US Secretary of State Antony Blinken bids farewell while boarding his plan before departure at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on March 22, 2024. (Credit: Evelyn Hockstein/POOL/AFP)


Lebanon accuses Israel of 'disrupting' navigation at Beirut airport; UN Security Council to vote again Saturday for 'immediate cease-fire': Day 168 of the Gaza war

What you need to know

Blinken warns Rafah invasion could 'further isolate' Israel around the world

UN Security Council fails to pass US proposal for 'immediate cease-fire' in Gaza — vetoed by China and Russia.

France wants to "avoid an escalation" between Lebanon and Israel.

Mossad chief expected in Doha to meet CIA chief. 

22:06 Beirut Time

We're closing today's live coverage of the Gaza war and its repercussions in Lebanon and the region. Thanks for joining us — we'll be back tomorrow with more news updates and analysis. Goodnight! 

21:51 Beirut Time

Lebanon's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati has given a half-hearted response to the controversy launched earlier this week over press reports that his Cabinet was preparing a plan to financially compensate for losses and damage in southern Lebanon, bombed daily by Israel — claiming that it was currently impossible to carry out a census of such damage. 

👉 Read about the controversial plan here.

👉 Read about Mikati's response here.

21:48 Beirut Time

Palestinian children play with a toy car on a street damaged by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 22, 2024. (Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)

21:47 Beirut Time

Lebanon will lodge a complaint against Israel at the UN Security Council accusing it of disrupting navigation systems and civil aviation around Beirut airport, the foreign ministry announced.

Lebanon will "submit an urgent complaint to the UN Security Council about Israel ... disrupting navigation systems and civil aviation safety" in the skies around Beirut airport since the start of the Gaza war, the foreign ministry said in a statement on the official NNA news agency.

The ministry condemned "Israel's deliberate policy of jamming air and ground navigation systems, and deliberately disrupting devices receiving and transmitting signals."

👉 Read the full report here.

21:45 Beirut Time

The Israeli army has told people remaining inside the besieged al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to surrender themselves.

Witnesses at the scene told Al Jazeera the issue was ordered to hundreds trapped inside as sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions continue to rock the area.

The Israeli military previously ordered people inside al-Shifa Hospital to evacuate despite intense battles going on inside and outside the last operational health facility in northern Gaza.

20:45 Beirut Time

Hamas has welcomed China's and Russia's vetoes of the US draft resolution submitted to the UN Security Council on a truce in the war in Gaza, reports AFP.

"We express our appreciation for the position of Russia, China and Algeria, which rejected the biased American resolution," the group said in a statement, denouncing in particular the "misleading wording" of the text.

20:29 Beirut Time

Martin Griffiths, the UN's chief emergency relief coordinator, directly accused Israel of "blocking" aid to Gaza in a post on X.

He emphasizes the necessity for Israel to "remove all obstacles to aid" and to agree to an immediate cease-fire. Griffiths states, "limits to aid distribution within Gaza are determined by those who obstruct the movement of convoys intended to feed tens of thousands of critically hungry people."

He further asserted "they are determined by those who refused access to every fifth humanitarian mission to northern Gaza in the first half of March. They are determined by those who prevent the entry of life-saving supplies for hospitals and water purification."

20:25 Beirut Time

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), announced that all Nordic countries have resumed their funding for the agency.

Following accusations by the Israeli government alleging that 12 UNRWA members were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, were among 18 countries that suspended funding, withholding $61 M, $7.8 M, and $558.7 K respectively.

UNRWA initiated an investigation into these allegations, and the UN appointed an independent panel to review the agency. However, a recent report from UNRWA, revealed by media outlets last month, claimed that Israeli forces had tortured several of its staff members in Gaza to coerce them into admitting ties to Hamas.

19:54 Beirut Time

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati reaffirmed that “the government is continuing its diplomatic contacts internationally and in the Arab world to stop the Israeli aggression against Lebanon,” noting that “the results of these contacts so far appear to be positive.”

Israel has repeatedly threatened to go into a full-scale war in Lebanon if Hezbollah is not pushed away from Lebanon’s southern border.

“The government, since the start of the Israeli aggression, has formed an emergency committee to follow up on the situation of the South and the Southerners, and it is continuing its work to provide the necessary assistance to the displaced from their villages, according to the available capabilities,” Mikati said in a statement relayed by his press office today.

👉 Read the full report here.

19:01 Beirut Time

Following today's vetoing by China and Russia of a US draft proposal, the Security Council has decided to vote again tomorrow on a new draft resolution that seeks an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, three diplomats said — but the United States has indicated it may veto it, AFP reports.

The vote on the resolution, led in part by Algeria, the Arab nation currently on the 15-member Security Council, is expected at 10 am (1400 GMT), three diplomats said.

The draft resolution, seen by AFP, "demands an immediate ceasefire" for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan that leads "to a permanent sustainable ceasefire" respected by all sides. It also demands both the "immediate and unconditional" release of hostages and humanitarian access in the battered Gaza Strip.

Three European nations — Malta, Slovenia and Switzerland — are co-sponsoring the resolution, along with Mozambique, Guyana and Sierra Leone.

The United States put forward a text yesterday on the need for a cease-fire that was vetoed by Russia and China and opposed by Arab states, which said it was not explicit enough in pressuring Israel.

18:41 Beirut Time

Palestinians perform the Friday noon prayers amidst the ruins of the Al-Faruq Mosque that was destroyed during Israeli bombardment, in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip, during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on March 22, 2024. (Credit: Moham

18:28 Beirut Time

The latest updates from the Lebanese-Israeli border:

• Hezbollah stated that its fighters targeted the Israeli “Rwaisat al-Alam” site in the occupied hills of Kfar Shuba at 4:45 p.m.

• Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes on several houses in the town of Aita al-Shaab, Bint Jbeil district, local residents informed L'Orient Today. Earlier, Haaretz had reported that Israeli fighter jets attacked "a Hezbollah military building in the village of Aita al-Shaab," quoting the Israeli army.

• Israel targeted two houses: one in Khiam and another in Taybeh, both located in the Marjayoun district, according to local residents.

18:12 Beirut Time

The Gazan Ministry of Health announced a new death toll of 32,070 in the Gaza Strip since the start of Israel's war on Gaza, on Oct. 7.

In the space of 24 hours, a further 82 deaths were recorded, according to a statement from the ministry, which also reported that 74,288 people had been wounded in more than five months of war.

18:07 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that an offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah would risk "further isolating" Israel and damage its long-term security, Reuters reports.

Speaking as he departed Israel, Blinken told reporters he had "candid conversations," referring to meetings with officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A military ground operation in Rafah "risks killing more civilians. It risks wreaking greater havoc with the humanitarian assistance. It risks further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing," Blinken said. 

17:36 Beirut Time

"Palestinians in Gaza disappointed by lack of practical steps to alleviate suffering," reported Tareq Abu Azzoum, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Rafah, southern Gaza. "People here are following [news of] all diplomatic efforts, including the vote that just took place at the UN Security Council," he said.

They believe that all these meetings have not led to any practical steps to mitigate the crisis in the Gaza Strip or to pressure Israel into scaling back its attack.

"Ultimately, Palestinians believe the US is backing Israel, but they also hope that the ongoing talks in Cairo and Doha will yield some results in light of the US’s desire to see a six-week truce in Gaza that would bring at least some temporary relief," he concluded.

17:34 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, emphasized the need to protect civilians in Gaza and sustain humanitarian aid through both land and sea routes, the State Department said, cited by Reuters.

Blinken also discussed efforts to reach an agreement for a cease-fire of at least six weeks that would secure the release of hostages and enable a surge in humanitarian assistance, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Negotiations have been ongoing for several weeks now with a string of rejections and little progress, although some officials privy to the process, notably Blinken, reportedly remain “hopeful.”

17:29 Beirut Time

Israel has bombed several buildings at al-Shifa Hospital and burned down its vascular department, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

It added that Israel detained about 240 patients and 10 health personnel at the Prince Nayef Center, the hospital’s radiology unit.

17:06 Beirut Time

Palestinian Muslims prepare cross an Israeli checkpoint in Qalandia, in the occupied West Bank, on March 22, 2024, as they head to Jerusalem to attend the second Friday Noon prayer of Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa mosque compou

17:00 Beirut Time

Update of attacks claimed by Hezbollah against northern Israel:

• The party announced that it targeted a deployment of Israeli soldiers at the “Zarit” barracks, located opposite the Lebanese border town of Marwahine, at 2:35 p.m.

• Hezbollah also targeted the Israeli town of Metula, facing the Lebanese border town of Khiam at 1:40 p.m., hitting an Israeli tank.

16:46 Beirut Time

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Israel’s claim to 8,000 dunams (1,977 acres, 800 hectares) of land in the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank, is a “crime” that is part of an “official policy racing against time to annex the West Bank and eliminate the possibility of creating a Palestinian state," in a statement relayed today by Wafa, the Palestinian news agency.

“There are no morals, values, principles or international resolutions that can stop the extremist right,” the ministry said in a statement, quoted by Wafa.

The Ministry added that the plan by Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to develop hundreds of housing units near the Israeli settlement of Yafit was once again an indication that Israel “denies the existence of our people and incites their extermination and displacement."

👉 Read the full report here.

16:25 Beirut Time

China's ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, said the Security Council had "dragged its feet" for too long on the issue of an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, reports al-Jazeera. The US draft eludes and dodges the cease-fire issue, remains ambiguous and avoids calling for an immediate cease-fire, he said.

"This resolution does not meet the expectations of the international community," he added. "The American draft, on the contrary, sets conditions for a cease-fire, which amounts to giving the green light to the continuation of the massacres, which is unacceptable."

16:09 Beirut Time

Israel will carry out an offensive at Rafah, even without US support, Benjamin Netanyahu told Antony Blinken during their meeting, Haaretz reports.

"I told him that we couldn't defeat Hamas without entering Rafah and killing the rest of its battalions there. I told him I hoped we could do it with US support, but that if we had to, we'd do it alone," Netanyahu said. He said he had told Blinken: "We recognize the need to evacuate the civilian population from the war zones, and of course to meet humanitarian needs, and we are acting to that end."

16:04 Beirut Time

French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed his determination to find "an agreement" at the UN Security Council after Russia and China vetoed a US resolution stressing the "necessity" of an "immediate" cease-fire in Gaza.

"The Security Council must now decide on an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access. After the veto by Russia and China a few minutes ago, we are going to start again on the basis of the French draft resolution in the Security Council and work with our American, European and Arab partners in this direction to find an agreement," he declared at the end of a European summit in Brussels.

16:03 Beirut Time

The Israeli army, in a post on X, said that some of the 358 fighters it claims to have captured during its siege of al-Shifa Hospital mistakenly includes photos of several fighters still at large.

The fleeing fighters are said to be barricaded inside or near the hospital, the army said in a statement. Israeli forces, it added, were "continuing their efforts to arrest them" and would publish their identities "once the operation is over."

15:57 Beirut Time

Spain has agreed with the leaders of Ireland, Malta and Slovenia to "take the first steps towards recognizing a Palestinian state," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said after a European Council meeting in Brussels, according to Reuters.

Speaking on behalf of Spain, Sanchez expects recognition to take place during the current four-year legislature, which began last year, according to Reuters.

15:53 Beirut Time

In a message published on X, the Israeli army said that Ofir Caspi, commander of the 82nd Armored Battalion, had been reprimanded by his division commander for political considerations that "do not conform to (military) protocols and what is expected of an [Israeli military] commander."

Caspi had told Israeli army radio that Israel should re-establish settlements in Gaza to ensure a permanent victory. "The Israeli army should hold the territory; I think if the settlements come back here, we will have won," said the commander, who is currently leading operations in Khan Younès. "If we kill [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar, we won't destroy Hamas, someone else will come. The solution is to come back here, like the settlements in Judea and Samaria," he added.

15:47 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has concluded a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which lasted around 40 minutes, Reuters reports.

15:32 Beirut Time

Russia and China have vetoed the text of an American resolution at the UN Security Council stressing the "necessity" of an "immediate" cease-fire in Gaza, with the Russian ambassador denouncing a "hypocritical" text that does not directly call for the silencing of weapons, reports AFP.

The American draft resolution, which stresses the "need for an immediate and lasting cease-fire" in connection with the release of the hostages, received 11 votes in favor, three against (Russia, China and Algeria) and one abstention (Guyana).

15:21 Beirut Time

A boy pushes a man on a wheelchair on the day of Friday prayers during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 22, 2024. (Credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

13:57 Beirut Time

In the last 30 minutes on the Lebanese-Israeli border:

- ⁠The Israeli army bombed a house in the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil), with no casualties identified yet, residents of the village told L'Orient Today.

- ⁠The Israeli army shelled the outskirts of the southern border villages of Khiam and Kfar Kila (Marjayoun), residents of the villages told L'Orient Today.

13:51 Beirut Time

On Friday, the Israeli government announced the seizure of 800 hectares of land in the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank, on the very day of a visit to Israel by the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken.

The announcement by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a leading figure in far-right Jewish settlement in the West Bank, is the largest land seizure in Palestinian territory since the 1993 Oslo peace accords, according to the Israeli anti-settlement organization Peace Now.

11:41 Beirut Time

The funeral procession of Hadi Moustapha, a Hamas cadre killed by an Israeli drone on March 14, 2024, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh in Sour. (Credit: Muntasser Abdallah)

Three people, including two teenagers under the age of 18, were arrested today and charged with spying for Israel and involvement in the assassination of a Hamas member, Hadi Mustafa, killed in Sour at the beginning of March, according to a statement from Palestinian factions in the Rashidiyeh camp (South Lebanon).

Read the full report here.

10:22 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel from Cairo on the last leg of his Middle East tour.

He is expected to press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the urgent need to increase humanitarian aid to the devastated Palestinian territory and to urge Israel not to launch a major ground offensive at Rafah.

10:21 Beirut Time

Finland will resume its funding of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), its Minister for Foreign Trade and Development has said.

Several countries suspended their funding to UNRWA after Israeli accusations that a dozen of the agency's 13,000 employees in Gaza took part in the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

"UNRWA's improvement in its risk management, i.e. preventing and closely monitoring misconduct, offers sufficient guarantees for our continued support," Ville Tavio was quoted as saying by Reuters.

He also told a press conference that part of the Finnish money would be earmarked for risk management.

09:32 Beirut Time

Young people in the United States are far more critical of Israel's conduct of the war in Gaza than the rest of the American population, a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday revealed.

Among Americans aged 18 to 29, 46 percent believe that Israel's response to the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 is unacceptable, 21 percent think it is acceptable, and the rest are unsure.

Among the over-65s, the results were almost the opposite, with 29 percent and 53 percent respectively.

The survey was conducted among 12,693 American adults between Feb. 13 and 25.

09:30 Beirut Time

Wrap-up of the situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border last night:

- ⁠The Israeli army shelled the southern village of Aita al-Shaab and the area of Wadi Slouqi (Marjayoun).

-⁠ ⁠Hezbollah announced an operation from Thursday dawn in which they said it attacked Israeli soldiers after entering the Israeli position of Zarit with artillery.

-⁠ ⁠The Israeli army opened fire on the areas of Khiam valley the Haamamis mountains and the village of Kfar Kila (Marjayoun).

09:27 Beirut Time

On the Lebanese-Israeli border, deadly fighting continues between the Israeli army and Hezbollah.

On Thursday, French diplomats told a press briefing at the Quai d'Orsay that they were "pursuing their diplomatic efforts" in Lebanon, with the aim of "avoiding escalation in the region."

09:26 Beirut Time

Truce talks continue in Doha between representatives of the USA, Qatar and Egypt.

The head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, David Barnea, is due to meet CIA director William Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammad ben Abdelrahman Al-Thani and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel on Friday.

09:25 Beirut Time

The 27 countries of the European Union also urged Israel on Thursday not to launch an operation on Rafah, and called for an "immediate humanitarian pause."

But despite international pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that an offensive on Rafah is necessary to militarily "defeat" Hamas in Gaza and avoid another Oct. 7.

09:24 Beirut Time

While the diplomats were busy, clashes continued in the Gaza Strip, particularly in and around al-Shifa Hospital, the territory's largest, where Israeli forces claimed to have killed more than 140 Palestinian fighters and arrested more than 350 others since the beginning of the week.

09:22 Beirut Time

For their part, the United Kingdom, a permanent member of the Security Council, and Australia called for an "immediate end to the fighting" in the Gaza Strip, to allow "the delivery of aid and the release of hostages."

09:22 Beirut Time

In parallel with these talks, the United States for the first time presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on an "immediate cease-fire linked to the release of hostages" held in Gaza.

The text, seen by AFP, stresses "the need for an immediate and durable cease-fire to protect civilians on all sides and allow the delivery of essential humanitarian aid."

The outcome of the vote is uncertain, however, with Russia calling for a clearer "call" to silence the weapons.

09:21 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Israel today to try to wrest a truce deal for Gaza at a time when the UN Security Council is due to vote on a US resolution for an "immediate cease-fire" in the war-ravaged territory.

After five and a half months of war, "the gap is narrowing" in negotiations for a truce coupled with a hostage release, Blinken said on Thursday. "While it is difficult to reach" an agreement, "it is still possible," he added.

09:15 Beirut Time

Good morning!

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