Keepers care for animals of the Rafah Zoo after their evacuation to a location in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip on May 22, 2024. (Credit: Eyad Baba/AFP)


Arab states, EU to hold summit Monday to forge path to end Gaza war: Day 229 of the Gaza war

What you need to know

From al-Aqsa, Itamar Ben-Gvir reprimands countries that have announced they will recognize the Palestinian state.

Artillery fire and air strikes this morning, in and around Rafah, in southern Gaza.

The operation of two hospitals in northern Gaza threatened by renewed fighting in the area.

A strike overnight on a house in Odaisseh, southern Lebanon.

21:17 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.

21:01 Beirut Time

Here's the latest on the situation in south Lebanon:

* Hezbollah announced in its sixth statement of the day that it had bombed the Jal al-Alam site opposite the Lebanese town of Labbouneh (Sour) at 6.38 p.m., inflicting injuries on Israeli soldiers.

* Hezbollah then announced that at 7:55 p.m. it had targeted a deployment of Israeli soldiers on al-Tayhat hill, opposite the town of Mais al-Jabal (Marjayoun).

* According to a security source, the Israeli air force bombed the locality of Aita al-Chaab (Bint Jbeil) and the locality of Maroun al-Ras (also Bint Jbeil)

20:53 Beirut Time

Israeli forces have killed 10 Palestinians and wounded 25 others in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin since yesterday morning, Reuters reports, citing the Palestinian Health Ministry says. 

20:47 Beirut Time

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has urged the 27-member bloc to find common ground after Spain and Ireland joined Norway in saying they would recognize Palestinian statehood.

"Within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, I will relentlessly work with all Member States to promote a common EU position based on a 2-state solution," Borrell wrote on X.

Earlier today, Poland, an EU member, said it backed a two-state solution.

"We will support the efforts of the High Representative of the European Union and other countries that believe that some long-term, stable solution is needed," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said, Reuters reported.

"And we believe that such a stable, long-term solution would be the existence of two states."

20:38 Beirut Time

Speaking at an award ceremony in Ankara today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was very pleased with the decision by Norway, Ireland and Spain to recognize an independent Palestinian state, Reuters reports.

20:29 Beirut Time

The Israeli army today confirmed the deaths of three soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip, bringing the death toll on the Israeli side since the start of the ground operation to 281, according to several Israeli media outlets, including Haaretz, i24 News and the Times of Israel. This total does not include soldiers killed in the Hamas offensive launched on Oct. 7 or those killed in clashes with Hezbollah in northern Israel.

19:48 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Egypt to do everything it can to make sure humanitarian aid is flowing into Gaza as food and medicine bound for the strip piles up on the Egyptian side, Reuters reports.

Blinken told a hearing in the House of Representatives that the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza remained closed after Israel's military seized it on May 7.

Fighting near the crossing has made providing assistance challenging, but aid could still be getting through, Blinken said, an apparent reference to the Kerem Shalom crossing near Rafah that has been open.

Blinken also said that the Biden administration remains concerned about Israel's possible use of heavy bombs against civilians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and is in contact with Israel about it.

"We have an ongoing conversation with Israel about this and about our concerns about the use of these particular weapons in that particular way in that particular place. And those concerns remain," Blinken told a House of Representatives hearing.

"The other assistance that we've been providing for Israel's defense continues and will continue because, again, the president is determined that Israel have what it needs to defend itself," Blinken told the House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

19:13 Beirut Time

Ministers from Arab states will meet with EU counterparts in Brussels on Monday to try to forge a common path on ending the war in Gaza and build lasting peace, Reuters reports, quoting a senior EU official.

Representatives from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will join a regular meeting of foreign ministers from the 27-member EU, said Sven Koopmans, the EU's special representative for the Middle East peace process.

Koopmans said the gathering was one of a series at which Arab and European countries were seeking common positions on ways to end the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

"Our assignment is to see how we can build a coalition where we try collectively to contribute [to peace efforts] without putting people in a corner," Koopmans told Reuters.

19:05 Beirut Time

Here's what's been happening at the Lebanese-Israeli border over the past 30 minutes:

* According to residents' testimonies relayed by our correspondent in the south, Israeli artillery shelling targeted Tallet al-Aziyeh, which is located near the village of Deir Mimas (Marjayoun district).

* Rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards Israeli sites in the western Galilee, a security source told L'Orient Today.

* Rocket sirens sounded in villages in northern Israel, according to Haaretz.

18:47 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced as a "prize for terrorism" the announcement by Ireland, Norway and Spain that they will soon recognize a Palestinian state, Reuters reports. Netanyahu added that Israel would be undeterred from winning the Gaza war.

"This would be a terrorist state. It would try to carry out the Oct. 7 massacre again and again — and that, we shall not agree to," Netanyahu said in a statement.

18:45 Beirut Time

Latest updates from the Lebanese-Israeli border:

* Israeli warplanes raided the village of Rab Thalathine (Marjayoun district), residents told our correspondent in the south.

* Israeli artillery shelling targeted the outskirts of Khraibeh and Rashaya al-Foukhar (Hasbaya district), according to residents.

* In response to "Israeli attacks on southern villages, houses and the targeting of civilians,"  Hezbollah said that it fired rockets at a building used by Israeli soldiers in the village of Kfar Giladi, facing the village of Markaba, this afternoon.

* Hezbollah also announced that it fired rockets at the Israeli "Samaqa" site in the Kfar Shuba hills and the Israeli "Baghdadi" site, facing the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab, at 5:15 p.m. and 5:25 p.m., respectively.

18:42 Beirut Time

Image: A lioness rests in a cage after the animals of the Rafah Zoo were evacuated to a location in Khan Younis in the Gaza strip on May 22, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Credit: Eyad Baba/AFP)

18:07 Beirut Time

Here's the latest from the Lebanon-Israel border: 

* Hezbollah says it hit a building used by Israeli soldiers in the village of Avivim at 4 p.m. "in response to an Israeli attack on workers of the electricity company in the village of Maroun al-Rass" (Bint Jbeil district).

* A source at Électricité du Liban (EDL) told our correspondent in the south that, at around 12 p.m., Israel fired with machine guns "from a great distance" towards EDL workers who were fixing damaged power lines in Maroun al-Ras. As a result, the workers were not able to continue work on the damaged lines. The bullets from the heavy machine guns Israel uses can reach targets up to 3-4 km away.

* Commenting on Hezbollah's attack on Avivim, the Merom HaGilil Regional Council, which is a regional council in the northern Galilee area of northern Israel, reported that an anti-tank missile "hit a house in Avivim and that there was damage caused and a fire that broke out," according to Haaretz. The Israeli newspaper added that no casualties were reported.

17:48 Beirut Time

The Israeli military has approved permission for Israelis to return to three former occupied West Bank settlements they had been banned from entering since an evacuation ordered in 2005, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

The three settlements, Sa-nur, Ganim and Kadim, are located near the Palestinian cities of Jenin and Nablus, both of which are strongholds of armed militant groups in the northern occupied West Bank. ➡️ More details here.

17:12 Beirut Time

US President Joe Biden believes a Palestinian state should be achieved through negotiations, not unilateral recognition, the White House said on Wednesday after Ireland, Spain and Norway said they would recognize a Palestinian state this month, Reuters reports.

"The president is a strong supporter of a two-state solution and has been throughout his career," a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said. "He believes a Palestinian state should be realized through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition." 

17:08 Beirut Time

The al-Rissala scout association, affiliated with the Amal movement, announced that it had "participated in rescue operations after the [Israeli] airstrike on the village of Mais al-Jabal" (Marjayoun district) earlier in the day, adding that "wounded people were treated on the ground." It did not specify the number of wounded.

17:07 Beirut Time

⚡ Gaza's Health Ministry has announced a new death toll of 35,709, with 79,990 others wounded, since Oct. 7 in the enclave, according to AFP and Reuters.

17:06 Beirut Time

Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir filmed himself today at the site of al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem as a number of European countries announced their recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Accompanied by armed guards, the far-right Israeli leader launched into a diatribe, accusing these countries of backing "murderers, kidnappers and persecutors," before saying that he would not accept "any capitulation [by Hamas] that includes a declaration of a Palestinian state." He also declared that the site of the al-Aqsa mosque "belongs only to the State of Israel."

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967 and annexed since 1980. Palestinians have long sought to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future state.

16:54 Beirut Time

The Merom HaGilil Regional Council, which is a regional council in the northern Galilee area of northern Israel, reported that an anti-tank missile "hit a house in Avivim and that there was damage caused and a fire that broke out," Haaretz reports. No casualties were reported.

16:41 Beirut Time

The Israeli army announced on X that the recent rocket sirens in northern Israel were "false alarms."

15:54 Beirut Time

Here are the latest updates from the Lebanese-Israeli border:

* Israeli warplanes carried out an airstrike on the village of Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil district), a security source told our correspondent in the south. This is the third raid today to target the village.

* Hezbollah announced that it fired artillery shells on the Israeli site of "Sadeh," facing the Lebanese villages of Maroun al-Ras and Yaroun, at 12 p.m.

* Rocket sirens sounded in northern Israel, according to Haaretz.

15:23 Beirut Time

14:54 Beirut Time

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir entered al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem today, as a number of European countries announce their recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Middle East Eye reports that Ben-Gvir “stormed” the complex flanked by heavily armed Israeli forces. In a video taken from the mosque’s courtyard, the far-right minister says the site “belongs only to the State of Israel.”

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967 and annexed since 1980. Palestinians have long sought East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

14:24 Beirut Time

Here's what's been happening at the Lebanese-Israeli border in the past hour:

• Israeli warplanes targeted a house in the village of Alma al-Shaab (Sour district) without causing casualties, a security source told L'Orient Today. A fire broke out where the missile struck.

• An Israeli drone and Israeli warplanes carried out two raids on an area near the school of the village of Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil), according to a security source.

• According to residents' testimonies relayed by our correspondent in the South, Israeli artillery shelling targeted the village of Houla (Marjayoun).

14:23 Beirut Time

The conditions to officially recognize Palestine as a state have not yet been met, France's foreign minister said, cited by Reuters, after a group of other European states announced such a move in the hope that this will help bring peace to the region.

"This is not just a symbolic issue or a question of political positioning, but a diplomatic tool in the service of the solution of two States living side by side in peace and security," Stephane Sejourne said in a statement, adding: "France does not consider that the conditions have yet been met for this decision to have a real impact on this process."

14:04 Beirut Time

Updates from southern Lebanon:

• According to local residents, Israeli fighter jets bombed Mais al-Jabal, in Marjayoun district.

• Israeli artillery fire targeted an area between Markaba and Rab al-Talatine, also in Marjayoun district, causing fire to break out in a dry grassy field, according to local residents. Firefighting teams from the Amal-affiliated al-Risala Scouts said in a statement that they had helped to extinguish the fire, which was caused by white phosphorus bombs.

13:28 Beirut Time

Members of Government and MPs applaud as Spain's Prime Minister delivers a speech to announce that Spain will recognize Palestine as a state on May 28, at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on May 22, 2024. (Credit: Thomas Coex/AFP)

13:27 Beirut Time

Palestinians inspect the damage following Israeli bombardment early on May 22, 2024 on the town of al-Zawaida in the Deir al-Balah governorate in central Gaza, where many civilians from other parts of the besieged strip had taken refuge. (Credit: Bas

12:30 Beirut Time

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich stated that he will no longer transfer tax funds to the Palestinian Authority, and called on Netanyahu to establish an Israeli settlement in the West Bank "for every country that unilaterally recognizes a Palestinian state"; amid announcements by several European countries of their intention to do so, Haaretz reports.

In an appeal to Netanyahu, Smotrich said he would not transfer the tax funds "until further notice." Additionally, he announced his intention to cancel the arrangement that transfers responsibility for the Palestinian Authority's tax funds to Norway."Norway was the first to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state today, and it cannot be a partner in anything related to [the Levant] and [Israel and Palestine]," he stated.

Smotrich also demanded what he termed "punitive measures" from Netanyahu, including: promoting the construction of tens of thousands of housing units in the West Bank; establishing a settlement "for every country that unilaterally recognizes a Palestinian state"; canceling the Norwegian arrangement; promoting a government decision to strengthen settlements in the West Bank; and revoking the VIP permits of Palestinian Authority officials at crossings, alongside imposing economic sanctions on them and their families.

12:04 Beirut Time

Palestinians evacuate Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli strike in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2024. (Credit: Osama Abu Rabee/Reuters)

Attacks on medics and health facilities in war zones jumped in 2023 to the highest level since records began 11 years ago, a group of non-governmental organizations have announced, cited by Reuters. Nearly half of the attacks have been attributed to governments and state forces.

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, composed of 40 groups including medical charities, reported 2,562 incidents of violence or obstructions including arrests, killings and kidnappings of doctors and strikes across hospitals in 30 conflicts including Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan.

The coalition attributed 489 incidents in Gaza last year to Israeli forces, including medic deaths or injuries and strikes or raids on hospitals. No responsibility had been established in seven other cases, including the deaths of six Israeli military medics killed in fighting in separate incidents between October and December, and the bombing of the al-Ahli Hospital on Oct. 17, 2023, it said.

👉 Read the full report here. 

11:19 Beirut Time

A recent Politico report outlines criticism by top US officials of Israel’s war on Gaza, citing officials as saying that it has failed to hold parts of Gaza after clearing them, has turned the civilian population and the rest of the world against it with widespread bombing and inadequate humanitarian aid, and enabled Hamas to recruit more fighters.

According to US intelligence, cited by Politico, Hamas’ communication and military ability may have been degraded by the seven months of relentless bombing and warfare, but only 30 to 35 percent of its fighters have been killed and 65 percent of its tunnels are still intact. Israel estimated prior to Oct. 7 that the group had a force of about 30,000 fighters.

Israel claimed to have killed one-third of Hamas fighters back in February, a figure that was brought into question by several fact-checking teams, including BBC verify.

Biden officials are also concerned that Hamas has been able to recruit thousands of new fighters since fighting began, contributing to the group’s ability to withstand the Israeli offensive.

11:02 Beirut Time

Norway has also announced its recognition of the State of Palestine, similarly bringing the decision will officially come into effect on May 28.

"In the middle of a war, with tens of thousands of dead and injured, we must keep alive the only thing that can provide a safe home for both Israelis and Palestinians: two states that can live in peace with each other," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a press conference this morning, cited in a Reuters report.

Non-EU member Norway has long said it would recognize Palestine as a country only if it could have a positive impact on the peace process, in step with what the United States has said on the issue. The Nordic country has sought to help broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians on several occasions in recent decades.

10:56 Beirut Time

Hezbollah has announced the death of two of its fighters: Mohammad Ali Bou Taam, born in 2000 and originally from the village of Taybeh, in southern Lebanon, and Ali Hassan Sultan, born in 1991 and originally from Souaneh, also in the South.

According to information from our correspondent in the region, these are the two victims killed in the overnight strike on a house in Odaisseh, in Marjayoun district.

This brings the total number of Hezbollah members killed by Israel in Lebanon and Syria since Oct. 8 to 312. In Lebanon, 414 people have been killed since the start of cross-border fighting. 

10:41 Beirut Time

Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz has ordered the "immediate recall" of the Israeli ambassadors to Ireland and Norway, citing the countries' decision to recognize a Palestinian state.

"I'm sending today a clear message," said Katz, cited in a Haaretz report. "Israel won't overlook those who undercut its sovereignty and endanger its security."

The minister warned that the countries' "rash decisions" will have "other dire consequences," adding that similar steps will be taken if Spain follows suit.

10:37 Beirut Time

Ireland has officially announced its recognition of the State of Palestine, joining 143 official UN member states that have already done so. The decision will formally take effect on May 28.

“We have been considering for decades, I recall, in our Parliament, the issue of the recognition of the State of Palestine and for many decades we have said ‘Now is not the right moment, now is not the right time,’ but today is the right time and an important time for us to do that,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris told reporters during a joint press conference with Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin, currently underway.

Martin called for a two-state solution along 1967 borders with Palestine and Israel “living side-by-side in peace,” with Jerusalem serving as the capital of both states.

“It’s important that our decision to recognize Palestine is not misrepresented as a hostile act against the State of Israel,” Martin said. “We unequivocally support the right of the State of Israel to exist just as we unequivocally support the right of Palestine to exist and the right of the Palestinian people to peaceful self-determination.”

09:40 Beirut Time

Spain is also poised to recognize the State of Palestine. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is due to address the Congress of Deputies today on the matter.  Last week, he had indicated that would announce the date of Madrid's recognition of a Palestinian state today.

In March, Sánchez issued a joint communiqué with the heads of government of Ireland, Slovenia and Malta, about their interest in joining the 143 (out of a total 193) member states of the United Nations that recognize Palestine as a state.

👉 What does recognizing a Palestinian state imply? Read Amelie Zaccour's piece on the matter here.

09:33 Beirut Time

Good morning and welcome to today's live coverage of the war on Gaza and its repercussions in the region, notably in southern Lebanon, where over 400 people have been killed, the majority fighters, in cross-border fighting between Hezbollah and Israel.

A number of European countries are preparing to announce their intentions to recognize a Palestinian state later today. Ireland will be among those announcing its decision, Irish media reported overnight, in a press conference scheduled for 8 a.m. local time (10 a.m. Beirut time.)

🔴 Catch up on yesterday's live coverage here. 👈

☕ Read the Morning Brief here. 👈