Hamas deputy leader killed in Beirut; risks extending Gaza conflict

Lebanese and Palestinian security sources reported Tuesday that Israel killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in a drone strike in Beirut, Lebanon, potentially escalating the ongoing war in Gaza, Reuters reported.

Arouri, 57, was the highest-ranking Hamas political figure assassinated since Israel began its extensive air and ground offensive nearly three months ago, following a surprise attack by Hamas on Israeli towns.

The conflict has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah, a heavily armed group allied with Hamas, along Lebanon’s southern border since the war’s start in October.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had previously warned of a “severe reaction” to any assassinations on Lebanese soil. Following Arouri’s death, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for targeting Israeli soldiers near Marj with missiles.

Arouri was known for his involvement in attacks against Israelis and for playing a key role in negotiations, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, over the Gaza war’s resolution and the release of Hamas-held Israeli hostages.

Israel has not officially confirmed or denied involvement in Arouri’s killing. Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari stated that Israeli forces are highly prepared for any scenario. “We remain focused on fighting Hamas,” he said, addressing inquiries about Arouri’s death.