An Israeli helicopter fires a flare while flying over the Palestinian territory, as seen from southern Israel bordering the Gaza Strip, on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Credit: Jack Guez/AFP)


Blinken says cease-fire still 'possible'; UNRWA suspends food distribution in Rafah: Day 228 of the Gaza war

What you need to know

Israel claims to have killed a Hezbollah commander last night.

The world continues to react to the ICC's announcement about seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders.

Israel's bombardment of Rafah intensifies.

22:16 Beirut Time

That's it for today's coverage of the war on Gaza and its repercussions in the region, notably in southern Lebanon where cross-border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah continues. We'll be back tomorrow morning with more news updates and analysis. Thanks for joining us and goodnight!

22:14 Beirut Time

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi has announced he is backtracking on his order to confiscate equipment from The Associated Press news agency that was being used to broadcast a live feed of northern Gaza, and says the cameras will be returned.

According to a report from Times of Israel, the ministry said the equipment was taken because AP had refused to cut its coverage, which Israel opposed because it was being used by Al Jazeera, which has been banned from the country. AP provides content to more than 15,000 news outlets around the world. The ministry later claimed the feed of northern Gaza exposed troop movements.

“The Communications Ministry acted today to confiscate equipment that, despite repeated warnings, transmitted to Al Jazeera about the positions of our forces in the northern Gaza Strip while putting them at risk — in accordance with security opinions and the government’s decision,” Karhi said in statement tonight.

“Since the Ministry of Defense wishes to examine the matter of the broadcasts ... I have now ordered a cancellation of the operation and return the equipment to AP, until a different decision is made by the Ministry of Defense,” he said.

The decision to confiscate the equipment sparked an outcry, including from the White House, which said it was engaging directly with Israel to ask that its actions be reversed.

21:27 Beirut Time

Haaretz reports that the Israeli war Cabinet is expected to convene this evening to discuss negotiations for truce and hostage exchange deal with Hamas.

21:23 Beirut Time

"We will expand and intensify the attack on Hezbollah with massive firepower if necessary," said Israeli Air Force Commander Tomer Bar, as reported by several Arabic-language media outlets, citing Israel's Channel 13.

21:15 Beirut Time

Biden administration officials spoke with officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, urging him reverse a decision to confiscate equipment from the US news agency The Associated Press, the Walla news site reports, cited by Times of Israel.

Officials in Netanyahu’s office told the Israeli news outlet Ynet that the Prime Minister was not briefed ahead of the move by the Communications Ministry to seize the journalists' video equipment.

Haaretz reports a White House spokesperson as saying: "We've been engaging directly with the Government of Israel to express our concerns over this action and to ask them to reverse it."

20:34 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that a Gaza ceasefire deal was still possible but he charged that an International Criminal Court arrest bid for Israeli leaders was setting back efforts.

Blinken was opening two days of testimony before Congress that were immediately disrupted by protesters, with two demonstrators shouting that the top US diplomat was a "war criminal" over support to Israel as they were escorted out by police, AFP reports.

Blinken credited Qatar and Egypt with assisting the "extensive effort" to secure a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in return for the release of hostages. But CIA Director Bill Burns, the US pointman in the talks, left the region empty-handed some 10 days ago.

"I think we've come very, very close on a couple of occasions," Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We remain at it every single day. I think that there's still a possibility," Blinken said.

20:16 Beirut Time

Updates from southern Lebanon:

• Israeli fighter jets have targeted Maroun al-Ras, in Bint Jbeil district, residents told our correspondent.

• Israeli artillery fire targeted the area around Halta and Kfar Hammam, according to residents.

• A security source tells our correspondent that no injuries have been reported following Israeli strikes on the villages of Yaroun, Maroun al-Ras and Aita al-Shaab in the Bint Jbeil district.

19:51 Beirut Time

The head of the World Health Organization has called for Israel to lift restrictions on aid into Gaza saying that the primary pipeline for emergency medical aid into the enclave from Egypt had been cut off.

"At a time when the people of Gaza are facing starvation, we urge Israel to lift the blockade and let aid through. Without more aid flowing into Gaza we cannot sustain our lifesaving support of hospitals," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva, cited by Reuters.

18:57 Beirut Time

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the White House is concerned by the news of Israel’s seizure of Associated Press (AP) equipment at a site in Israel where the US-based news agency was running live video feed of Gaza. Jean-Pierre also said journalists must have the right to do their jobs, according to Axios.

AP is a wire service that provides content to hundreds of outlets, including Al Jazeera, which has been the target of recently-passed Israeli legislation that allows for the closure of foreign broadcasters considered to be "a threat to national security." Last Thursday, Israel asked AP to take the live feed down because of Al Jazeera’s access to it, but AP refused.

"Obviously this is concerning and we want to look into it," Jean-Pierre said.

18:42 Beirut Time

The Islamic Health Association using a bulldozer to open a road in Maroun al-Rass blocked by an Israeli airstrike (Photo sent by residents to our correspondent in the South)

The Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Health Association opened a road in Maroun al-Rass, in Bint Jbeil district, that was blocked as a result of an Israeli airstrike that targeted a house in the area yesterday, according to the association and residents of the village cited by our correspondent in the South.

18:15 Beirut Time

Latest updates from the Lebanese-Israeli border:

• Five Israeli artillery shells fell on houses in the neighborhood of al-Maaqeb in the village of Houla, Marjayoun district, residents told our correspondent in the South.

• Hezbollah announced that it fired artillery shells on the Israeli "Malikiyah" site, facing the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab, and the Israeli "Marj" site, opposite to Markaba, at 4:04 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. respectively.

• The party also said that it fired rockets at the Israeli site of "Zebdine" in the disputed Shebaa Farms at 5 p.m.

• Hezbollah said that it fired artillery shells on a group of Israeli soldiers in "Tallet al-Karantina," facing the southern Lebanese village of Yaroun, at 5:20 p.m.

17:48 Beirut Time

UNRWA has suspended the distribution of food in Rafah "due to lack of supplies and insecurity," the UN agency announced in a post on X, without specifying whether the suspension pertains to Rafah the city specifically, or the governorate.

According to the same statement, only seven of 24 of the organization's health centers are currently operational, and these seven centers have not received any medical supplies in the last 10 days, due to Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossing closures and disruptions.

17:19 Beirut Time

Latest updates from the Lebanese-Israeli border:

• An Israeli drone carried out an airstrike on the village of Jibbain, in Sour district, a security source told our correspondent in the South.

• Hezbollah announced that it fired rockets on a group of Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Israeli site of "Raheb," facing the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab, at 3:05 p.m.

• According to a security source, missiles were fired towards the Israeli site of "Malikiyah," which faces Aita al-Shaab.

• The same source added that an interceptor missile exploded over the village of Mais al-Jabal, Marjayoun district.

16:42 Beirut Time

Israeli officials seized a camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to The Associated Press in Sderot, southern Israel today, accusing the news organization of violating the country's new ban on Al Jazeera, Haaretz reports.

Al Jazeera channel is among thousands of clients that receive live video feeds from the AP and other news organizations. AP denounced the move.

"The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment," said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the AP.

"The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country's new foreign broadcaster law. We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world."

15:30 Beirut Time

An update on the situation in southern Lebanon:

- According to local residents, Israeli artillery shelled the village of Kfar Kila (Marjayoun). A shell fell on a house, causing material damage only.

Hezbollah targeted the Israeli site of Rouaisset al-Qarn, in the Kfar Shouba heights (Hazbaya). Haaretz reported that two anti-tank missiles had been fired from Lebanon into the Mount Dov area, causing a fire but no casualties.

14:27 Beirut Time

The Foreign Minister of the Sultanate of Oman, Badr Bin Hamad al-Bussaidi, in a statement on X, welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision to issue arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders.

“History will remember the real criminals who comment on genocides and crimes against humanity,” said the senior official on Elon Musk's social network.

14:15 Beirut Time

Gaza's Health Ministry announced a new death toll of 35,647 with at least 85 killed in the last 24 hours.

The ministry added that an additional 79,852 people have been injured since the start of the war.

14:06 Beirut Time

An update on the situation in southern Lebanon:

- According to reports from local residents, a small Israeli drone exploded at the site of the airstrike that destroyed several buildings in Naqoura (Sour) on Monday. No casualties were reported.

- Israeli artillery shelled the outskirts of Khiam (Bint Jbeil) and the Wazzani area (Marjayoun) with white phosphorus incendiary munitions, according to other residents.

- A security source reported that rockets were fired from Lebanon towards the disputed Shebaa Farms. Hezbollah has yet to comment on the attack.

11:42 Beirut Time

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant rejected the arrest warrants sought by the chief ICC prosecutor against him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that "the prosecutor's attempt to turn the tables will not succeed, and the parallel between Hamas, a terrorist organization, and the State of Israel is despicable and outrageous. The State of Israel is not a party to the court and does not recognize its authority."

Gallant added that the prosecutor's attempt to deny the State of Israel the right to defend itself and free its hostages must be rejected outright. "The IDF fights in accordance with the rules of international law while making unique humanitarian efforts, the likes of which have not been taken in any armed conflict," he clarified.

11:40 Beirut Time

China said on Tuesday it hoped that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would maintain an “objectivestance after the arrest warrants requested by a prosecutor against leaders of Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and those of the Islamist movement Hamas.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also called for an end to the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

11:10 Beirut Time

Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone over the southern province of al-Bayda, Yahya Saree, the group's military spokesman, said in a televised statement relayed by Reuters.

The MQ-9 Reaper is described on specialized websites as a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drone specialized in intelligence and data gathering, and, in rare cases, attack with dedicated weaponry.

10:22 Beirut Time

The Palestinian Authority announced on Tuesday morning that it believed seven people had been killed by Israeli gunfire in Jenin, a town in the north of the occupied West Bank, where the Israeli army said it was carrying out a raid.

“Seven dead and nine wounded by bullets from the occupation (Israel) in Jenin, including two wounded in serious condition,” said a short message on the Palestinian Health Ministry's Telegram account. The Israeli army said on Telegram that Israeli forces had “begun an anti-terrorist operation in Jenin by attacking armed men in the area.”

09:36 Beirut Time

Also during the night, Hezbollah announced the death of another of its members, Qassem Afif Saqlawi, born in 1987, and originally from Ras al-Ain (Sour). As usual, Hezbollah did not say when or where the fighter was killed.

This brings to 310 the number of party members killed since Oct. 8 in Lebanon and Syria.

This morning, the Israeli army reported that it had killed an “experiencedHezbollah commanderin charge of coastal missile systems” in an attack near Sour, according to Israeli media.

09:34 Beirut Time

The situation along the Lebanese-Israeli border last night:

- Hezbollah announced that it launched a rocket attack at 10:30 p.m. on the Israeli site of Malkia, opposite the Lebanese town of Aitaroun (Bint Jbeil).

- Around midnight, the Israeli air force bombed the Lebanese town of Rouaissat al-Alam, in the Kfar Shouba Hills (Hasbaya), Beit Leif (Bint Jbeil) and Ramieh (Bint Jbeil).

 At around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Hezbollah announced that at 2:30 a.m. it had targeted the Israeli site of Rahib opposite Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil) with rockets and artillery shells.

09:30 Beirut Time

With no prospect of an end to hostilities in sight, Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to prepare a strategy for the future of Gaza.

On Sunday in Jerusalem, Jake Sullivan called on him to accompany military operations with a “political strategy” for the future of the Palestinian territory.

Benny Gantz, former army chief and current member of the war cabinet, threatened to resign if a “plan of action” for the post-war period was not adopted quickly.

The UN's Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, called on the parties to “return immediately and in good faith to the negotiating table” in order to reach a cease-fire after the failure of the last talks in early May.

09:29 Beirut Time

Despite the opposition of many countries and humanitarian organizations to a major ground operation at Rafah, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant insisted on “Israel's duty to extend the ground operation at Rafah, dismantle Hamas and bring back the hostages,” when he received White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan this weekend.

Since May 7, when Israel took control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on the Palestinian side, the flow of humanitarian aid has come to a virtual standstill. This crossing is crucial for aid supplies, including fuel, which is essential for hospitals and humanitarian logistics.

To overcome the restrictions imposed by Israel, the United States has been working on a temporary pier project, which received its first shipments of humanitarian aid this weekend. According to the US Military Command for the Middle East (CENTCOM), 569 tons of aid have so far been delivered to Gaza via this pier.

09:27 Beirut Time

Israeli military planes and helicopters carried out new strikes on Monday on the Gaza Strip, where ground fighting is also taking place between soldiers and Palestinian armed groups.

In the north of the Palestinian territory, the air force bombed Gaza City and the Jabalia refugee camp, where the army reported “perhaps the fiercest” fighting since October.

In the south, a strike hit a house in the Tal al-Sultan district of western Rafah, killing three and wounding eight, according to hospital sources.

09:25 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden, Israel's main ally, called the arrest warrant against Netanyahu “outrageous,” saying that “there is no equivalence” between Israel and Hamas. He “rejected” the term “genocide” to describe the Israeli offensive in Gaza, at a reception for the Jewish community at the White House.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also described the warrants as “shameful,” warning that they “could jeopardize” negotiations on a cease-fire in Gaza, and adding that the ICC has “no jurisdiction” over Israel.

France “supports” the ICC and its “independence," said the government in a statement, condemning the “anti-Semitic massacres perpetrated by Hamas” and denouncing “the unacceptable nature of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip.”

09:22 Beirut Time

Since Monday, the International Criminal Court has come under fire from all sides for issuing arrest warrants for alleged war crimes against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders, including its Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar.

The Israeli Prime Minister “rejected with disgust the Hague prosecutor's comparison between Israel,” a “democratic” country, and “the mass murderers of Hamas.”

Hamas, for its part, denounced “the prosecutor's attempts ... to equate the victim with the executioner.”

09:01 Beirut Time

Good morning!

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