Hamas deputy leader, Saleh al-Arouri, has been killed in an attack on Hamas office in Beirut.
Hamas’ Al Aqsa Radio and Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Mayadeen TV confirmed word from security sources that Arouri, a member of the Palestinian Islamist movement’s politburo based abroad and a co-founder of Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, was killed on Tuesday when a drone struck a Hamas office in south Beirut.
In all, the drone attack killed six people in the city’s southern suburb of Daliyeh, the Lebanese state news agency reported earlier, underlining the risk of the Israel-Hamas war spreading well beyond the Gaza Strip.
Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah group, a Hamas ally, has been exchanging near-daily fire with Israel across Lebanon’s southern border since the Gaza war erupted in early October.
Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati condemned the drone blast as a “new Israeli crime” and said it was an attempt to pull Lebanon into war.
In response to questions from Reuters, the Israeli military said it did not respond to reports in the foreign media.
Mark Regev, an adviser to the Israelii prime minister, said in an interview with MSNBC TV that Israel “has not taken responsibility for this attack. But whoever did it, it must be clear – this was not an attack on the Lebanese state … Whoever did this did a surgical strike against the Hamas leadership”.
Israel had accused Arouri of supervising and ordering Hamas attacks in the Israel-occupied West Bank in support of militants fighting Israel’s devastating air and ground offensive in Gaza.
“I am waiting for martyrdom (death) and I think I have lived too long,” Arouri said in August 2023, alluding to Israeli threats to eliminate Hamas leaders whether in Gaza or abroad.
Imad Harb, director of research at the Arab Center Washington DC, says Hezbollah will likely step up attacks on Israel in response to the killing of Saleh al-Arouri, but stop short of escalating the conflict into an all-out war.
“It may also respond by allowing more Hamas attacks from southern Lebanon on Israel. And definitely, it’s going to be more vigilant regarding its own leaders,” Harb told Al Jazeera.
He added that neither Israel nor Hezbollah appear interested in “blowing up the front” completely.
“I think the Israelis are counting on Hezbollah being a little more cautious,” he said. “That’s why they did what they did.”