Hamas blames Israel for ‘cowardly assassination’ of deputy leader Saleh al Arouri | World News – 943hare

Hamas has said one of its top officials, Saleh al Arouri, has been killed in an explosion in Beirut – blaming the “cowardly assassination” on Israel.

Al Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing and the deputy leader of the group’s political bureau. He also headed Hamas’s presence in the West Bank.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said the blast in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh killed four people and was carried out by an Israeli drone.

Saleh al Arouri was deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas
Saleh al Arouri was deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas

Izzat al Rishq, a member of the political bureau of Hamas, has said al Arouri was killed in a “cowardly assassination” by Israel – and warned such attacks “will not succeed in breaking the will and steadfastness of our people, or undermining the continuation of their valiant resistance”.

He added: “It proves once again the abject failure of this enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip.”

Hezbollah has said the blast that killed al Arouri was a “serious assault on Lebanon”.

The Lebanese militant group also said the death of al Arouri is a “dangerous development in the course of the war”.

Hezbollah added that the killing “will not go without a response or punishment” and said the “axis of resistance” – a coalition of anti-Israeli and anti-Western groups backed by Iran – has its “finger on the trigger”.

The aftermath of the blast at the building where al Arouri was killed. Pic: AP
The aftermath of the blast at the building where al Arouri was killed. Pic: AP

Meanwhile, Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said the “martyr’s blood will undoubtedly ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and motivation to fight” against Israel.

Mr Kanaani also condemned the violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Who was Hamas senior leader Saleh al Arouri?

Saleh al Arouri played a key role in Hamas and had been working to develop closer ties between the organisation and the Iran-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon.

The 57-year-old was one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing, the al Qassam Brigades, and served as deputy leader of the group’s political bureau since 2017.

Al Arouri also led Hamas’s operations in the West Bank, where he helped build up Hamas’s military capacity by smuggling in weapons and establishing sleeper cells.

He was arrested by the Israeli army in 1992 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for helping form the al Qassam brigades.

After being released in 2007 he was rearrested three months later and held for three years until 2010, when he was released and exiled to Syria.

Al Arouri was selected as a member of the political bureau of Hamas and spent several years in Syria before moving between several countries including Turkey and Qatar and eventually settling in Beirut in Lebanon, where he was killed.

He had been designated a terrorist by the US in 2015 and Washington had offered a $5m (£4m) bounty for information that would reveal his whereabouts.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened to kill al Arouri even before the Hamas-Israel war began on 7 October 2023.

Hamas official Bassem Naim has confirmed al Arouri was killed in the blast.

Israeli officials declined to comment.

An explosion shook the Lebanese capital’s southern suburbs on Tuesday evening causing chaos in Hezbollah’s stronghold, but the nature of the blast was not immediately known.

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Assassination is a major strike at Hamas’ leadership abroad

By Nicole Johnston, Sky News correspondent in Israel

While this attack has not been confirmed by Israel, it appears it is a major strike at the heart of Hamas’s leadership abroad.

Since the war started Israel has said it will target the leaders of the group inside and outside Gaza. But this appears to be the first time they’ve done it.

Saleh al Arouri was a founding senior commander in the military wing of Hamas, the al Qassam Brigades. Based in Beirut, he was the deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas.

The strike happened in southern Beirut, in a neighbourhood that is a stronghold for the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah.

It’s also a serious blow to Hezbollah – an attack on their home turf. It happened a day before Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was expected to speak. It’s now reported his speech has been cancelled.

There are top leaders of the political wing of Hamas based in Lebanon and Qatar, they frequently visit Egypt and Turkey.

The war in Gaza is close to entering its fourth month and Israel’s action will alarm the wider Middle East, stoking fears attacks like this could happen anywhere, at any time.

It’s also brought the war into the suburbs of Beirut. The question now is how will Hezbollah respond. Until now, the fighting on the Lebanese border between Israel and Hezbollah has been calibrated and contained, this attack could change that.

It was not clear if the explosion inflicted any casualties in the Beirut suburb, but videos circulating on social media showed serious damage and fire.

The explosion came during more than two months of heavy exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and members of Hezbollah along Lebanon’s southern border.

Since the fighting began it has been concentrated a few miles from the border, but on several occasions Israel’s air force hit Hezbollah targets deeper in Lebanon.

Earlier in the day, Hezbollah said its fighters carried out several attacks along the Lebanon-Israel border targeting Israeli military posts.

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