the Nasserite Popular Organization, MP Oussama Saad, called on the Lebanese government at the rally to "put pressure on the countries that have suspended their donations."

21:19 Beirut Time

A senior Hamas official lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan for post-war Gaza during a press conference in Beirut this evening, AFP reports.

"When it comes to the day after in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu is presenting ideas which he knows fully well will never succeed," Osama Hamdan told reporters.

20:38 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reaffirmed that the United States opposes any "reoccupation" of Gaza once the war is over, in reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement of a "post-war" plan that calls for Israel to maintain "security control" in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

"I haven't seen the plan, so I'll reserve judgment," said Blinken, speaking at a press conference in Buenos Aires during a whirlwind visit to Argentina, as reported by AFP. But, "there must be no Israeli reoccupation of Gaza" and the "territory of Gaza must not be reduced," he stressed.

The Israeli army has assigned specific brigades with the task of demolishing buildings in Gaza within one kilometer of the militarized border with Israel, in order to create a "buffer zone." Large swaths of agricultural land have also been destroyed in the process of creating the buffer zone, which would cut deep into an already densely populated and blockaded enclave.

20:12 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Israel's expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law, signally a reversal of former President Donald Trump's policy, Reuters reports.

The Trump administration in 2019 effectively backed Israel's right to build West Bank settlements by abandoning a long-held US position that they were "inconsistent with international law.”

Speaking at a news conference during a trip to Buenos Aires, Blinken said the United States was disappointed in Israel's announcement of plans for building new housing in the occupied West Bank, saying they were counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace.

"Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment, this only weakens, doesn't strengthen Israel's security," Blinken said.

19:55 Beirut Time

Updates from southern Lebanon:

• Hezbollah announced that at 5:50 p.m., it fired missiles at the Israeli military site of al-Malikiyah. This is the second time today the party has targeted this site.

• Israeli drones raided the village of Kfar Kila, in Marjayoun district, and fired two missiles on the Abou Laban neighborhood in the village of Aita al-Shaab, Bint Jbeil district, residents told our correspondent in the South.

19:29 Beirut Time

Palestinian perform the Friday noon prayer at al-Hoda Mosque that was destroyed in Israeli bombardment in mid February, after worshippers cleared rubble to make space for praying, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 23, 2024. (Credit: Mohamme

19:24 Beirut Time

The US military has shot down three Houthi drones over the Red Sea, according to a statement by The US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees US military activities in the Middle East.

CENTCOM said in a statement on X that the drones were struck between 3:30 and 5:00 a.m this morning, as they presented an "imminent threat" to several commercial ships in the area.

For months, the Yemeni Houthi rebel group has been targeting ships associated with Israel, the UK, and the US, in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, in solidarity with Palestinians suffering under Israel’s war on Gaza. The Houthi attacks have caused significant disruption to global shipping. More than a third of all shipping through the Suez Canal was suspended or diverted as a result.

18:29 Beirut Time

Here are the latest updates from southern Lebanon:

• Hezbollah announced that it fired two Burkan missiles at 4 p.m. toward al-Malikiyah, an Israeli site which faces the Lebanese border village of Hula, in Marjayoun district.

• Hezbollah announced that its fighters struck the Israeli sites of Ruwaisat al-Alam and Radar in the disputed Israeli-occupied Shebaa farms at 4:20 and 4:30 p.m. respectively.

• Two Israeli artillery shells struck the hill of Hamames, south of Khiam, in Marjayoun district. Two other shells hit the outskirts of Yaroun, Bint Jbeil district, residents told our correspondent in the South.

• Artillery shelling also targeted the entrance to the town of Bani Haiyyan and the outskirts Rab al-Thalathine, in Marjayoun district, according to residents.

18:18 Beirut Time

Sending weapons sent to Israel to be used in its war on Gaza could be considered a violation of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately, according to a warning issued today by the United Nations.

A statement posted on X and attributed to a team of UN special rapporteurs, independent experts, and working groups, reiterated that weapon transfers "are prohibited even if the exporting state does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law – or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way – as long as there is a clear risk.”

It added that the requirement for an arms embargo on Israel is "heightened" following an initial ruling at the international court of justice in January that there is a "plausible risk" of genocide in Gaza, the UN experts added.

In January, Biden told reporters, in response to strikes that killed three American soldiers in Jordan, that he holds Iran responsible “in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it.” The US is the biggest supplier of arms to Israel.

17:45 Beirut Time

A short while ago Israeli warplanes targeted several elements of Hezbollah infrastructure around Labouneh in southern Lebanon, as well as a "military building" in the Kfar Kila area, the Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee announced in a post on X.

Earlier, L'Orient Today reported that Israeli warplanes had fired three missiles on Labouneh, in Sour district, and three other missiles on the village of Kfar Kila, in Marjayoun district, destroying a house and causing damage to neighboring houses. No casualties have been reported as of yet.

Adraee also said that the Israeli army's tanks targeted Aita al-Shaab, Bint Jbeil district, "to remove a threat,” and that Israeli warplanes raided “a military building belonging to Hezbollah in the Blida area in addition to other areas in Lebanon" last night.

The Israeli attack on Blida, which we reported earlier today, killed two paramedics from the Islamic Health Committee, a Hezbollah-affiliated rescue team, and a Hezbollah fighter.

17:32 Beirut Time

Referring to the fighting on the northern front at the border with Lebanon, Israeli war Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz said that "Hezbollah has already been pushed from the border-line" and that the fighting will not stop until the residents of the northern border can return to their homes, Haaretz reports.

"We are also preparing for the day we will get the order to expand operations," he added.

Regarding the Gaza front, he affirmed that the Israeli army will be operating in Rafah and that the fighting in the Gaza strip will not end "until the threat posed by Hamas is removed."

Israel has been accused both by ministers within its own government, as well as by Hamas and Hezbollah officials, of falling behind on its military operations and failing to deliver on what is turning out to be an increasingly challenging goal to “dismantle” Hamas.

👉 Read more here.

17:12 Beirut Time

The organizers of the world's biggest music competition, the Eurovision song contest, say they are “scrutinizing” the lyrics of Israel’s entry, following claims that it references the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack.

According to Israeli Hayom newspaper, the lyrics of the song, which were leaked to the media include, “There’s no air left to breathe,” and “They were all good children, each one of them.” The song also talks about “flowers,” which is reported to be a military code for war fatalities.

The rules set by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) — the competition’s organizers — say that the contest must remain "non-political" and contestants can be disqualified if they break that. Last week the EBU confirmed it would allow Israel to participate in the contest, after a petition called for its expulsion, because of the war in Gaza.

17:07 Beirut Time

Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad accused Israel of "lying", saying that Israel claims that its army is targeting military targets while in reality it is attacking civilians.

Fayyad made these comments during the funeral of Hezbollah member Hisham Abdullah, who was killed yesterday in an Israeli strike on Kfar Roummane, north of Nabatieh.

"We will keep confronting [Israel] and the goal is to deter [it], protect the people and villages, and preserve the sovereignty, pride, freedom and independence of this country," Fayyad said.

"We will be victorious in this confrontation and we are confident of that."

16:31 Beirut Time

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said that "one million people are sheltering in or around [the organization's] facilities across the Gaza strip," including newborn babies and the elderly.

"Devastatingly, now over 400 people have been killed while seeking shelter in these UN facilities ... nowhere, and no-one, is safe," UNRWA added in a post published on X.

According to the latest UNRWA situation report, published Feb. 21, 158 UNRWA staff have been killed, 153 shelters have been damaged, and 1,385 people have been injured, since Israel's war on Gaza began.

15:59 Beirut Time

Updates from southern Lebanon over the past hour:

• Israeli warplanes fired three missiles on Labouneh, which is located in the outskirts of Naqoura, in Sour district, residents told our correspondent in the South.

• Israeli warplanes fired three missiles on the village of Kfar Kila, Marjayoun district, destroying a house and causing damage to neighboring houses. Ambulances were dispatched to the targeted house, our correspondent reports.

• Israeli artillery shelling targeted the outskirts of Hanine, in Bint Jbeil district.

14:47 Beirut Time

"The [Israeli] attacks that targeted the [southern] town of Mansouri (Sour) caused damage to the solar energy system used by the authority to operate the town's well. Constructions and cables were also affected," the South Lebanon Water Establishment said in a statement.

"The authority is coordinating with relevant entities to ensure the arrival of maintenance teams to its facilities to promptly address any damages," the statement said.

"This constitutes a clear violation of international conventions and norms that mandate the neutrality of institutions providing essential services to civilians from "acts of war." The authority calls on all humanitarian and international organizations to exert pressure to cease such targeting and ensure the continuous supply of water to the citizens in southern Lebanon.

14:33 Beirut Time

The funeral of Hisham Hussein Abdallah, a Hezbollah member killed yesterday in Kfar Roummane near Nabatieh, in his native village of Khiam in southern Lebanon.

14:10 Beirut Time

Here's the latest update on the situation in southern Lebanon:

- Israeli artillery targeted the outskirts of Rmaish and Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil), as reported by a security source to L'Orient Today.

- Israeli positions are reportedly firing randomly with heavy machine guns on the outskirts of Blida (Marjayoun) and the town cemetery. Citizens are gathering and awaiting the burial ceremony of the paramedics of the Hezbollah civil defense unit killed by Israel. Blida has been heavily targeted by Israeli fire since yesterday.

- Civil defense members at the Islamic Scout Mission Association, affiliated with the Amal Movement, opened the roads damaged by yesterday's Israeli airstrikes on Wadi Slouqi, near Houla (Marjayoun).

11:30 Beirut Time

A UN staff member told of the difficulties involved in a rescue mission to evacuate seriously ill patients and families from Nasser Hospital, which has been besieged and raided by Israeli forces in Gaza’s southern Khan Younis area, in a post on X.

Dr Sara al-Saqqa, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that there is no water or electricity inside the hospital, medical supplies are limited and food is insufficient for those trapped in the besieged medical facility.

Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported that Israeli troops again raided the hospital, and continue to prohibit movement in and out of the compound.

11:10 Beirut Time

The Gazan Ministry of Health in Gaza has announced a new toll of 29,514 Palestinians killed and 69,616 wounded in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, Reuters reports, citing the ministry.

11:09 Beirut Time

Here is the latest update on the situation in southern Lebanon:

- Hezbollah's Civil Defense unit reported the deaths of two paramedics, Mohammad Yaacoub Ismail (born 1994, from Blida in the Marjayoun district) and Hussein Mohammad Khalil (born 1997, from Baraachit in the Bint Jbeil district). They were killed "following a direct Zionist [Israeli] aggression targeting the Civil Defense Center in Blida. This marks the second such incident since October 8, 2023, where Israel deliberately violates international conventions and assaults medical teams protected by all laws," stated the unit. The statement concluded that the health center was destroyed along with several ambulances.

- Israeli gunfire targeted the outskirts of the town of Blida and eyewitnesses and residents reported hearing the sound of three interceptor missiles in the town's skies.

- The town of Wazzani (Hasbaya) experienced machine gun fire from Israeli positions facing the town, according to the mayor's statement to L'Orient Today. A resident, a Lebanese army soldier, was injured in the head while on his home after the town was subjected to gunfire from Israeli positions targeting the outskirts and neighborhoods.

- Hezbollah confirmed launching "an aerial attack with two drones targeting the headquarters of the Regional Council in Kiryat Shmona," facing the Lebanese southern town of Houla in the Marjayoun district. The attack hit its target with precision, in response to the recent assault on the Civil Defense Center in Blida.

- Hezbollah announced the death of its member Mohammad Hassan Tarraf (born 1986, from Blida).

10:48 Beirut Time

An Israeli delegation led by the head of the Mossad is traveling to Paris today in the hope of "breaking the deadlock" in talks for a new truce with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli media, quoted by AFP. He will be accompanied by the head of the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, Ronen Bar.

At the end of January, the Mossad chief met in Paris with his American and Egyptian counterparts and the Prime Minister of Qatar, to discuss a new truce agreement in Gaza.

The Paris meeting comes as Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh left Cairo this morning, where he had been traveling for three days.

According to Hamas, the discussions focused on the situation in Gaza, an "end to Israeli aggression," the "return of displaced persons to their homes" and a "prisoner exchange."

09:59 Beirut Time

This situation in southern Lebanon this morning:

- Israeli artillery fire targeted Wadi Hassan, near Majdal Zoun (sour), shortly before 7 a.m., according to local residents.

- Israeli machine-gun fire rained down on the town of Wazzani from Israeli settlements. Similar shots had wounded the head of a soldier in his home yesterday evening, according to the municipality's chairman, who quoted local residents. "Israeli bombings continue, causing damage and casualties in the village," according to the same source.

09:43 Beirut Time

The situation in southern Lebanon last night:

Between 9 and 10 p.m.:

- Violent Israeli bombardments targeted an area between the towns of Kfar Shouba, Halta and Salamieh (Hasbaya), our correspondent reports, citing security sources.

- Rockets were fired at the Israeli site of al-Abad, opposite Houla.

- ⁠Israeli jets flew low over Ghazieh and Zahrani.

- The bombing, which claimed the lives of two rescue workers, targeted Blida's main square, including homes, causing heavy damage. Ambulances rushed to the scene and transferred the wounded to hospital. A civil defense team cleared the rubble late into the night.

- Israeli artillery hit Wadi Slouqi with two shells, as well as the Mais al-Jabal area and a road near Khiam (Marjayoun).

- After 11 p.m., the area around Kfar Shouba and Halta was again targeted by Israel.

- Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on a barracks in the Golan Heights at 11.30 p.m. The attack was launched "in response to Israeli aggression, most recently against a civil defense center in Blida," added the party's statement.

09:23 Beirut Time

View of al-Faruq mosque in Rafah, completely destroyed by an Israeli bombing with the exception of its minaret. (Credit: Said Khatib/AFP)

The bombings destroyed al-Faruq mosque in Rafah, of which only the minaret remains standing in the middle of the ruins.

09:10 Beirut Time

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini has told the president of the UN General Assembly that his organization has come under a “concerted effort” by Israeli officials who want to see “the dismantling” of the refugee agency for Palestinians, Lazzarini said in a post on X.

In a letter in which he describes UNRWA reaching a “breaking point,” Lazzarini reveals that Israel’s land authority has ordered UNRWA to vacate a vocational training center in occupied East Jerusalem and pay a fee of more than $4.5 million for its use. The UNRWA chief points out that the center was “assigned to UNRWA by Jordan in 1952.”

There has also been an attempt by an Israeli deputy mayor of Jerusalem to “evict UNRWA from its HQ of 75 years in East Jerusalem,” Lazzarini said on X.

09:08 Beirut Time

Discussions led by Joe Biden's emissary on a new hostage release accompanied by a pause in hostilities in Gaza "are going well," assured White House spokesman John Kirby on Thursday.

"The initial indications we're getting from Brett [McGurk] are that the talks are going well," he said, adding that the US president's Middle East advisor had visited Cairo on Wednesday and was in Israel on Thursday, for meetings with the government as well as with families of American hostages.

The talks are about "an extended pause in order to free all the hostages" and with the aim of "bringing more humanitarian aid" into the Gaza Strip, said John Kirby.

09:06 Beirut Time

A Palestinian member of Islamic Jihad, involved in several anti-Israeli attacks, was "eliminated" by an Israeli drone strike on Thursday evening in the Jenin area of the occupied West Bank, the army said on Friday.

The strike targeted "Yasser Hanoun, a Jenin resident and Islamic Jihad terrorist, who had previously been detained for his involvement in the terrorist organization's military activities," the army said in a statement. He was "preparing to commit another attack," the statement added.

The car was hit on a street in the densely populated Jenin refugee camp, located below the town of the same name in the northern West Bank. At the scene, the almost completely destroyed remains of the vehicle were in flames in the middle of a street, a few meters from a building, AFP noted on Thursday evening.

09:03 Beirut Time

Two first-aid workers from the Islamic Health Committee, a Hezbollah-affiliated body, were killed yesterday evening in an Israeli attack targeting a committee center in Blida (Marjayoun caza), reports our correspondent in South Lebanon, citing several medical sources.

This brings the number of people killed in Israeli strikes yesterday to four with Hezbollah having lost two of its members in an Israeli drone attack on Kfar Roummane, near Nabatieh.

09:01 Beirut Time
09:00 Beirut Time

Good morning!

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