Israel’s army has announced the evacuation of the city of Kiryat Shmona, after days of clashes with Hezbollah fighters along the border with Lebanon.
The northern city which housed around 20,000 people before the current conflict will be emptied after rocket attacks by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions intensified in recent days.
”A short while ago, the Northern Command informed the mayor of the city of the decision. The plan will be managed by the local authority, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Defence,” the military said.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies have traded cross-border fire with Israel for days, since Hamas gunmen stormed the southern border, killing at least 1,400 people and taking around 200 hostages.
Israel fears Hezbollah intends to open a second front against the country if Israeli forces push into the Gaza Strip to root out Hamas.
Israeli authorities have been steadily evacuating communities across the northern frontier, as reservists and columns of tanks and armoured vehicles poured into the area.
Follow the latest updates below.
09:47 AM BST
Rishi Sunak meets with Qatari leader
Rishi Sunak and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani have spoken about the need to prevent a spiralling conflict in the Middle East and the vital need for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.
According to Downing Street, the pair “underlined the imperative of avoiding any escalation in the violence” during their meeting and “agreed that leaders had a responsibility to do everything possible to prevent it”.
“They agreed on the urgent need to get food, water and medicine to civilians who are suffering,” a statement read.
Later today Mr Sunak is due to travel to Egypt as part of his trip to the Middle East.
He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, before going on to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.
09:34 AM BST
Dutch government advises citizens against travelling to Lebanon
The Dutch government on Friday advised its citizens against any travel to Lebanon and also urged those still in the country “to leave Lebanon as soon as possible”, joining other European countries who put out the same kind of advice for their nationals.
“As a consequence of unpredictable developments between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, there are heightened tensions in Lebanon,” the government said in a statement.
Yesterday, Britain and the US urged their citizens to flee while “commercial options are still available” amid growing tensions between Hezbollah and Israel.
09:24 AM BST
Israel builds up forces on the border
Israel has continued to build its presence along the border with Gaza.
09:16 AM BST
Israeli officials fear ‘third front’ could open in West Bank
Israeli officials fear that rising violence in the West Bank could open a “third front” to the conflict.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told Reuters that Hamas is attempting to “engulf Israel in a two- or three-front war”, including the Lebanese border and the West Bank
“The threat is elevated,” he said, adding that the military is on high alert in the area.
Unrest in the West Bank has flared since Israel began bombarding Gaza and clashing with Hezbollah on the Lebanese border.
More than 70 Palestinians have been killed in West Bank violence since October 7 and Israel has arrested more than 800 people.
Western countries supporting Israel fear a wider war that would open up Lebanon as a second front and the West Bank as what Israeli media call a potential third front.
09:08 AM BST
Arab states must realise Hamas is ‘also its enemy’
Former Middle East Minister Alistair Burt has said that he is “extremely worried” about the crisis in the region and urged Arab states to realise Hamas is “also its enemy”.
“It is not in the interest of neighbouring states to Israel, nor Israel itself, that this confrontation goes wider,” he told Sky News this morning.
“The hope had been for a new Middle East where Israel was firmly plugged into the centre and neighbouring states were working on new economic ties. All of this would be disastrously destroyed by a way.”
Mr Burt added that there is “nothing to suggest” that Israel could be dissuaded from acting to end the threat of Hamas, but questioned what it could mean for civilians.
He said: “One can understand Israel wanting to deal with the enemy on the border but if there are a large number of casualties what are the consequences?
“First thing is a pause for humanitarian aid, get the hostages out and Arab states need to realise that Hamas is also its enemy”.
09:00 AM BST
China says over 1,000 of its nationals have left Israel amid conflict
Over 1,000 Chinese nationals have left Israel amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday.
According to preliminary statistics, the Chinese nationals who have left have either returned to China or gone to a third country, ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a press briefing.
Mao said 280 Chinese nationals had been stranded in Sderot, a city in southern Israel near Gaza, when the conflict first broke out but all have been evacuated.
08:53 AM BST
Hamas spokesman arrested in West Bank
Hassan Yousef, a Hamas spokesman, was arrested during Israeli raids in the West Bank on Thursday, Israeli authorities have said.
The Israel Security Agency Shin Bet told CNN that Yousef was arrested “on suspicion of acting on behalf of Hamas”.
Yousef, a leading Palestinian political figure, has been arrested by Israeli forces on numerous occasions, spending a total of 24 years in Israeli prisons.
He serves as the official Hamas spokesperson in the West Bank and holds a seat on the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Yousef is known for his regular appearances on international media.
Earlier this week he told Canadian outlet The Globe and Mail that he believed Hamas would free the hostages it is holding if Israel agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire to allow aid into Gaza.
08:43 AM BST
Israeli strikes hit Hezbollah
A series of Israeli strikes have hit Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, according to footage shared by the Israeli Air Force
“A remotely manned aircraft eliminated a terrorist in Lebanese territory tonight,” the Air Force wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Also, the Air Force tonight attacked a number of military infrastructures of the terrorist organization Hezbollah in response to the launches carried out last night (Thursday) into Israeli territory.”
כלי טיס מאויש מרחוק חיסל הלילה מחבל בשטח לבנון. כמו כן, חיל-האוויר תקף הלילה מספר תשתיות צבאיות של ארגון הטרור חיזבאללה בתגובה לשיגורים שבוצעו אמש (ה’) לשטח ישראל. pic.twitter.com/YFoAdEfsHi
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) October 20, 2023
08:34 AM BST
Rishi Sunak set to visit Egypt today
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will travel to Egypt on Friday, part of a trip to the Middle East where he wants to press his message that there should be no escalation of violence in the region after the Hamas attack on Israel.
Sunak was the latest Western leader to visit Jerusalem on Thursday to show support for Israel and to try to negotiate a way to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas and ease the provision of humanitarian aid to people in Gaza.
08:29 AM BST
Gaza in pictures
Here is a roundup of the latest pictures from Gaza.
08:15 AM BST
Rafah crossing unlikely to open today
The crossing between Egypt and Gaza is not expected to open today, according to CNN.
There had been speculation that the Rafah crossing, vital for aid to cross into Gaza amid the conflict with Israel, would open shortly.
But a source familiar with the area said that the situation along the border is “really volatile”.
“I would not put money on those trucks going through,” they told CNN.
It is thought that the first set of trucks carrying humanitarian aid will cross over the border this weekend.
08:06 AM BST
13 killed in strike on West Bank
Five children are among 13 killed after Israeli forces raided and carried out an air strike on a Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Thursday.
According to the Israeli military, militants were killed in the strike and ten Israeli officers were injured.
The raid was conducted on the Nur Shams refugee camp, adjacent to the city of Tulkarm near the territory’s border with Israel.
Since the war started on October 7, more than 74 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank.
07:49 AM BST
Joe Biden appeals to Americans to help Israel
Joe Biden used his second-ever Oval Office address to appeal to Americans for support for Israel and Ukraine.
The US president said he would send an urgent funding request – thought to be roughly $100bn over the next year – to Congress.
The proposal will be unveiled later today but includes funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, humanitarian aid and border management.
Mr Biden said:
“Tomorrow I’m going to send to Congress an urgent budget request to fund America’s national security needs to support our critical partners including Israel and Ukraine. It’s a smart investment that will pay dividends for American security for generations.
“Help us keep American troops out of harm’s way. Help us build a world that is safer, more peaceful, more prosperous for our children and grandchildren. In Israel, we must make sure that they have what they need to protect the people today and always.
“The security package I’m sending to Congress and asking Congress to build is an unprecedented addition to our security that will sharpen Israel.”
07:40 AM BST
Israel evacuates town near Lebanese border
Israel has ordered the mandatory evacuation of a town near the Lebanese border.
Residents of Kiryat Shmona, home to 23,000, will be relocated to state-subsidized guesthouses, the military said.
Ministry spokesperson Mayan Lazarovich said this was a “mandatory evacuation”.
On Monday, the Israeli Defence Forces announced plans to evacuate 28 other communities living within 2km of the border.
07:32 AM BST
Hamas calls for worldwide mobilisation
Hamas has called for a general mobilisation worldwide.
“We call on our Palestinian people, our Arab and Islamic peoples, and the free people of the world to rally for return and reject displacement [on] Friday,” it said.
There have been protests worldwide in support of Palestine since the beginning of the conflict.
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