Damage following an Israeli strike on Naqoura, southern Lebanon, on June 3, 2024. (Photo sent by residents to our correspondent Mountasser Abdallah)


Smotrich calls on Israel to occupy southern Lebanon and 'severely damage' Beirut: Day 241 of the Gaza war

What you need to know

Israeli strikes near a school in southern Lebanon caused "panic" among students.

Sixteen pro-Iranian fighters were killed by an Israeli strike near Aleppo.

Khamenei congratulates Hamas on the Oct. 7 attack.

22:28 Beirut Time

Thanks for following our live coverage of the Gaza war and its parallel war between Hezbollah and Israel along the Lebanese-Israeli border.  We'll be back tomorrow morning with more news updates and analysis. Goodnight!

22:26 Beirut Time

This combination of pictures taken and created on June 3, 2024, shows from top left to bottom right the moments before and after an Israeli air strike targeted a residential building in the city of Bureij, in the central Gaza Strip. (Credit: Bashar T

22:25 Beirut Time

Palestinians inspect the damage to a house after it was hit by an Israeli strike in al-Bureij camp in the central Gaza Strip on June 3, 2024. (Credit: Bashar Taleb/AFP)

21:54 Beirut Time

⚡ Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for Israel to occupy southern Lebanon and "severely damage" Beirut, in comments given to the press following a parliament session during which the Israeli government discussed the latest cease-fire proposal.

"The situation in the North is deteriorating," Smotrich said, cited by Israeli media. "We need to move the security zone from Israeli territory in Galilee to southern Lebanon, including a ground invasion."

He called for "the occupation of the territory and the removal of Hezbollah terrorists and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese — among whom Hezbollah is hiding, beyond the Litani River — combined with a deadly attack on all Lebanese infrastructures, the destruction of Hezbollah's centers of gravity and severe damage to the capital of terrorism in Beirut."

"We need to create a situation in which Lebanon is faced, for the next twenty years, with efforts to rebuild what remains after the blow inflicted on it, and not with waging terror against the State of Israel," said Smotrich, who leads the far-right Religious Zionism party, which is part of Netanyahu’s coalition government.

20:36 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted there were gaps between the proposal announced by US President Joe Biden on Friday and Israel’s official stance on the war — while the White House asserted the opposite.

Netanyahu told a Knesset meeting that his military could stop the war for six weeks, but would not end it permanently. “Iran and all of our enemies are watching to see if we capitulate,” the Israeli news outlet Channel 12 cited him as saying. “The proposal that Biden presented is incomplete,” he reportedly told members of parliament.

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, on the other hand, told reporters that the offer detailed by Biden was indeed an Israeli proposal, as confirmed by Netanyahu’s foreign policy adviser to the Times of London. “As for the gaps, I don’t know what gaps you’re referring to,” he said.

👉 Read the full report here.

19:59 Beirut Time

Members of the al-Risala Scouts, a Civil Defense and health association affiliated with the Amal Movement, work to extinguish a fire ignited by Israeli white phosphorus bombardment in Adaissed and Markaba, in Marjayoun district. (Photo sent by al-Ris

Hezbollah has announced the death of one of its fighters, Mohammad Shkeir, born in 1996 and originally from Ghazieh, near Saida. He succumbed to his injuries sustained during an Israeli airstrike on Naqoura this afternoon, which also killed another member of the party. His death brings the total number of Hezbollah members killed since Oct. 8 in Lebanon and Syria to 329, according to our count.

19:38 Beirut Time

US President Biden is expected to talk today by phone with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, to discuss the cease-fire deal he announced during a Friday speech at the White House, Axios reports, citing two sources family with the matter.

These sources say Biden is hoping Qatar will put the necessary pressure on Hamas to have it agree to the proposal, which the president said Israel had already approved. This would allow the negotiation process to move forward into settling the deal’s details.

The Israeli war Cabinet convened last night, concluding with the decision to wait for Hamas' response to Israel's proposal, a senior Israeli official told Axios.

A Hamas delegation is expected to arrive in Cairo tomorrow to discuss the proposal with Egyptian and Qatari mediators, but a source privy to the talks says Hamas has already “responded positively.” Axios reporter Barak Ravid, posting the information on his X account, says senior Israeli officials expect that Hamas' response will be "yes, but…”

19:10 Beirut Time

Updates from southern Lebanon:

• Residents reported Israeli artillery shelling targeting the outskirts of Kfar Hammam and Helta, both located in Hasbaya district.

• Israeli artillery targeted the southern town of Naqoura, in Sour district, twice in a row, according to local residents.

19:00 Beirut Time

⚡ Hezbollah announced the death of Ali Hussein Sabra, born in 1975 in Beirut and a resident of Babliyeh, Sour district. The party did not provide details on where he was killed. Times of Israel cited an Israeli army statement claiming to have killed Sabra while he was driving near the southern Lebanese village of Kauthariyet al-Rez, in Saida district this afternoon.

Earlier this afternoon, Hezbollah announced having carried out an attack on northern Israel in retaliation for an "assassination" of a party member at this same location.

Sabra's death brings the total number of Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strikes since Oct. 8 to 328, in both Lebanon and Syria.

In addition, the person wounded in the Israeli attack on Naqoura earlier this afternoon has succumbed to his injuries, according to residents and a security source. This attack had already killed a Hezbollah fighter, Hussein Nassereddine.

18:49 Beirut Time

Updates from the Lebanese-Israeli border:

• The Israeli army announced that about 30 rockets were launched from Lebanon into the northern Golan Heights and exploded in an open area.

Haaretz reported that earlier today, an explosive drone that crossed from Lebanon was intercepted, and another drone exploded in an open area in Israel.

• A separate drone that crossed from Lebanon exploded in Metula, and the Air Force attacked “a suspicious target” that crossed over the border from Lebanon, according to Haaretz. The Israeli army reported that there were no casualties in any of the incidents.

18:45 Beirut Time

The Israeli army said it carried out an airstrike against a vehicle in southern Lebanon this morning, targeting and killing a Hezbollah member, Hussein Sabra, while he was driving near the southern Lebanese village of Kauthariyet al-Rez, in Saida district.

According to the Israeli army, cited by the Times of Israel, Sabra was a member of Hezbollah’s force build-up unit and was involved in efforts to improve Hezbollah’s air defense unit, by equipping it with new means.

Hezbollah has not announced Sabra’s death, which was also reported by the state-run National News Agency. Only one death has been reported today, according to information obtained by L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the South — a Hezbollah fighter, Hussein Nassereddine, who was killed today by an Israeli strike in Naqoura. His exact role in the party was not disclosed.

18:02 Beirut Time

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to show National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir the draft text of the cease-fire proposal announced by US President Joe Biden during a surprise White House address on Friday.

According to a report from the Jerusalem Post, Ben-Gvir claims that Netanyahu, after promising to show him the draft proposal on Saturday night, reneged on his promise and that National Security Council head Tzahi Hanegby told him that the text didn’t even exist.

During a speech given prior to his party’s weekly faction meeting, Ben-Gvir said that if Netanyahu moves forward with the cease-fire deal without showing him the text, he will pull his party from the coalition.

17:53 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced the death of one of its fighters, Ahmed Nassereddine, born in 1980 in the southern town of Abbasieh, in Sour district. According to our correspondent, Nassereddine was killed earlier today in the Israeli strike on Naqoura, also in Sour district. This raises the total number of Hezbollah members killed in Lebanon and Syria since Oct. 8 to 327.

17:48 Beirut Time

Further updates from southern Lebanon:

• Israeli artillery targeted a house in the village of Shebaa, in Hasbaya district. Ambulances were dispatched to the site of the strike.

• Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a 2 p.m. one-way drone attack on the Israeli town of Metula, located opposite the Lebanese town of Khiam, in Marjayoun district, saying the strike caused “direct casualties.”

• Hezbollah released a statement saying it attacked the coastal town of Liman, in northern Israel, using one-way drones that “exploded upon hitting the ground, despite the enemy’s attempts to intercept them with Iron Dome missiles.” The party claims some drones fell in Nahariya, further south of Liman, causing damage there.

• Hezbollah also claimed responsibility for an attack on Israeli artillery positions in Za'oura, northern Israel, using dozens of Katyusha missiles.

• Israeli aircraft broke the sound barrier in Saida, inciting fear among residents.

17:39 Beirut Time

Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for a one-way drone attack on the command headquarters of the Israeli army's Galilee Formation, also known as the 91st Division, in Dishon, near Malkiya in northern Israel. The party said it targeted the headquarters' main building as well as the "positions of Israeli officers and soldiers," and claims that the attack caused deaths and injuries, and a fire.

Hezbollah said the attack was carried out in retaliation for "the assassination" of a member of Hezbollah in an Israeli attack in Zrarieh, around noon today, referring to the strike on a car in Kaoutariyet al-Rizz, Saida district. According to L'Orient Today's correspondent, one person was injured in the strike, and there has been no confirmation of a death.

16:56 Beirut Time

More than a hundred people protested in front of the Ministry of Public Health in Beirut today in solidarity with hospitals and medical staff in southern Lebanon. Last week, an Israeli airstrike targeted the entrance of the Salah Ghandour hospital in Bint Jbeil, killing two civilians.

Israel has repeatedly targeted hospitals, health centers, and paramedics throughout the war, killing 20 medics, many of whom belonged to health associations affiliated with Hezbollah and other political groups.

Demonstrators included caretaker Health Minister Firas Abiad, Chairman of the Parliamentary Health Committee Bilal Abdallah, the president of the syndicate of Hospitals Sleiman Haroun, members of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), Lebanese Civil Defense, and doctors.

Despite the risks, hospitals near the Lebanese-Israeli border are still working, a Health Ministry official told L’Orient Today, and "have not closed one day" since the start of the fighting.

👉 Read the full report here.

16:01 Beirut Time

The Israeli army has launched a criminal investigation into the deaths of 48 Palestinians from Gaza while being held in Israeli prisons, Haaretz reports.

Israeli military police have opened, since the beginning of the war, 70 criminal investigations involving soldiers’ conduct, the army announced. Among the cases opened were those that involved suspected looting, weapons theft, violence, and insubordination, according to the Haaretz report.

Of the 48 deaths being investigated, 36 of them occurred at Sdi Teiman military detention center. Two Palestinians died en route to the facility, two were sent to Anatot, one died while detained in Gaza and one case involved a woman who approached the Gaza border fence.

15:46 Beirut Time

Updates from the Lebanese-Israeli border:

• Hezbollah announced that its fighters targeted Israeli soldiers at 1:35 p.m. deployed in Khallet Warda, which is located opposite the southern Lebanese town of Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil district), using rockets and "inflicting direct hits."

• Hezbollah also targeted surveillance equipment at the Israeli “Malakia” site, which faces the southern Lebanese town of Houla, in the Marjayoun district, using artillery shells, sometime before noon and “inflicting direct hits."

14:22 Beirut Time

Gaza's Health Ministry announced that 36,479 people have been killed in the enclave in the Israeli offensive on the enclave. This new death toll includes at least 40 people who were killed in the last 24 hours.

The ministry also announced that 82,777 have been injured since the start of the war on Oct. 7.

13:51 Beirut Time

Israel bombed Maydoun, in the western Bekaa, according to local residents. Shortly afterward, an Israeli jet launching incendiary balloons broke the sound barrier in the same region.

Incendiary balloons are balloons containing gas and an explosive, which are released with the intention that the wind will carry the bomb to its target.

13:31 Beirut Time

Israeli aircraft also bombed Jabal Rihan and Aaichieh (Jezzine). At a school close to the bombed area, pupils were “panic-stricken,” according to the school's headmistress, Amal Wahab. “Unfortunately, this has become part of our daily life and the children have to live in fear.”

On Jan. 25, the same school had to be evacuated after nearby Israeli strikes. 

13:30 Beirut Time

Update on the situation in southern Lebanon:

- Following the drone strike reported earlier on a car in Kaouthariyet el-Rezz (Saida), one person was injured, a security source said. His identity is not yet known. Rescue workers from the Amal-affiliated Civil Defense were dispatched to the scene and transported the wounded man to a hospital in the city, according to a statement from the association.

- Israeli fighter jets bombed the Jabbour Heights in Iqlim al-Touffah, a security source said. 

13:29 Beirut Time

Four bodies were pulled from two bombed houses in Zeitoun, a district of northern Gaza City, according to the civil defense.

The Israeli army announced that it had struck “more than 50 targets” across the Gaza Strip the previous day, and was carrying out “targeted operations in the Rafah area.”

13:22 Beirut Time

In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire targeted Rafah, mainly the Tal al-Sultan area in the west of the city, according to one witness. Another witness reported intense fighting in the east of Khan Younis, a few kilometers away.

13:20 Beirut Time

Egypt has clearly rejected the Israeli presence at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, quoted by Reuters.

“It is difficult for the Rafah crossing to continue operating without a Palestinian administration,” he said at a press conference with his Spanish counterpart in Madrid.

12:11 Beirut Time

A car was targeted by an Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon, in the area of Kaouthariet al-Rezz (Saida) witnesses report. It was not yet clear whether this strike caused any casualties.

An Israeli drone also bombed Aita al-Shaab (Bint Jbeil), according to local residents, who said that the strike targeted an area near the local technical school. 

11:48 Beirut Time

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that Israel is “on the path” to “destruction,” praising Hamas for carrying out the deadly Oct. 7 attack, which “came at the right time.”

The Oct. 7 attack “was a decisive blow to the Zionist regime” and set it “on the path that will lead to the destruction of the regime,” said the Iranian head of state during a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. It “came at the right time,” he added. “Of course, I can't pretend that its designers knew what a great job they were doing. But the fact is that they did,” he said.

11:39 Beirut Time

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a “guided missile strike” on an Israeli soldier patrol near the “Jabal Adather” position, opposite the Lebanese town of Rmaish (Bint Jbeil). This strike, according to the party, “destroyed a military vehicle, which caught fire” and caused “deaths and injuries.”

11:38 Beirut Time

The situation in southern Lebanon since early morning:

- Four Israeli artillery shells hit the outskirts of Naqoura (Sour).

- Israeli aircraft twice bombed the outskirts of Hanin (Bint Jbeil), targeting a house in particular.

- An aerial bombardment also targeted the Aramta Heights, near Jabal Rihan (Jezzine). 

11:30 Beirut Time

Sixteen members of pro-Iranian groups were killed in an Israeli strike that targeted a factory in Hayyan, near Aleppo in northern Syria, overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes targeting the army of Bashar al-Assad's regime and the pro-Iranian groups based there and supporting it.

11:22 Beirut Time

The Maldives will ban Israelis from entering its territory, the president's office announced yesterday, announcing a national action in “solidarity with Palestine.”

The head of state of this Indian Ocean archipelago, Mohammad Muizzu, has “decided to impose a ban on Israeli passports,” a spokesperson said in a statement, without giving details of when the ban will take effect. President Muizzu also announced a national fund-raising campaign entitled “Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine.”

11:04 Beirut Time

South Lebanese villages targeted by Israeli strikes last evening and overnight:

- At 7 p.m.: Artillery fire targeted Odaisseh (Marjayoun).

- At 1:30 a.m.: Alma al-Shaab (Sour) was targeted by artillery shells.

- 3 a.m.: Israeli aircraft bombed Khiam (Marjayoun). 

11:02 Beirut Time

Throughout the night, Hezbollah also claimed responsibility for strikes on Israeli positions. Its fighters struck, according to statements issued by the party:

- Israeli soldiers around the “Ramtha” position on the disputed Kfar Shouba Heights. The strike was carried out using “missiles.”

- The “Samakasite, also on the Kfarchouba heights.

- The “Zebdineposition, in the disputed Shebaa farms.

- In response to the strike on Khiam, missiles were fired at Metulla, a town in northern Israel.

10:29 Beirut Time

On social networks, activists have posted photos of large tracts of land in flames in the Odaisseh region, accusing Israel of carrying out an “ecocide.”

According to the definition by the Citizens' Climate Convention, ecocide is “any action that has caused serious ecological damage by participating in the manifest and significant overstepping of planetary limits, committed with knowledge of the consequences that would result and that could not be ignored.”

You can read more about fires in southern Lebanon here.

10:27 Beirut Time

In southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has opened a “support front” to Hamas and Gaza, the night was marked by numerous exchanges of fire and a series of forest fires resulting from Israeli attacks.

- The Civil Defense of the Islamic Mission Scouts (affiliated with the Amal movement) said it had extinguished fires in the localities of Deir Siriane, Taybeh and Odaisseh (Marjayoun). Fires also broke out around Yarine (Sour), in the Khiam area, Houla (Marjayoun) and Kounin (Bint Jbeil), according to information from L'Orient Today's correspondent in the South.

- According to a press release from the Islamic Health Committee (affiliated with Hezbollah), the fire in Houla was caused by “artillery fire and white phosphorus bombs.” According to the organization, the team was targeted by artillery fire, which slowed down its operations.

- The Lebanese Civil Defense said it had extinguished a fire in Ramieh (Bint Jbeil).

10:03 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Hamas to accept Israel's plan for a cease-fire in Gaza. “The Secretary of State welcomed Israel's willingness to reach an agreement and said it is Hamas's responsibility to accept it,” said his spokesman, Matthew Miller, after a phone call from Blinken to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The two officials discussed “the proposal to achieve a full cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of the Hamas hostages, according to Miller.

10:02 Beirut Time

In the north of the territory, three Palestinians were killed, including a child, in a bombardment of Gaza City, according to a hospital source. In the center, the areas of Deir al-Balah, Bureij and Nousseirat were targeted by strikes.

10:01 Beirut Time

Yesterday, witnesses told AFP they had seen Israeli military vehicles in western and central Rafah. They reported explosions, fighting and continuous firing from drones and Apache helicopters. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it was receiving calls for help from civilians, but added that the shelling was making access to Rafah “very difficult.”

10:00 Beirut Time

In Gaza, despite protests from the international community, the Israeli army is continuing its offensive in Rafah, a town on the border with Egypt in the south of the Palestinian territory, which it claims is designed to destroy the last battalions of the Islamist movement.

10:00 Beirut Time

Deadly Israeli bombardments continued to target Gaza after almost eight months of war.

In all, at least 19 people died in strikes and gunfire during the night, including six in the Bureij refugee camp and ten in the Armadhiya sector, near Khan Younis, according to medical sources.

08:58 Beirut Time

Be sure to read the Morning Brief so that you are caught up with what happened over the weekend and know what to expect today.

Morning Brief

Deadly weekend in southern Lebanon and a Gaza cease-fire proposal: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

08:57 Beirut Time

Good morning!

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