Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 2 January 2024



Top Hamas Leader Killed in Suspected Israeli Strike in Beirut

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A top Hamas leader was killed Tuesday by a suspected Israeli strike in Beirut, according to two Lebanese security officials, raising the specter of further escalation in Israel’s war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The blast killed Saleh al-Arouri, a founder of the Hamas military wing and one of its top political leaders, and at least three other people, the officials said. Hamas confirmed Arouri’s death in a statement. The Israeli military declined to comment on the explosion.

What's News

What's News

Israel’s leaders have vowed to go after all Hamas leaders around the world involved in the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that it said killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and Tuesday’s attack appeared to be the first deadly result of the campaign outside the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Army Radio attributed the strike to Israel, and Danny Danon, an Israeli lawmaker who served as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, praised his military and spy agency for carrying out the attack.

Saleh al-Arouri, a senior leader of Hamas, in 2007. Photo: jamal aruri/AFP/Getty Images

“Anyone involved in the [Oct. 7] massacre should know that we will reach them and get even,” Danon wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The blast sent shattered glass and car parts flying through the suburban Beirut neighborhood.

Paul Salem, president of the Middle East Institute, a think tank in Washington, called the strike an escalation in Israel’s war against Hamas, but he said it wouldn’t necessarily lead to a significant expansion of the conflict with Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that has carried out near-daily strikes against Israel since early October.

“While it certainly ratchets up risk and tension a few notches, I still think it is not something that will push Hezbollah into full-scale or major escalation,” he said. “Given that this was an attack on a Palestinian leader and not a Hezbollah leader, it’s difficult to take them to war for the killing of somebody else.”

Izzat al-Rishq, a Qatar-based member of Hamas’s political bureau, called the strike a cowardly attack.

It “will not succeed in breaking the will and resilience of our people, or in diminishing the continuation of their valiant resistance,” he said.

Arouri was one of the highest-profile Hamas leaders and was close to Iran.

The U.S. put out a $5 million reward on Arouri after accusing him in 2015 of funding and directing attacks in the West Bank, including a 2014 kidnapping that killed three Israeli teenagers.

Arouri, who was born in the West Bank in 1966 when it was under Jordanian control, spent more than 15 years in Israeli prisons over the years before being deported to Syria in 2010.

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