Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Odaisseh on June 25, 2024. (Credit: Rabih Daher/AFP)


A conflict between Hezbollah and Israel 'could easily become a regional war,' warns Washington: Day 263 of the Gaza war

What you need to know

The Canadian government has called on its citizens to leave Lebanon as quickly as possible "while they can."

A "miscalculation" could provoke a full-scale war between Hezbollah and Israel, warns the head of German diplomacy.

Ten members of Ismail Haniyeh's family were killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza City.

21:26 Beirut Time

Thank you for joining us for today's live coverage of the Gaza war. Make sure to join us again tomorrow for the latest updates.

21:25 Beirut Time

"If Israel thinks that hurting my family members will change my position, it is deluding itself," said Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, according to Haaretz.

Regarding ceasefire negotiations and the release of hostages, Haniyeh said "Hamas has shown great flexibility and accepted all ceasefire proposals on condition that the war ends and the Israeli army withdraws from the Gaza Strip.

"We remain true to our principles, and any agreement must include a total cease-fire," he added.

21:00 Beirut Time

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday that Israel would prefer a diplomatic resolution to the conflict with Hezbollah, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said today.

20:58 Beirut Time

The deputy director of the press office of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Candice Ardell, told the state-run National News Agency (NNA) that "earlier today, three UNIFIL contractors who were returning home from the agency's headquarters in the western sector of the town of Shamaa, were hit by gunfire on their vehicle."

"There were no serious injuries," she added. "We reiterate our condemnation of any attack on civilians or any action that endangers civilian lives," Ardell added.

19:08 Beirut Time

Hezbollah announced that they attacked at 6:30 p.m. the Israeli army positions in Zebdine and Ramtha in the disputed areas of Shebaa Farm and Kfar Shuba Hills respectively.

18:57 Beirut Time

⚡ "Another war between Israel and Hezbollah could easily become a regional war, with disastrous consequences for the Middle East," said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he received his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, at the Pentagon, as reported by AFP.

Read more here.

18:09 Beirut Time

Canada urges citizens to leave Lebanon "while they can," AFP reports.

17:49 Beirut Time

Israeli Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar held a joint talk with senior Air Force and regional brigade commanders in the Military Northern Command, according to a post on X by Israeli military's spokesperson Avichay Adraee.

The commanders "followed up on the continued protection of northern communities, the process of raising readiness for an attack in Lebanon, and the cooperation between the Northern Command and the Air Force," the post read.

Read more here.

16:42 Beirut Time

Here are the latest updates in southern Lebanon:

* The Israeli army launched air and drone strikes on the village of Khiam in the Marjayoun district, destroying a house on its western side with no casualties being recorded yet, residents told L'Orient Today’s correspondent in the area.

* Hezbollah announced that in retaliation to the Israeli attack on the Bekaa yesterday, they attacked with exploding drones an Israeli military base facing the southern village of Aitaroun in the Bint Jbeil district. The party claimed to have caused casualties and a fire to erupt in the base.

* Hezbollah also announced that it attacked at around 3 p.m. the Israeli positions of Bayad Blida and Barka Risha facing the Lebanese villages of Blida (Marjayoun district) and Dhaira (Sour district) respectively.

16:35 Beirut Time

Ten children lose a leg or two in the Gaza Strip on average every day, said Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in the region (UNRWA), at a press conference in Geneva, reports AFP.

"Ten a day means around 2,000 children after more than 260 days of this brutal war," he continued, pointing out that the figure does not take into account children who lose an arm or a hand.

"We also know most of the time how amputations are carried out in quite horrific conditions and sometimes without any kind of anesthesia, and this also applies to children," he stressed.

Philippe Lazzarini's full statement can be found here

15:43 Beirut Time

Here are the latest developments on the ground in Gaza, according to AFP:

- The Israeli army stated that it struck two sites, which it claimed were used by Hamas in Shati and Daraj Tuffah, in northern Gaza. The army added that they were targeting fighters allegedly operating "in schools," accusing them of "being involved in holding hostages" and of taking part in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

- According to an AFP correspondent, an Israeli strike killed five people, including two children, near Gaza City's al-Shifa Hospital.

- In the South of the strip, two Israeli airstrikes targeted the center of Rafah while military vehicles opened fire. Also, Israeli shelling and tank fire targeted western districts, bordering Egypt, according to witnesses. 

15:29 Beirut Time

The Israeli army confirmed yesterday evening the death of a sergeant major and a tracker in the Israeli army’s Gaza division, who was killed and his body taken hostage on Oct. 7, reported Haaretz.

This brings the number of dead hostages to 42, with 115 still alive in Gaza, according to AFP’s numbers.

15:25 Beirut Time

The United Nations aid agency for Palestinian refugees in the region (UNRWA) has the money it needs for its operations "until the end of August", said its head, Philippe Lazzarini, reported AFP.

UNRWA, which plays a crucial role in assisting the population of Gaza, faced a significant funding reduction after Israel accused a few of its 13,000 employees in the territory of involvement in the Hamas attack on Israeli territory on Oct. 7.

14:56 Beirut Time

Around 495,000 people — around 22% of the population — are suffering from "catastrophic" hunger in Gaza, with a high risk of famine, assessed a UN-backed report today, reported AFP. 

According to the report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), on which UN agencies based their work, its March warning of imminent famine in the north of the Palestinian territory had not materialized, due to a slight improvement in access to aid — "However, the situation in Gaza remains catastrophic and there is a high and sustained risk of famine across the whole Gaza Strip," the report said, warning against any complacency. 

14:42 Beirut Time

The Gaza Health Ministry announced today a new death toll of 37,658 since the start of the war more than eight months ago, reported AFP.

At least 32 people have been killed in the last 24 hours, it said in a statement, adding that 86,237 people had been wounded in the strip since Oct. 7.

14:40 Beirut Time

Here are the latest updates from the South Lebanon- Israel border in the past hour:

- The Israeli army shelled the northern and eastern outskirts of Khiam and Blida, both in the Marjayoun district, residents of the villages told L'Orient Today.

- First responders from the Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Health Committee reported extinguishing fires in Dhaira (Sour) caused by flammable material thrown by the Israeli army. They noted that this area is considered one of "the most important natural areas along the border," and added that "the enemy is seeking to put on fire and destroy its green areas since the beginning of the war in October."

- The Israeli army also shelled Wadi Hamoul, Ain al-Zarqa, and Labbouneh, all in the Sour district, residents of the villages told L'Orient Today

13:18 Beirut Time

Hochstein urged indirect negotiations between Hezbollah and Israel to avoid further escalation, Axios reported. 

In their visit to Washington, the Israeli delegation assured Biden’s top aides that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “is not interested in a war with Hezbollah and prefers a diplomatic solution,” two U.S. officials said.

The U.S. reiterated support support for Israel in case of war initiated by Hezbollah aligning with Hamas interests. A U.S. official stated, "If there's a war in Lebanon because Hezbollah decides to attach itself to Hamas' leader Yahya Sinwar's interests, the U.S. will fully support Israel,” Axios reported.  

13:15 Beirut Time

“U.S. warned Hezbollah it can’t hold Israel back if escalation continues,” stated an Axios report.

During his visit to Beirut last week, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein warned Lebanese officials that Hezbollah’s belief in U.S. control over Israel is mistaken. 

According to a U.S. official, an Israeli official and a Western diplomat, Hochstein conveyed that escalating tensions could lead to Israel invading Lebanon, emphasizing that “Hezbollah is wrong to think the U.S. would be able to stop Israel from invading Lebanon,” if the situation on the border continues to escalate." 

The Axios report stated that during his meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut, Hochsteim asked Berri to pass a message to Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, that “his assumption that the U.S. controls Israel is wrong.”

13:10 Beirut Time

Here are the latest developments on the southern Lebanese-Israeli border:

- An Israeli exploding drone attacked the main square of Taybeh (Marjayoun)  — no casualties have been reported, residents told L'Orient Today.

- The Israeli army gun-fire targeted a Syrian farmer's truck in the area of Wazani (Hasbaya), a security source told L'Orient Today. The farmer survived the attack

12:30 Beirut Time

Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the conscription of previously exempt ultra-Orthodox students in Talmudic schools, amid debates in Parliament and within the government on the issue, AFP reported.

"The executive does not have the authority to order that the military service law not be applied to yeshiva [Talmudic school] students in the absence of an adequate legal framework. Without anchoring this exemption in a legal framework, the state must act to impose the law," the court ruled.

12:23 Beirut Time

Israel will spend the next few weeks trying to resolve the conflict with Hezbollah and prefers a diplomatic solution to clashes along the Blue Line, Israel's national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said today, according to Reuters.

Hanegbi added that Israel is discussing with Washington a possible joint effort by the U.S., Europe, and some Arab countries to find a replacement for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

12:19 Beirut Time

⚡The Civil Defense in Gaza has announced the deaths of 10 family members of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, killed in an Israeli army strike on a refugee camp in Gaza City, AFP reported.

"Several martyrs are still under the rubble," said civil defense spokesman Mahmoud Bassal, adding that the sister of Hamas leader Zahr Haniyeh was among those killed.

12:14 Beirut Time

Differences between Israel and the United States over the post-war situation in Gaza remain significant.

"The Palestinian Authority must be part of the 'day after' in the Gaza Strip," US Ambassador Jacob Lew said yesterday, emphasizing the need for a "civilian administration" in the war-torn territory. Washington is calling for reforms to Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, in the occupied West Bank, to enable it to play a key role in Gaza's political reconstruction and for a roadmap toward recognizing a Palestinian state.

However, Netanyahu hinted that Israel would retain "military control" of Gaza for the foreseeable future — while expressing a desire for the eventual creation of a civilian administration run by "Palestinians," without involving the Palestinian Authority in a political role in Gaza.

12:08 Beirut Time

Israel continued bombarding Gaza as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the "intense" phase of fighting with Hamas was nearing its end.

Early today, the Palestinian Civil Defense reported 13 deaths from Israeli strikes in Gaza City. Witnesses also reported shelling in Rafah, near the Egyptian borders, where Israel launched a ground operation in early May.

12:01 Beirut Time

Along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel, the situation was relatively calm overnight.

- Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a strike against "a building used by soldiers" in Menara, opposite Houla and Mais al-Jabal, in Marjayoun district. The strike was launched "in retaliation for Israeli attacks" in Maroun al-Ras and Aitaroun. The strikes caused no casualties.

- Israeli artillery launched strikes on Mais el-Jabal and Houla (Marjayoun).

12:00 Beirut Time

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed deep concern today over reports of an attempted murder by drowning of a Palestinian-American child in Texas in May, AFP reported. 

"No child should ever suffer a violent assault," he stated on his official X account.

Local media and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported that a 42-year-old woman was arrested on May 19 after an assault at a swimming pool in an apartment complex in Euless, a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth.

After asking a hijab-wearing mother if the 3-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy in the pool were her children, the woman hurled racial slurs at her and attempted to drag the children into the deep end of the pool with apparent intent to drown them.

The boy managed to fight back, while the girl was rescued by a man who responded to calls for help from witnesses, local media reported. 

11:57 Beirut Time

Families of those killed in the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7 filed a complaint today against UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in the region, alleging it contributed to the unprecedented massacre, AFP reports.

The lawsuit alleges that "UNRWA... spent over a decade prior to the October 7 Attack helping Hamas build up the terror infrastructure and personnel that were necessary to carry out the October 7 Attack." They believe that the agency "knowingly provided Hamas with the US dollars in cash that it needed to pay smugglers for weapons, explosives, and other terror materiel."

The complaint was filed in New York, headquarters of the UN and where UNRWA uses banking facilities, according to the same court documents. 

11:55 Beirut Time

French President Emmanuel Macron and King Abdullah II of Jordan urged Israel yesterday to remove all land-based restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the French presidency stated, according to AFP.

They emphasized the urgent need for an immediate and sustainable cease-fire in Gaza and reiterated their call for the release of all hostages, including two French nationals.

Macron and Abdullah II also expressed grave concern over the situation in the West Bank and strongly condemned violence by settlers, the Elysée Palace reported.

The leaders agreed to continue their collaborative efforts toward a lasting and credible resolution to the crisis “based on a two-state solution.” They underscored the importance of supporting the Palestinian Authority and denounced any actions by Israel to impede the transfer of its revenues or affect its banking system, and deemed it “unacceptable.”

11:52 Beirut Time

The AFP office in Gaza — which was severely damaged on Nov. 2, 2023 — was likely struck by Israeli tank fire, according to an investigation by AFP and several international media outlets. The findings of the investigation were published today.

Fifty journalists from 13 organizations, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and the Arab news organization ARIJ, conducted a four-month investigation under the guidance of Forbidden Stories, an international network of journalists specializing in investigative reporting.

The journalists examined numerous cases involving journalists and media facilities affected since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Five experts, some of whom chose to remain anonymous, assessed with a high degree of confidence that the office was likely struck by a tank shell —a weapon not typically available to Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip.

The Nov. 2 strike on AFP's Gaza office did not cause any casualties, as the team had evacuated the premises beforehand. However, the computer server room suffered extensive damage.

11:51 Beirut Time

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel during a meeting with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant yesterday to avoid further escalation in Lebanon — while discussing efforts aimed at securing the release of the hostages from Gaza — according to a statement from State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Blinken also emphasized the need for a diplomatic resolution that ensures both Lebanese and Israeli families can return to their homes. 

11:50 Beirut Time

Good morning! 

Thanks for joining our live coverage of day 263 of the Gaza war and its repercussions in the region.