Israel kills Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut; Hezbollah warns 'punishment'

The attack has raised fears that the war could be spilling out of Palestine


Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri was killed on Tuesday night in an Israeli drone strike in Lebanon's Beirut, said reports. The incident has triggered fears of war spilling out of Gaza with Lebanon's prime minister accusing Israel of trying "to drag Lebanon into confrontation".

The attack happened on Tuesday in Beirut's southern suburbs of Dahiyeh, a stronghold of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Besides al-Arouri, six others, including two Hamas military commanders and four other members, were also killed in the attack. 

Footage from Dahiyeh showed firefighters and paramedics gathered around a multi-storey building with a gaping hole in what appeared to be the third floor. Limbs and other pieces of flesh could be seen on the roadside. A car was also seen in flames and extensive damage to buildings in what is a busy residential area.

An Israeli spokesman said Saleh al-Arouri had died in a "surgical strike against the Hamas leadership". However, Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told MSNBC that Israel had not taken responsibility for this attack, but "whoever did it, it must be clear: That this was not an attack on the Lebanese state." 

"Whoever did this did a surgical strike against the Hamas leadership," Regev said in the interview. 

According to Lebanon's national news agency, the drone struck a Hamas office where a meeting between Hamas officials and Lebanon's Sunni Islamist Jama'a Islamiya faction was being held. The strike killed four Palestinians and three Lebanese. This is the first targeted assassination of a Hamas official outside the borders of Palestinian territories since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. 

Hezbollah reacted to the attack, stating that the assassination of top Hamas officials in Beirut was "a serious assault on Lebanon" and "a dangerous development in the course of the war between the enemy and the axis of the resistance." The group posted on Telegram that the killing of Saleh Al-Arouri along with other Al-Qassam members will not go without a response or punishment. It added that the resistance has its finger on the trigger.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas's political wing, called the attack a "cowardly... terrorist act, a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, and an expansion of its circle of aggression". Iran too has said that the killing would further galvanise the fight against Israel. 

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati called the strike a "new Israeli crime" and said it was an attempt to pull Lebanon into war. His office said he asked Lebanon's foreign minister to file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/AROURI-WEST BANK-REACTIONS People take part in a protest against the killing of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank | Reuters

Who was Saleh al-Arouri? 

Arouri was deputy head of Hamas's politburo and a founder of its military wing, the Qassam Brigades. A close ally of Haniyeh, Arouri had been in Lebanon acting as a connection between his group and Hezbollah. He was also in Qatar recently, mediating talks between Hamas and Israel, including in the hostage crisis. 

The U.S., which brands Hamas a terrorist group, had last year offered $5 million for information on Arouri.

Though not very influential in Gaza, Arouri was the mastermind of Hamas's operations in the West Bank from exile in Syria, Turkey, Qatar and finally Lebanon after long stints in Israeli prisons. He also played a big role in cementing Hamas' relations with the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah and, through it, with Iran. 

Arouri had met Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah several times, as well as Iranian officials in Lebanon and Hamas sources said he worked with them to coordinate positions regarding the conflict in Gaza, according to The New Arab.

Though a hardliner, Arouri was also a leading advocate of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, a rival Palestinian faction. He also enjoyed a good relationship with Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which holds sway in the West Bank.


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