Israel's assault on Rafah intensifies as Blinken warns against Lebanon war

Israel's assault on Rafah intensifies as Blinken warns against Lebanon war
An assault on Rafah continued this week with devastating effect, while tensions in the north heighten with Lebanon next in Israel's crosshairs.
14 min read
21 June, 2024

This live blog on Israel's war on Gaza has now ended. Make sure to follow us for the latest news on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Israel's assault on Gaza is continuing with Israeli tanks moving into the western portions of the southern city of Rafah.

Israel's renewed pushes into areas of Rafah comes amid deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza City, with Palestinian news agency WAFA reporting that three people were killed, including a child, in a strike in Khan Younis

As Israel's assault on Rafah continues, tensions with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border have prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to tell his Israeli counterparts to avoid any escalation with the group.

His comments come after the Israeli military announced it had approved plans to invade Lebanon while Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to escalate the conflict if it breaks out.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed over 37,400 Palestinians, with more than 85,600 wounded.

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12:17 AM
The New Arab Staff

This live blog on Israel's war on Gaza has now ended. Thanks for following.

Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office
12:13 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its Gaza office was 'damaged' by in a shell attack Friday that killed at least 22 people who had taken shelter around the compound.

The ICRC did not say who fired the "heavy calibre projectiles" but in a statement on the X platform said they "damaged the structure of the ICRC office," which is surrounded by hundreds of displaced persons living in tents.

It said 22 bodies and 45 wounded had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling, and there were "reports of additional casualties".

Senior State Dept official resigns over US approach to Gaza
11:31 PM
The New Arab Staff

A senior expert on Israel and Palestine in the US State Department has resigned over Washington's handling of Israel's war on Gaza, reports said Friday.

Andrew Miller, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, was a critic of President Joe Biden's "bear hug" approach to Israel during the war, reports said.

People who know him describe him as being committed to his support for Palestinian rights and an independent Palestinian state, the Washington Post reported.

Red Cross says Gaza office 'damaged' by shells
11:29 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its Gaza office was 'damaged' by shells that landed nearby in a strike Friday.

The ICRC did not say who fired the "heavy calibre projectiles" but in a statement on the X platform said they "damaged the structure of the ICRC office," which is surrounded by hundreds of displaced persons living in tents.

It added that 22 bodies had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling.

Kuwait calls on citizens to leave Lebanon
10:23 PM
The New Arab Staff

Kuwait called on its citizens in Lebanon to leave the country as soon as possible, in a statement released Friday evening.

The ministry said this was due to security developments in the region, amid increased tensions between Hezbollah and Israel and fears of a wider conflict.


Hamas denies Netanyahu claims about Gaza casualty ratio
9:45 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas denied claims made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the ratio of civilian casualties to militant deaths in Gaza are one to one.

Netanyahu’s statement is "a lie and a disdain for global public opinion and a continuation of the blatant deception approach through which he seeks to cover up the enormity of the war crimes and genocide committed by his army, unprecedented in our contemporary history."

Israel's air and ground assault on Gaza since October 7 last year has killed over 37,000 people, mostly women and children. Thousands more are missing and are presumed to be dead beneath the rubble.

Canada to evacuate 45,000 people from Lebanon: Israeli media
9:34 PM
The New Arab Staff

Canada is preparing to evacuate 45,000 of its citizens from Lebanon, Israeli media outlets reported on Friday.

The New Arab could not immediately verify this.

The reports comes amid rising tensions between Hezbollah and Israel and concerns of a wider conflict erupting.

It is up to Israel to restore order in Gaza for aid: UN
9:20 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

It is Israel's responsibility - as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip - to restore public order and safety in the Palestinian territory so humanitarian aid can be delivered, the United Nations said on Friday.

"Most of the trucks with humanitarian aid inside Gaza are now looted," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Friday, adding that Israel prevented the U.N. from using Palestinian civil police for aid security. "There is total chaos in Gaza and there is no authority in most of the territory."

UK 'concerned' about escalation on Lebanon-Israel border
8:50 PM
The New Arab Staff

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron spoke with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to express his concern about the escalation of tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.

Cameron "clearly stressed that the expansion of the conflict is not in anyone's interest, stressing that Britain wants to witness a peaceful solution through negotiating a settlement," the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said.

Palestinian footballer Ahmad Abu al-Ata killed in Gaza
8:47 PM
The New Arab Staff

Popular Palestinian football player Ahmad Abu al-Ata was killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza on Friday.

Aid delivery into Gaza still constrained: UNRWA chief
8:42 PM
The New Arab Staff

UNWRA head Philippe Lazzarini said humanitarian aid delivery into Gaza continues to be constrained, in a post on X.

He listed restrictions and why they pose a challenge, and what is urgently needed.

WATCH: Israel blows up residential complex in Rafah
6:42 PM
The New Arab Staff

A video shared widely online shows the moment a residential complex in Rafah was blown up by the Israeli army.

Much of Gaza's infrastructure has been decimated by the war.

Israeli strikes on tent camps near Rafah kill at least 25
6:40 PM
The New Arab Staff

Israeli forces shelled tent camps for displaced Palestinians north of Rafah on Friday, killing at least 25 people and wounding another 50 according to Gaza’s Heath Ministry and emergency workers

According to Ahmed Radwan, a spokesperson for the Civil Defense first responders in Rafah, witnesses told rescue workers about the shelling at two locations in the coastal Al-Mawasi area that has become filled with tents. The Health Ministry reported the number of people killed and wounded in the attacks.

The locations of the attacks provided by Civil Defense were just outside an Israeli-designated safe zone. The Israeli military said they were looking into the strikes at the reported coordinates.

MSF: critical shortages may cause stop in medical services
4:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Doctors without Borders (MSF) have said that because of a shortage in medicines and medical equipment the organisation may have to reduce or completely stop it's medical services in Gaza.

In a press release MSF medical coordinator in Palestine Guillemette Thomas said that "If we don't manage to get medical supplies into Gaza very soon, we may have to stop our medical activities. This is an unthinkable reality given the desperate medical needs of thousands of people in Gaza."

MSF said much of this was due to Israel's invasion of Rafah which has forced the closure of the Rafah border crossing, as well as "endless red tape imposed by Israeli authorities" which has exacerbated the pressure on the Karem Abu Salem crossing.

MSF added that insecurity in Gaza also inhibits aid distribution.

UN chief: Lebanon must not degenerate into 'another Gaza'
4:36 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Friday that fighting between Israel and Hezbollah must not turn Lebanon into "another Gaza."

Guterres cited increased "bellicose rhetoric" from both sides as they engage in nearly daily exchanges of fire across the Israel-Lebanon border in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, and he said they risk triggering a catastrophe "beyond imagination."

"Let's be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza," Guterres told reporters.

"The risk for the conflict in the Middle East to widen is real - and must be avoided," Guterres said.

"One rash move - one miscalculation - could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination," he added.

Iran says Lebanon's Hezbollah can defend against Israel
4:07 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iran's mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel, warning that "perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate regime has come."

"Any imprudent decision by the occupying Israeli regime to save itself could plunge the region into a new war," Iran's UN mission posted on X amid escalating tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.


Israeli forces kill two Palestinians in West Bank operation
3:49 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli and Palestinian authorities said at least two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli operation in the occupied West Bank city of Qalqilya on Friday.

"Police forces have killed 2 wanted terrorists in Qalqilya", Israeli authorities told AFP.

In a joint statement, the Israeli police, army, and Shin Bet security service said that Israeli forces "attempted to arrest two terrorists" from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, one of whom "was planning to carry out an attack in the area."

"During the arrest, fire was opened on our forces, who returned fire and neutralised the terrorists", the statement read, adding that the forces found handguns on the Palestinians.

The Palestinian ministry of civil affairs also reported the death of the two men.

"The General Authority of Civil Affairs informed the Ministry of Health of the martyrdom of Mahmoud Hassan Abdul Rahman Zaid (28 years old) and Ihab Abdul Karim Musa Abu Hamed (29 years old) by Israeli gunfire in Qalqilya", it said in a statement.

The official Wafa Agency reported that eyewitnesses saw Israeli special forces firing live ammunition at a vehicle on Friday afternoon as it passed along the main street of Qalqilya, in the northern West Bank.

The agency added that after being hit by gunfire the vehicle drove into the front of a shop before stopping. 

US's Gaza pier did not meet goals to increase aid: expert
2:38 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The controversial US effort to boost Gaza aid deliveries by building a temporary pier has faced repeated problems, with bad weather damaging the structure and causing other interruptions to the arrival of desperately needed assistance.

More than 4,100 metric tons (nine million pounds) of aid has been delivered via the $230 million pier project so far, but it has only been operational for limited periods, falling short of President Joe Biden's pledge that it would enable a "massive increase" in assistance reaching Gaza "every day."

"The Gaza pier regretfully amounted to an extremely expensive distraction from what is truly needed, and what is also legally required," Michelle Strucke, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Humanitarian Agenda, told news agency AFP.

That is "safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for humanitarian organizations to provide aid for a population in Gaza that is suffering historic levels of deprivation," she said.

US forces have also dropped aid by air, but that plus deliveries via the pier "were never meant to substitute for scaled, sustainable access to land crossings that provided safe access by humanitarian workers to provide aid," Strucke said.

"Pursuing them took away decision makers' time, energy, and more than $200 million US taxpayer dollars."

Qatar working to 'bridge the gap' between Israel and Hamas
2:07 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Qatar said Friday it was continuing mediation efforts to "bridge the gap" between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages held there.

The Gulf nation, with the United States and Egypt, has been engaged in months of negotiations over details for a ceasefire in Gaza.

"We have continued our efforts without interruption over the last few days," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told a joint news conference in Madrid with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.

"There have been several meetings with the Hamas leadership to try to bridge the gap between the two parties and reach an agreement that will lead to a ceasefire and the release of the Israeli hostages" being held in Gaza, he added.

The talks are based on a plan US President Joe Biden laid out on May 31 calls for an Israeli withdrawal from "major population centres" in Gaza and a ceasefire for six weeks, which could then be extended if negotiators need more time to seek a permanent deal.

"Efforts are continuing, but so far we have not reached a formula that we feel is the most appropriate and closest to what has been presented," the Qatari prime minister said.

"As soon as this is done, we will communicate with the Israeli side to try to bridge the gap and reach an agreement as quickly as possible," he added.

Netanyahu: Israel needs US ammunition for its existence
1:30 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country needs ammunition from the United States in "the war for its existence", directly addressing the White House after it criticised him for complaining about arms deliveries related to the Gaza war.

"I am prepared to suffer personal attacks provided that Israel receives the ammunition from the US that it needs in the war for its existence," he said in a statement.

The Israeli leader's comments came after he angered Washington with a video statement this week accusing it of "withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel".

US officials have said they were not aware of what Netanyahu was referring to.

"Those comments were deeply disappointing and certainly vexing to us, given the amount of support that we have and will continue to provide," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists earlier on Thursday.

WHO: Intense heat in Gaza could worsen health crisis in Gaza
12:17 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The World Food Programme has warned that a massive public health crisis is looming in Gaza due to the lack of clean water, food and medical supplies.

"We've seen massive displacement over the last weeks and months, and we know that combination and the heat can cause a rise in diseases," said Richard Peeperkorn, WHO's representative for Gaza and the West Bank.

"We have water contamination because of hot water, and we will have much more food spoilage because of the high temperature. We will get insect mosquitoes and flies, dehydration, heat stroke."

Peeperkorn said in Gaza, due to poor water and sanitation conditions, the number of cases of diarrhoea were 25 times higher than usual.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and hepatitis A, according to the WHO.

The WHO has been unable to carry out medical evacuations from Gaza since the closure of the Rafah crossing in early May.

Peeperkorn said an estimated 10,000 patients still required medical evacuation from Gaza, half of whom are suffering from ailments related to the war.

Israeli overnight strikes kill 17 people across Gaza
11:43 AM
The New Arab Staff

Medical sources speaking to Palestinian news agency WAFA have said that at least 17 people were killed in Israeli overnight airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, with two killed in central Gaza, one killed in Deir el-Balah and eight killed the Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza City. 

Palestinian presidency welcomes Armenian recognition
11:21 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Palestinian Presidency has welcomed the recognition of a Palestinian State by Armenia, saying in a press statement that it thanked Armenia for its "bold and wise move, which underscores the strong bonds of friendship between the two nations." 

The statement added that the recognition also "contributes positively in preserving the two-state solution, which faces systematic challenges, and promotes security, peace, and stability for all parties involved."


Israel summons Armenian ambassador
10:52 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has summoned the Armenian ambassador to Israel after Armenia announced it recognised the State of Palestine earlier today.

Israel 'pause' in Gaza had no impact on aid supplies: WHO
10:20 AM
The New Arab Staff

The "pause" that the Israeli military had declared in Gaza to facilitate aid flows has had no impact on deliveries of the badly-needed aid, the UN's health agency said on Friday.

"So overall, we the UN can say that we did not see an impact on the humanitarian supplies coming in since that, I will say, unilateral announcement of this technical pause", said Richard Peeperkorn, the World Health Organization representative in the Palestinian territories. "That is the overall assessment".

Armenia recognises Palestinian state
10:06 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Armenia has officially recognised a Palestinian state, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday, defying Israel which is opposed to such moves.

Armenia supports a UN resolution on an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and is in favour of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the same statement said. 

President of the Armenian national assembly, Alen Simonyan, also posted on X that Armenia has recognised the State of Palestine.

(Reuters & The New Arab)

Eight Palestinians arrested in Jalazone camp, Ramallah
9:07 AM
The New Arab Staff

An Israeli raid in the Jalalzone refuge camp north of Ramallah resulted in eight Palestinians being arrested, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Two Israeli reservists killed in Gaza
9:03 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Israeli military announced that two Israeli reservists have been killed in central Gaza on Thursday, with another three soldiers being wounded in the incident.

It takes the death toll of Israel's ground operation in Gaza to 314. 

US: 4,160 metric tons of aid delivered to Gaza through pier
8:54 AM
The New Arab Staff

US Central Command (CENTCOM) has said that since the beginning of operations the Gaza pier has enabled the delivery of 4,160 metric tons of aid into Gaza since the beginning of operations.

CENTCOM also announced that the pier has also been re-anchored to a beach in Gaza.

"Trucks carrying humanitarian assistance across the temporary pier began delivery again today, June 20, and approximately 656 metric tons (1.4 million pounds) of aid were delivered to the beach in Gaza. This is the largest single day delivery of aid to date."