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Hezbollah’s secret meeting, Israel promises to continue fighting, aid arrives in Gaza: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Here is what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, March 18.

Hezbollah’s secret meeting, Israel promises to continue fighting, aid arrives in Gaza: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

A Palestinian girl sits holding a toddler on a sand dune overlooking a camp for displaced people in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 17, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)

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Catch up on the weekend’s LIVE coverage of Days 161, 162 and 163 of the Gaza war here.

Lebanon responded Friday to a French proposal to calm border conflicts between Hezbollah and Israel with a call for the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms ending the 2006 war, the state-run National News Agency reported. Yesterday Israeli Foreign Minister Israeli Katz was quoted in Israeli press saying attacks on Lebanon would not cease before Hezbollah withdraws north of the Litani river, as stipulated in Resolution 1701. Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib dubbed France’s February suggestion an “important step.” The three-phase French proposal calls for a cease-fire after which Hezbollah would retreat 10 km away from the border prior to talks resolving the land border dispute – including disputed points and the Israeli occupation of Lebanese-claimed Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba Hills and northern Ghajar. Hezbollah has repeatedly said it would not stop attacking Israel before a cease-fire begins in Gaza, which some Israeli officials consider insufficient to end clashes with Hezbollah, threatening escalation to guarantee the return of displaced residents to northern Israel. Resolution 1701 calls for establishing an area free of non-state weapons between the Blue Line (the line drawn by the UN in 2000 according to century-old colonial maps to establish Israel’s withdrawal) and the Litani River.

During a previously unpublicized meeting with Iranian military leadership in February, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah relinquished Iran’s direct involvement in a potential war with Israel, Reuters reported on Friday. Nasrallah previously distanced Hezbollah and Iran from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, claiming the party was caught unaware because “the resistance organizations operate independently in their respective countries, making decisions based on their own interests.” Former Israeli intelligence official Sima Shine claimed to Reuters that parties calling for continued clashes with Hezbollah regardless of a cease-fire in Gaza held more sway than those calling for a pause in hostilities. International actors have previously warned of the regional dimensions that could result from escalated fighting in Lebanon. Iranian security officials told Reuters that an expanded war would translate to pressure for Iran to up attacks through its “proxies,” noting that it does not seek involvement in a war that would translate to increased US presence in the region.

At least 31,645 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry, including 13,000 children by the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) estimate. “We've never seen such a high death rate among children in virtually any other conflict in the world,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russel told CBS she found hospital wards where children being treated for severe anemia and malnutrition silent because “the children, the babies ... don't even have the energy to cry.” Negotiators regrouped in Qatar again yesterday after Israel rejected Hamas’s Saturday cease-fire proposal involving the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a total cease-fire and Israeli withdrawal. Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, steadfast on eradicating Hamas and unheeding contraindications from international actors, cemented an upcoming invasion of Rafah with promises to safeguard an evacuation of more than 1 million people displaced to Gaza’s southernmost city. Israeli strikes meanwhile continued to kill dozens of people across the enclave. Survivors of more than five months of war continued to face stark supply shortages and a looming famine, unabated by the first shipments of aid from a new Cypriot maritime corridor attempting to circumvent stringent Israeli regulations and difficulties ferrying supplies in the war-torn enclave.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from over the weekend: “LBCI journalist calls Gaza war battle of 'crazies and extremists,' faces backlash

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Catch up on the weekend’s LIVE coverage of Days 161, 162 and 163 of the Gaza war here.Lebanon responded Friday to a French proposal to calm border conflicts between Hezbollah and Israel with a call for the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms ending the 2006 war, the state-run...