Residents and rescuers check the destruction after an overnight Israeli bombardment in the southern Lebanese village of Kafra, on Feb. 29, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. (Credit: Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)


Biden backtracks, says 'probably no cease-fire by Monday': Gaza war, day 146

What you need to know

"Life is leaving Gaza at a terrifying rate," says the UN after a reported massacre during an aid distribution.

US officials worry about a possible Israeli "ground incursion" into Lebanon.

A British minister visits Lebanon as part of London's efforts to "de-escalate" the conflict.

21:45 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our live updates on the Gaza war.

We will continue our coverage of the conflict tomorrow morning.

21:43 Beirut Time

United Nations investigators expect to receive shortly materials from Israel related to its accusations that staff with the UN Palestinian refugee agency took part in the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants, a UN spokesman said today, Reuters reports.

The allegations became public five weeks ago when the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced it had fired some staff after Israel verbally provided the agency with information. Israel had accused 12 staffers, of which nine were fired, the UN later said. ➡️ Click here for more.

21:32 Beirut Time

A halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip as early as next week would trigger indirect talks to end hostilities along Lebanon's southern border with Israel, Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told Reuters in an interview today. ➡️ More details here.

21:06 Beirut Time

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has added his "condemnation" to he deadly aid delivery incident in northern Gaza, in which Hamas says over 100 people were killed, his spokesperson said Thursday. ➡️ More details here.

20:54 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden spoke with the Qatari and Egyptian leaders today on a deal for an "immediate and sustained" Gaza cease-fire of at least six weeks in exchange for the release of hostages, AFP report the White House as saying.

In separate calls with Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Biden also discussed the "tragic and alarming" aid delivery incident in northern Gaza, it said in a statement.

20:35 Beirut Time

Two men were killed in a shooting attack in the Israeli-occupied West Bank today, Reuters reports, citing Israeli emergency services said.

The Israeli military said a gunman who had opened fire at a gas station was "neutralized" by security forces.

The Palestinian Fatah faction named the shooter on loudspeakers in a nearby mosque and claimed him as a member of its ranks. Palestinian officials said he was a police officer.

In a separate incident near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli security forces killed one Palestinian and wounded another while they were searching for herbs, Palestinian health officials said.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

20:23 Beirut Time

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Affairs Ministry says it strongly denounces the killing by Israeli forces of dozens of civilians awaiting aid convoys in northern Gaza.

The ministry called for an “immediate cease-fire” to mitigate the humanitarian crisis and urged the international community to “take a strong position to compel Israel to respect international humanitarian law.”

20:20 Beirut Time

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini says Gaza has experienced “another day from hell,” with the death toll in the Israeli war on Hamas surpassing 30,000 and as Israeli forces opening fire on hungry Palestinians waiting for food aid.

For weeks, aid groups have warned that severe Israeli restrictions on humanitarian assistance in northern Gaza were contributing to extreme hunger and a collapse of civil order.

“Another day from hell. Gaza reaches an unprecedented reported death toll of 30,000 Palestinians killed, while an additional 100 people are reportedly killed and 700 injured when they were desperately trying to get lifesaving humanitarian aid from a convoy,” Lazzarini said in a social media post.

“Neither UNRWA nor any other UN agency were involved in this distribution. When will this madness end?”

19:35 Beirut Time

The UN Security Council will meet behind closed doors today at 21:15 GMT (23:15 Beirut time) after Hamas said Israel gunned down around 100 people during a food aid distribution in Gaza, according to the Security Council's updated program.

Algeria requested the emergency meeting, a diplomatic source told AFP.

19:24 Beirut Time

Here’s the latest update on the security situation at the Lebanon-Israel border:

* Hezbollah stated that in response to the "Israeli attacks that targeted villages and civilians … its fighters targeted the Israeli Gorin site at 6 p.m." This position faces the Lebanese border village of Yarin, in the Sour district. Last night's Israeli attacks killed  elderly citizens Hussein Hamdan and his wife Manar Abbadi in the town of Kafra (Bint Jbeil district).

*A security source reported that the Israeli military carried out two consecutive airstrikes on the outskirts of the town of Blida (Marjayoun district). The strikes caused a blaze in a house in the town, residents said. Ambulances from the Islamic Mission Scouts, affiliated with the Amal Movement, as well as the Islamic Health Committee, affiliated with Hezbollah, and the national Civil Defense headed to the site. At time of publication, no information was yet available on the potential casualties of the strike.

* Residents reported that Israeli gunfire from the Misgav Am site, which lies opposite the town of Adaisseh (Marjayoun district), targeted houses in Adaisseh.

* Israeli artillery shelling targeted the outskirts of Naqoura (Sour district), residents told our correspondent in the south.

* Hezbollah announced that it attacked and struck at 3 p.m. the "espionage and technical equipment" of the Ruwaisat al-Alam Israeli site in the disputed Shebaa farms.

19:10 Beirut Time

⚡ The Gaza government's media office says 13,230 children have been killed in the besieged coastal enclave, including seven who died of starvation.

The death toll also includes 8,860 women, 340 medical staff, 132 journalists, and 47 civil defense staff.

Meanwhile, the US's Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin today said that more than 25,000 Palestinian women and children have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war on Oct.7, AFP reports.

"It's more than 25,000," he said before a parliamentary committee in response to a question about the toll of women and children killed in the war.

18:59 Beirut Time

Hamas's armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, has released a video on its official Telegram channel showing three elderly Israeli captives and saying that it will give news of what happened to them tomorrow.

During Hamas' Oct. 7 attack in Israel, some 250 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza. According to Israel, 130 hostages are still being held there, 31 of whom are reported dead, following the release of 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinians held by Israel during a weeklong truce at the end of November.

18:33 Beirut Time

"Life is draining out of Gaza at terrifying speed," the UN humanitarian chief said following multiple deaths this morning during an attempt to distribute aid supplies in the Palestinian territory, AFP report.

"Even after close to five months of brutal hostilities, Gaza still has the ability to shock us," UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said on X, formerly Twitter.

17:36 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden now says a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is unlikely to happen by Monday, the timeline he predicted earlier this week, AFP reports.

Asked by reporters today whether he expected that to happen, Biden said that "hope springs eternal" and that he had been speaking to regional leaders about a cease-fire, but he added "probably not by Monday."

17:34 Beirut Time

Yemen's Houthis will introduce military "surprises" in their Red Sea operations, the group's leader said in a televised speech today, Reuters reports.

"Our military operations will continue and advance and we have surprises that our enemies will not expect at all," Abdul Malik al-Houthi said. ➡️ More details here.

16:43 Beirut Time

The White House has said it is looking into reports of Israeli fire on Palestinians waiting for aid near Gaza City, describing it as a "serious incident." ➡️ More details here.

16:05 Beirut Time

The latest updates from southern Lebanon:

* Hezbollah announced the death of another of its fighters: Mahmoud Hamoud, from the village of Kafra (Bint Jbeil district). As usual, Hezbollah did not specify when or where Hamoud was killed, and L'Orient Today could not immediately confirm these details. This brings to 220 the total number of members of Hezbollah killed in Lebanon and Syria since Oct. 8, according to our count.

* An Israeli drone carried out an airstrike on the village of Blida (Marjayoun district), residents told our correspondent in the south. Israeli artillery shelled the same village simultaneously.

* Israel also shelled the village of Mais al-Jabal (Marjayoun), the heights of Hebbarieh and the outskirts of Kfar Shuba, Shebaa (Hasbaya), Tayr Harfa and Naqoura (Sour), according to residents.

15:37 Beirut Time

Palestinian refugees held sit-ins in the Rashidieh, Bass and Burj al-Shemali camps in the Sour region today to reject the American and European decision to stop funding the UN agency for aid to Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and to denounce "Israeli aggression and the genocidal war against the Palestinian people."

The sit-in was attended by members of Fatah in Sour and representatives of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), according to Lebanese state-run National News Agency.

Image: Palestinians hold a sit-in in Rashidieh refugee camp near Sour. (Credit: NNA)

15:03 Beirut Time

⚡ Israel is reviewing possible restrictions on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan month of fasting, Reuters reports, citing a government spokesperson. 

"The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet," the spokesperson, Avi Hyman, told reporters. He added that a final decision would take security and public health into account.

14:59 Beirut Time

Israeli soldiers feeling "threatened" fired live ammunition at Palestinians during a chaotic humanitarian aid distribution in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, Israeli sources told AFP.

The Gaza Ministry of Health put the death toll at 104, blaming Israeli forces for the incident. While Israeli sources confirmed that shots had been fired into the crowd, they denied responsibility for the high death toll, with the Israeli army citing deaths caused by people being trampled by the crowd.

14:54 Beirut Time

Britain's Minister of Defense for Middle East Affairs, Martin Sampson, toured Beirut on Thursday to meet key political players, according to the official National News Agency (NNA). He met his Lebanese counterpart, Maurice Slim, the head of parliament, Nabih Berri, and the head of the caretaker government, Najib Mikati. Sampson updated Mikati "on his tour of the region, as part of his de-escalation efforts, as well as calls for diplomatic solutions and a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause," NNA reports.

14:29 Beirut Time

Latest updates on the Lebanese-Israeli border:

- Hezbollah announced that it targeted with rockets a group of Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of Cobra Hill, opposite the Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab (Sour), at 12:10 p.m. and the Israeli site of Ramtha in the disputed Shebaa farms ten minutes later.

- Hezbollah said in a statement that it targeted at 2:05 p.m. the village of Eilon with Katyusha missiles in response to the Israeli airstrike that killed two Lebanese civilians in Kafra (Bint Jbeil) last night.

14:27 Beirut Time

The Gazan Ministry of Health has revised upwards the number of people killed to 104 after Israeli fire directed at Palestinians rushing to collect humanitarian aid trucks in the north of the famine-threatened territory.

"The death toll from the massacre on al-Rashid Street [where the food distribution was taking place in Gaza City] now stands at 104 dead and 760 wounded," said Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra in a statement, revising upwards an initial hospital toll that had put the death toll at 50.

In a statement posted on its Telegram channel, Hamas warned of the repercussions this incident could have on cease-fire talks and the release of Israeli hostages.

14:14 Beirut Time

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli air strike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Ramieh near the border with Israel, on Feb. 29, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. (Credit: Kawnat Haju/AFP)

13:50 Beirut Time

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg called for "preventing any further escalation" between Lebanon and Israel, following a meeting on Thursday with his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib, in Beirut, according to the official National News Agency (NNA).

"We don't want the escalation to turn into a fire that will ignite the region and cannot be controlled," said Schallenberg.

13:47 Beirut Time

Here is what has been happening on the Lebanese-Israeli border since noon:

- Israeli army radio said on X that a "suspicious aerial target" was intercepted near Haifa.

- Three Israeli artillery shells fell on woods between Kfar Hamam and Rashaya al-Foukhar (Hasbaya), residents told our correspondent in the South.

12:30 Beirut Time

An Israeli drone targeted a Hezbollah vehicle in western Syria on Thursday, while explosions were heard in Damascus, already targeted by Israeli strikes the previous evening, according to an NGO and an AFP journalist.

"An Israeli drone targeted a Hezbollah car in the Homs region," near the border with Lebanon, Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), told AFP.

Find more details here.

11:39 Beirut Time

A ground assault on the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, promised by the Israeli Prime Minister, would "contravene" the ruling of the UN's highest court, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Thursday.

"I don't see how such an operation could be compatible with the provisional binding measures issued by the International Court of Justice" (ICJ), Volker Turk told the Human Rights Council, to which he was presenting his staff's report on the situation in the Palestinian territories.

11:20 Beirut Time

Southern Lebanon over the last 1.5 hours:

According to reports relayed by our correspondent in the region, Israeli artillery fire resumed on the outskirts of Naqoura (Sour).

Other witnesses then reported Israeli artillery fire on the outskirts of Jibbain (Sour).

Residents also saw an Israeli drone crash to the ground near Labbouneh (Sour). L'Orient Today has not yet been able to independently confirm this claim or the cause of the crash.

The Israeli army fired several shells between the towns of Ramieh and Beit Lif (Beint Jbeil). A security source counted three shells.

It also shelled another area, this time between the towns of Bint Jbeil and Ainata, in the district of Bint Jbeil.

Residents also reported that Israeli artillery fired on a house in Jibbain (Sour) and in the Wadi Hamoul area (Sour), on the edge of Naqoura.

Finally, a security source said that shells had been fired from Lebanon towards eastern Galilee.

11:10 Beirut Time

The White House is considering the possibility of airdropping aid to Gaza using US military aircraft, as ground deliveries are becoming increasingly difficult, four US officials have told the Axios news website.

The move reflects the White House's growing concern about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, particularly in the north where the threat of starvation is growing, the same officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The amount of aid reaching Gaza has dropped by half this month compared with January, according to the United Nations, as a result of a combination of factors, including the obstacles imposed by Israel and the fighting and bombing raging in the Gaza Strip.

10:24 Beirut Time

According to Haaretz, the Israeli parliament has extended for four months the decision taken at the end of 2023 to temporarily raise the age limit for Israeli military reservists by one year, from 40 to 41.

09:42 Beirut Time

This morning, Israeli artillery fired four shells on the outskirts of Naqoura (Sour), according to reports from local residents.

Hezbollah announced that it had fired artillery shells at a deployment of Israeli soldiers near the Israeli site of Jal al-Alam, opposite Naqoura, at 8 a.m.

The Israeli army says that 10 rockets were launched from Lebanon toward the northern Israeli Shlomi local council, adjacent to the Lebanese border village of Labbouneh (Sour). No damage nor casualties were reported. They did not specify when the rockets were fired. No one has taken credit for the attack yet.

09:38 Beirut Time

The situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border last night:

At around 10 p.m., Israeli jets targeted a road linking Kafra (Bint Jbeil) to Siddiqine (Sour) in the al-Assi region, targeting houses and stores and killing two civilians.

The two people killed were identified as Hussein Hamdan, born in 1946, and his wife Manar Abadi, born in 1951.

Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.: Israeli artillery fire targeted the village of Houla, the hill of al-Oueida, the outskirts of Taybeh and the northern outskirts of Mais al-Jabal, all in the Marjeyoun district.

Between 11 p.m. and midnight: Two Israeli airstrikes destroyed a two-story house and damaged neighboring houses in the village of Siddiqine (Sour). After the strike, many civilians suffered suffocation from the smoke and scattered glass debris.

An Israeli drone fired a missile at the same area "to prevent relief supplies from reaching" the previously targeted position in Siddiqine (Sour), according to security sources contacted by our correspondent. The al-Risala Scouts, affiliated with the Amal movement, later announced that they had transferred the wounded to hospitals in the region.

In the aftermath, Israeli artillery again bombarded areas in Houla (Marjayoun), where 40 shells fell before missiles were fired from Lebanon towards Israeli sites. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

09:09 Beirut Time

New Zealand on Thursday designated the whole of Hamas as a "terrorist entity," claiming that the entire Islamist movement, including its political wing, bore "responsibility" for the Oct. 7 attacks.

The country also announced sanctions against a dozen "extremist Israeli settlers" accused of violence against Palestinians.

09:08 Beirut Time

On the diplomatic front, representatives of Palestinian factions, including the rival Hamas and Fatah movements, are in Moscow on Thursday for talks with Russian diplomatic chief Sergei Lavrov.

09:07 Beirut Time

Qatar, the USA and Egypt are trying to secure a truce agreement for a six-week pause in the fighting, during which one hostage – among them women, minors and sick elderly people – would be exchanged each day for ten Palestinians held by Israel, according to a Hamas source.

On Monday, US President Joe Biden referred to "an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in operations during Ramadan" in order to "get all the hostages out." "I'm hopeful that by next Monday we'll have a cease-fire," he said, but stressed that it was "not yet a done deal."

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) says it is discussing with Palestinian officials the opening of "many more crossing points."

09:06 Beirut Time

According to the UN, "famine is looming" in the Gaza Strip, where "hospitals have turned into battlefields," while a million children face "daily trauma."

According to Gaza's government, seven children died of "dehydration and malnutrition" at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and another seven at the Kamal Adwan Hospital.

The international community is also concerned about a forthcoming Israeli ground offensive on Rafah, where some 1.5 million Palestinians are massed, according to the UN, most of them displaced persons, trapped against the closed border with Egypt.

09:04 Beirut Time

In the territory besieged by Israel since Oct. 7, 2.2 million people – the vast majority of the population – are threatened with famine, according to the UN, particularly in the north, where destruction, fighting and looting are making it almost impossible to deliver aid.

The UN has also denounced the obstacles imposed by Israel, which controls the entry of aid from Egypt. According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), humanitarian needs are "unlimited."

09:03 Beirut Time

The situation in Gaza this morning:

The Gazan Ministry of Health announced in a statement on Thursday that the death toll in the Gaza Strip had risen to "over 30,000" since the start of the conflict with Israel on Oct. 7. Hamas also reported that at least 79 people had been killed in overnight Israeli strikes.

The war, which has turned the Palestinian territory into a "zone of death" according to the UN, is already by far the deadliest of the five conflicts that have pitted Israel against Hamas since the latter took power in Gaza in 2007, according to AFP.

On a daily basis, civilians are paying the heaviest price for the fighting and bombardments that have spared no area, devastated entire neighborhoods and forced 1.7 million Palestinians out of a population of 2.4 million to flee their homes.

09:01 Beirut Time

Good morning!

Thank you for joining us for our live coverage of the ongoing war in Gaza and its regional impact.