An Israeli flag flutters in the wind as un agricultural plane flies over fileds in Hula Valley in the upper Galilee near the border with Lebanon on April 19, 2024. (Credit: Jalaa Marey/AFP)


Israel 'close to decision' on military course with Lebanon, Gantz says: Gaza war, day 198

What you need to know

The US House of Representatives grants billions of dollars in new aid to Israel.

Numerous Hezbollah-Israel exchanges of fire in south Lebanon this morning, but relative calm prevails this afternoon.

Fourteen people killed in an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

19:19 Beirut Time

Thank you for following our live coverage of the war between Hamas and Israel.

We will continue our coverage of the conflict tomorrow morning.

19:19 Beirut Time

Israeli major, Dor Zimel, deputy commander of a company in the Nahal Brigade, who "was wounded last week in the Hezbollah attack on the village of Arab al-Aramashe, has succumbed to his injuries," Haaretz reports, citing the Israeli army.

The Hezbollah attack left 14 Israeli soldiers wounded.

18:33 Beirut Time

The latest developments in south Lebanon:

Hezbollah says it attacked Israeli spy equipment at a position facing the Lebanese village of Aitaroun (Bint Jbeil district).

18:14 Beirut Time

Gaza's civil defense said today that its health workers had uncovered at least 50 bodies of people killed and buried by Israeli forces at a hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, AFP reports.

Israel's military said it was checking the reports, the news agency adds. ➡️ More details here.

17:51 Beirut Time

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will increase "military pressure" on Palestinian militant group Hamas "in the coming days" in a bid to secure the release of hostages held in Gaza, AFP reports.

"In the coming days, we will increase the military and political pressure on Hamas because this is the only way to free our hostages," Netanyahu said in a video statement on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, threatening to "deliver additional and painful blows" without specifying.

Despite an international outcry, Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the army will launch a ground assault on Rafah, a southern Gaza city so far spared an Israeli invasion where more than 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge.

17:31 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will fight against sanctions being imposed on any Israeli military units after media reported that Washington was planning such a step against a battalion for alleged rights violations, Reuters reports.

17:31 Beirut Time

The Ezzedine al-Qassam brigades, Hamas' armed wing, claims in a press release that it bombarded the Israeli barracks at Shomera in the Upper Galilee with 20 missiles launched from southern Lebanon. The release does not specify when this attack took place.

17:18 Beirut Time

⚡️ "We are approaching a decision on how to act in the military way" on the front between Israel and Lebanon, warns Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz in a speech reported by several Israeli media outlets. According to the reports, Gantz described the fighting in northern Israel as "the greatest and most urgent challenge," and promised that the government would act to bring northerners home "even before the start of the new school year." Northern Israeli towns were evacuated last year when conflict broke out between Hezbollah and Israel following Hamas's Oct. 7 attack.

As for negotiations on Gaza, Gantz is reported as saying, "We are building additional levers of pressure — political, military and economic. Hamas terrorists, those brutal murderers, should know that they are not safe anywhere — not in tunnels, not in luxury hotels."

16:19 Beirut Time

Image: Palestinian health workers stand next to unearthed bodies buried by Israeli forces in Nasser hospital compound in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2024. (Credit: AFP)

16:06 Beirut Time

The Israeli military says it is unaware of any US sanctions against one of its combat battalions, after media reported that Washington was planning such a step against the unit for alleged rights violations, Reuter reports.

The military said that its "Netzah Yehuda" battalion is an active combat unit that operates according to the principles of international law.

"Following publications about sanctions against the battalion, the IDF [Israeli army] is not aware of the issue. If a decision is made on the matter it will be reviewed. The IDF works and will continue to work to investigate any unusual event in a practical manner and according to law," Reuters cites the military as saying.

15:37 Beirut Time

Israel's State Attorney has indicted the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on charges of incitement and showing solidarity with a terror group, after she allegedly praised Hamas' Oct. 7 attack that sparked the six-month-old war in Gaza, Reuters reports.

Sabah al-Salem Haniyeh, 57, lives in the southern Israeli town of Tel Sheva. Her brother is based in Qatar, as are other officials from Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. ➡️ More details here.

15:10 Beirut Time

Hamas has slammed the US House of Representatives' approval of billions of dollars in new military aid to Israel, much of which is to strengthen Israeli air defenses, AFP reports.

"This support, which violates international law, is a licence and a green light for the Zionist extremist government [Israel] to continue the brutal aggression against our people," the news agency cites Hamas as saying in a statement.

"We consider this step a confirmation of the official American complicity and partnership in the war of extermination waged by the fascist occupation army against our Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip."

14:35 Beirut Time

The strikes carried out by Iran against Israel a week ago "proved Iran's ability to retaliate and defeated that of the Israeli enemy in the region, which is of strategic importance for the fighting," the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, said in a speech delivered in Doueir (Nabatieh district) in southern Lebanon, on the occasion of the commemoration of the death of a member of his party.

A week ago, Iran launched over 300 missiles and drones in Teheran's first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory. Israel promised retaliation. This appeared to come on Friday, when Iranian media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan. "Even Israeli politicians considered this response weak," Raad said.

Image credit: Photograph provided by Hezbollah's press office.

14:01 Beirut Time

Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has thanked the country's armed forces for their April 13 operation against Israel, Reuters reports, citing Iran's official news agency, adding that Khamenei also called upon them to "ceaselessly pursue military innovation and learn the enemy's tactics."

13:24 Beirut Time

⚡️ Israeli aircraft targeted a position in the Jabbour heights, near the Rihan and Qatrani mountains (Jezzine district) with missiles, a security source told our correspondent. This area is close to the Western Bekaa.

Residents of Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil) have also reported further Israeli missile strikes near their village.

12:57 Beirut Time

Gaza casualty update: At least 34,097 Palestinians have been killed and 76,980 others injured in Israel's ongoing military offensive on the Gaza Strip since Oct.7, Gaza's Health Ministry says, Reuters reports.

Some 48 Palestinians were killed and 79 others injured in the past 24 hours, the ministry adds.

12:35 Beirut Time

This is what has been happening this morning on the Lebanon-Israel border:

* The Israeli army shelled the northern outskirts of Mais al-Jabal and the outskirts of Houla in the Marjayoun district around 7 a.m.

* Hezbollah announced that in retaliation for the strikes on southern villages and civilian houses, it attacked at 7:30 a.m. a building that the Israeli army uses in the area of Shomera.

* Hezbollah announced another attack at 9:30 a.m. against spying equipment at an Israeli position facing the southern Lebanese village of Rmeish in the Bint Jbeil district.

* Hezbollah said that at 10:20 a.m. it attacked Israeli soldiers around an Israeli position facing the southern Lebanese village of Naqoura with a Burkan missile.

* The Israeli army attacked a house in Naqoura around 12 p.m.

* The Israeli army shelled Yaroun and Aita al-Shaab in the Bint Jbeil district around 10:30 a.m.

12:25 Beirut Time

Image: A Palestinian man waits for news of his daughter as rescue workers search for survivors under the rubble of a building hit in an overnight Israeli bombing in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 21, 2024. (Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)

12:10 Beirut Time

"The resistance will continue its operations in support of Gaza with strikes on Zionist sites, in response to the aggressions against the towns, villages and homes of civilians and resistance fighters," Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan said this morning during a speech in Brital in the Bekaa.

The Baalbeck-Hermel MP added that Israel "has lost the advantage of military superiority" in the region. His comments follow Iran's drone and missile strikes against Israel on the night of April 14-15.

12:05 Beirut Time

Here's what happened overnight in south Lebanon: 

* The Israeli army shelled the village of Aita al-Shaab in Bint Jbeil district around 9 p.m.

* Hezbollah announced that at 8:50 p.m. it attacked an Israeli armored vehicle near an Israeli position facing the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab.

* The Israeli army launched airstrikes around 10 p.m. on the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila in the Marjayoun district and on Ramaya and Beit Lief in the Bint Jbeil district.

* The Israeli army launched airstrikes on the southern Lebanese village of Tayr Harfa in Sour district, destroying a house, and on the southern outskirts of Khiam in the Marjayoun district shortly after 10 p.m.

* The Israeli army opened fire on the village of Kfar Kila and the outskirts of Adaisseh in the Marjayoun district around midnight.

* Around 1 a.m. the Israeli army struck the village of Khiam for the second time last night.

* The Israeli army said it attacked Hezbollah military positions last night, including a "military building" in Tayr Harfa, a survey site in Adaisseh and two military buildings in Khiam.

11:48 Beirut Time

⚡ Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in the occupied West Bank this morning, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reports, according to AFP, which adds that the Israeli army said the two were "neutralized" after firing at soldiers.

The incident, after numerous deaths during an Israeli raid further north in the Palestinian territory, added to a two-year surge of violence in the West Bank that has accelerated since the war in Gaza began on Oct. 7. ➡️ More details here.

11:45 Beirut Time

The French Armed Forces Ministry reiterated yesterday "the importance of collective action to de-escalate the situation along the border between Lebanon and Israel," in a statement issued following a meeting between Armed Forces Chief of Staff Thierry Burkhard, his Lebanese counterpart Joseph Aoun and his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Cavo Dragone in Paris on April 19.

"The essential role of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) as an actor for peace, security and protection of civilian populations in the region was underlined, in close collaboration with the Lebanese Armed Forces, sovereign over the whole territory," the text added.

11:32 Beirut Time

Violence also continues in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Red Crescent announced yesterday that 14 people had been killed in an Israeli raid on the Nur Shams refugee camp, near the town of Tulkarem.

In this highly tense regional context, a Friday-Saturday overnight explosion at a military base in Iraq left one person dead and eight injured, according to the authorities. The US Military Command for the Middle East quickly announced that the US had "not conducted airstrikes in Iraq."

11:30 Beirut Time

The war continues unabated in the Gaza Strip, where the UN fears widespread famine. According to Rafah Civil Defense spokesman Mahmoud Bassal, the army struck several parts of the city on Saturday. "It's been a very hard night," he said.

This city, home to around 1.5 million Palestinians, according to the UN, lives under the threat of a ground offensive that Israel has promised to launch in order to defeat Hamas.

On Saturday, the army said it had struck "terrorist targets," including a "launch base at Beit Hanoun" in northern Gaza, after intercepting a missile aimed at the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

11:25 Beirut Time

Engaged in a tug-of-war with Iran, its sworn enemy, and in the midst of an offensive against Tehran's ally Hamas in Gaza, Israel received fresh support yesterday from the United States, where the House of Representatives approved billions of dollars in military aid.

The Palestinian presidency spoke of "aggression," while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed a "defense of Western civilization." US President Joe Biden hailed the aid as "crucial" and a "milestone in history." For Russia, however, this aid for Israel, as for Ukraine and Taiwan, "will exacerbate global crises."

The Israeli army, meanwhile, carried out dozens of strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip, one of which, according to the Civil Defense, killed nine members of the same family, including children, in Rafah, in the south of the territory.

11:23 Beirut Time

Good morning, 

Welcome back to our live updates from Gaza, south Lebanon, Israel and the wider region on day 198 of the Gaza war.