Special Envoy Amos Hochstein meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati [not pictured] in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 7, 2023. (Credit: Mohamed Azakir/File Photo/Reuters)


Hochstein expected in Beirut on Monday to try to 'defuse the conflict' in south Lebanon, according to Bou Saab: Gaza war, day 149

What you need to know

For Washington, Israel has accepted a truce in Gaza and the ball is "in Hamas' court."

No hostages will be released as long as Israel refuses a permanent ceasefire, said the Palestinian movement.

30,410 Palestinians killed and 71,700 wounded by Israel in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's health ministry.

21:00 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our LIVE coverage of day 149 of the Gaza war. We will be back tomorrow with more news updates.

20:34 Beirut Time

Israeli cabinet member Gideon Saar said today that "Hamas isn't interested" in a hostage deal, and that the organization looks to "set fire" and cause a flareup in the West Bank, Jerusalem and "perhaps Israel's Arabs" during Ramadan, according to Haaretz.

In an interview with Israeli channel 12, Saar said that this is Hamas' goal and that "there are too many signs indicating it made a decision" to go in this direction.

20:17 Beirut Time

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a missile attack carried out at 7:00 p.m. against a troop of Israeli soldiers on Mount Nezer, opposite the Lebanese town of Mais al-Jabal (Marjayoun district).

20:06 Beirut Time

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz will meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday, his office said in a statement via Reuters.

Gantz is also due to meet Vice President Kamala Harris and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, as well as Republican and Democratic members of US Congress.

19:45 Beirut Time

⚡ US envoy Amos Hochstein is expected in Beirut on Monday to "continue diplomatic efforts to defuse the conflict on the Israeli-Lebanese border and establish stability," parliamentary deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab told Reuters.

Bou Saab said he believed the timing of the visit augured progress in efforts to secure a truce in Gaza "in the coming hours or days," the agency added.

"If this is the case, I think Hochstein's visit will be very important to follow up on the truce on our southern borders and to discuss what is needed to ensure stability and end the possibility of an extension of the war with Lebanon," he added.

The number two in the House added that Hochstein had "serious ideas that could be the beginning of a lasting solution, of stability and of moving away from the specter of a war that would be in nobody's interest."

19:00 Beirut Time

Palestinian men salvage clothes found amid the rubble of the Abu Anza family home, destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Mar. 3, 2024, amid the Gaza war. (Credit: Said Khatib/AFP)

18:19 Beirut Time

Israel boycotted Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo today after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages that are still alive, an Israeli newspaper reported.

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo for the talks, billed as a possible final hurdle before an agreement that would halt the war for six weeks. But by early evening, there was no sign of the Israelis.

"There is no Israeli delegation in Cairo," Ynet, the online version of Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, quoted unidentified Israeli officials as saying, "Hamas refuses to provide clear answers and therefore there is no reason to dispatch the Israeli delegation."

17:51 Beirut Time

Hostile aircraft alerts were activated in northern Israel near the Lebanese border, according to Haaretz.

17:00 Beirut Time

A senior Hamas official told CNN that his organization will not release Israeli hostages unless Israel agrees to a permanent cease-fire, according to Haaretz.

According to the source, a deal being signed by Monday is "very unlikely."

16:44 Beirut Time

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi today discussed bilateral relations, energy cooperation, trade and Gaza with Algeria's leader Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a one-day state visit, according to Algeria's presidency via Reuters.

Algeria, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, backs the Palestinian cause and has called several times for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

15:50 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced that they attacked an Israeli position in Kfar Shuba Hills at 2:30 p.m., causing "direct damage," according to a statement from the party.

15:32 Beirut Time

Latest developments in southern Lebanon

• Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a strike at 1:40 p.m. on Israeli soldiers opposite the Lebanese village of Wazzani. The party claimed that the Israeli army threw teargas to recover the dead and the wounded by helicopter.

• Around an hour later, Israel struck several targets in and around the town of Khiam (Marjayoun), and the outskirts of Wazzani. Nine shells fell in the area, according to local residents quoted by our correspondent.

14:10 Beirut Time

Pope Francis has called for "safe access" to humanitarian aid for the population of the Gaza Strip.

"Every day, I carry in my heart, with pain, the suffering of the people of Palestine and Israel as a result of the ongoing hostilities", said the pope after the Angelus prayer in St Peter's Square in the Vatican, according to AFP.

"I encourage the continuation of negotiations for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and throughout the region, so that all the [Israeli] hostages may be released and returned to their relatives who are anxiously waiting for them, and so that the civilian population [of Gaza] may have safe access to the humanitarian aid they urgently need," he added.

14:00 Beirut Time

Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for an attack carried out at 11.20 a.m. this morning against an Israeli observation site in Metula (opposite the village of Rihane in southern Lebanon), according to a press release issued by the party.

In addition, the outskirts of the town of Khiam (Marjayoun) have been hit by Israeli strikes, according to residents quoted by our correspondent in the south.

13:16 Beirut Time

Yemen's Houthis say they will continue targeting British ships in the Gulf of Aden following the sinking of the UK-owned vessel Rubymar.

"Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain’s bill," Hussein al-Ezzi, deputy foreign minister in the Houthi-led government, said in a post on X. "It is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring ongoing crimes against civilians in Gaza," he added.

13:07 Beirut Time

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas will visit Turkey on Tuesday at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has announced.

"President Erdogan has invited Mr. Abbas to Turkey to discuss the situation in Palestine and the ongoing war, and to be briefed on the inter-Palestinian talks" with Hamas and other Palestinian groups, the foreign minister said at the close of the diplomatic forum in Antalya.

The venue for the talks was not specified.

12:55 Beirut Time

Image: A young boy reacts as a child receives medical attention at the Kuwaiti hospital for wounds sustained in an Israeli bombardment that hit a camp sheltering displaced Palestinians near the Emirati hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 2, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (Credit: AFP)

12:37 Beirut Time

The Israeli army says it has completed a preliminary review of civilian deaths around an aid convoy in Gaza last week. Its findings contend that its forces did not open fire on Palestinians gathered around the convoy and that most of those who died were killed in a stampede, an army spokesman said today.

"The IDF has concluded an initial examination of the unfortunate incident in which Gazan civilians were trampled to death and injured as they made their way towards the aid convoy," said spokesman Daniel Hagari.

Health authorities in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip say Israeli forces killed more than 100 people trying to reach the relief convoy near Gaza City on Friday. ➡️ More details here.

12:18 Beirut Time

An Italian destroyer shot down a drone heading towards it yesterday in the Red Sea, where Yemeni Houthi rebels frequently attack ships in support of Palestinians in Gaza, Italy's Defense Ministry announced today.

"In accordance with the principle of self-defense, the Duilio shot down a drone in the Red Sea. The drone, which had characteristics similar to those used in previous attacks, was six kilometers from the Italian ship and was flying towards it," a statement from the ministry read.

11:19 Beirut Time

Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad says that his party "has so far used only 5 percent of its military capabilities against Israel." Fayyad's comments came during a tribute to Hezbollah fighters killed by Israeli strikes.

"The Israeli enemy will have to take precautions if it wants to widen the battle," he warned.

11:01 Beirut Time

Representatives of Hamas, Qatar and the United States are in Cairo today to "begin a new round of negotiations" with a view to a truce in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is fighting the Palestinian Islamist movement, according to the pro-government Egyptian media outlet Al-Qahera.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States, which are acting as mediators, have been trying for weeks to obtain a truce in the war triggered by an unprecedented attack by the Palestinian movement on Israeli soil on Oct. 7.

10:21 Beirut Time

According to the latest numbers from the Gaza Health Ministry, 30,410 Palestinians have been killed and 71,700 injured in Israel's military offensive on Gaza since Oct. 7, Reuters reports.

10:14 Beirut Time

A Hamas delegation has arrived in Cairo for cease-fire talks on Gaza, Reuters reports, citing a senior official. Reuters also cites the official as saying the delegation is being led by Hamas' deputy chief in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya.

10:10 Beirut Time

The Israeli military says it has intensified operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, destroying dozens of Hamas targets in a blitz of air and artillery strikes, Reuters reports. The air force and artillery hit about 50 targets within six minutes, it said, in a bid to "intensify operational achievements in the area."

According to Reuters, residents in the area said they were surprised by the swift advancement of Israeli tanks, which sparked fresh battles with Palestinian gunmen. ➡️ More details here.

10:05 Beirut Time

A senior Hamas official told AFP on Sunday that a truce in the Gaza Strip is possible "within 24-48 hours" if Israel accepts his group's demands.

"If Israel accepts Hamas's demands, which include the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza and an increase in humanitarian aid, this could pave the way for an agreement [on a truce] within the next 24 or 48 hours," the senior official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Negotiations are due to be held today in Cairo.

Hamas's demands include the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza and an increase in humanitarian aid, according to a senior official of the movement, who is also cited as speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.

10:02 Beirut Time

MP Mohamad Raad, who heads Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, said this morning that Israel "is quickly coming close to its end."

During a commemoration for one of Hezbollah's fighters in Jarjouh (Nabatieh), Raad said that his party "is not scared" of US support for the "Israeli enemy" as "we know its weaknesses."

Image: Mohamad Raad during a commemoration for one of the Hezbollah's fighters in the southern village of Jarjouh (Nabatieh), March, 3, 2024. (Credit: Hezbollah's media office)

09:50 Beirut Time

Hamas says a Gaza truce is possible "within 24 to 48 hours" if Israel accepts demands, AFP reports.

09:45 Beirut Time

As negotiations for a truce in Gaza approach a possible conclusion, internal pressure is mounting on Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

The leader of the right-wing opposition party Yisrael Beytenu, Avigdor Liberman, today called for early elections in an interview with Army Radio in Israel.

"The government has had its day; it is no longer capable of leading us or uniting us ... it has no right to exist," said the former defense minister.

09:28 Beirut Time

⚡ In the Red Sea, the sinking of the Rubymar, a Lebanese-operated vessel targeted by the Houthis, has raised fears of an environmental disaster, according to Green Peace.

In a statement issued this morning, the NGO's regional office in the Middle East and North Africa area issued "an urgent call for action in response to confirmed reports of the sinking of the cargo ship," which is said to be carrying "more than 41,000 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer."

"The wreck of the Rubymar represents an imminent danger to the region's fragile marine ecosystems," Green Peace said.

09:24 Beirut Time

According to our correspondent in south Lebanon, quoting security sources, last night was particularly calm, with the exception of Israeli artillery fire that targeted the area around Kfar Kila (Marjayoun) at about 9 p.m.

The Israeli air force was also noticeably active in conducting overflights of southern Lebanon.

09:22 Beirut Time

An update on the situation in southern Lebanon, on the border with Israel:

Calm prevailed this morning until Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack at 6.45 a.m. on the Israeli site of Jall al-Alam, opposite the Lebanese town of Naqoura (Sour district), using a Burkan-type missile, according to a press release issued by the party.

Shortly before the statement was published, residents near the border in the western sector reported hearing the sound of rockets being fired towards Israeli positions in the western Galilee.

09:19 Beirut Time

Faced with the difficulties of transporting humanitarian aid by land into the Israeli-sealed territory, several countries, including Jordan with France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and Egypt in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, have conducted air airdrops.

The United States carried out its first airdrop operation yesterday in a joint operation with Jordan, with three military aircraft parachuting 66 "packages" containing more than 38,000 meals, according to a US military official.

On Saturday, the UN Security Council expressed its "grave concern" about the food insecurity in Gaza and called for the unimpeded delivery of "large-scale" humanitarian aid.

09:16 Beirut Time

In almost five months, the war that broke out on Oct. 7  has claimed 30,320 lives in the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians, according to the latest figures the Gaza Health Ministry.

It has also caused a humanitarian catastrophe. According to Jens Laerke, spokesman for OCHA, the UN agency for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, 2.2 million of the 2.4 million inhabitants of the enclave are threatened with "almost inevitable" famine.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry has reported that 13 children have died of "malnutrition and dehydration" in recent days.

09:13 Beirut Time

On the situation in Gaza this morning:

Negotiations resume today in Cairo on a possible truce during Ramadan, which begins on 10 or 11 March this year.

A Hamas delegation is due to give an "official response" to a proposal drawn up at the end of January by the mediating countries — Qatar, the United States and Egypt — and the Israeli negotiators, according to a source close to the Palestinian movement.

The proposal includes, in a "first phase," a six-week pause in the fighting and the release of 42 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The Israelis have "more or less accepted" the plan and "the ball is in Hamas' court," a senior American official in Washington said yesterday. Israel has not confirmed this information.

09:10 Beirut Time

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the 149th day of the Gaza War and its repercussions in the occupied West Bank, south Lebanon, the Red Sea and the wider Middle East.