Killing of the deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau could spark retaliation from Hamas and Hezbollah.
A drone strike in Beirut’s southern suburbs of Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah stronghold, killed senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri on Tuesday.
The drone hit a Hamas office, leaving six people dead, Lebanon’s state news agency reported.
Hamas confirmed the death of al-Arouri and called it a “cowardly assassination” by Israel, adding that attacks on Palestinians “inside and outside Palestine will not succeed in breaking the will and steadfastness of our people, or undermining the continuation of their valiant resistance”.
“It proves once again the abject failure of this enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip,” the group said.
Following the news of the death of al-Arouri, mosques in Arura, the occupied West Bank town of north Ramallah, are mourning his death and a general strike has been called in Ramallah for Wednesday.
Here is what to know about the Hamas official killed in Lebanon.
Who was Saleh al-Arouri?
Al-Arouri, 57, was the deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau and one of the founders of the group’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades.
He had been living in exile in Lebanon after spending 15 years in an Israeli jail. Before the war began on October 7, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened to kill him.
In recent weeks, al-Arouri took on the role of spokesperson for the group and told Al Jazeera last month that Hamas would not discuss an exchange deal for the captives the group is holding before the war ends in Gaza.
The United States labelled al-Arouri as a “global terrorist” in 2015 and issued a $5m reward for any information on him.
What has Israel said about al-Arouri’s death?
While there has been no official response from Israel about the death of the Hamas official, Mark Regev, an adviser to Netanyahu, told the US outlet MSNBC that Israel does not take responsibility for this attack. But, added, “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,” he said.
However, Danny Danon, a former Israeli envoy to the United Nations, hailed the attack and congratulated the Israeli army, Shin Bet, the security service and Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, for killing al-Arouri.
“Anyone who was involved in the 7/10 massacre should know that we will reach out to them and close an account with them,” he said on X in Hebrew, referring to the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed nearly 1,200 people.
Israel’s relentless bombing and artillery shelling of Gaza since then has killed more than 22,000 Palestinians, including more than 8,000 children.
According to Israeli media, the government has ordered cabinet ministers not to give any interviews about al-Arouri’s death after Danon’s tweet.
What has been the response from Lebanon?
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the attack on the Beruit suburb and said it was a “new Israeli crime” as well as an attempt to pull Lebanon into the war.
Mikati also warned against the “Israeli political upper echelon resorting to exporting its failures in Gaza to the southern border to impose new facts on the ground and change the rules of engagement”.
Hezbollah said that the attack on Lebanon’s capital “will not pass without punishment”.
Al Jazeera and news agencies