Political Leader Assassination Raises Fears of Major War

(ReliableNews.org) – The war between Hamas and Israel started when the militant group attacked the Middle Eastern nation on October 7, killing about 1,200 people — mostly civilians. In response, Israel unleashed a campaign against Hamas, primarily in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The United Nationals Regional Information Centre put the death toll in Hamas-controlled Gaza at over 18,000 so far. The Israeli government previously said its military’s objective is to remove Hamas from power. On January 2, a strike in Beirut put the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) closer to that goal.

What Happened?

On January 3, Reuters reported that the previous evening, Deputy Hamas Chief Saleh al-Arouri was killed in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh. The region is reportedly a stronghold for Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group with ties to Hamas. A drone strike in the area killed the political leader. Two sources confirmed the attack was aimed at a meeting between Lebanon’s Sunni Islamist Jama’a Islamiya faction and Hamas officials.

Three Lebanese and four Palestinians were reportedly killed in the strike. The IDF has not claimed responsibility for the attack. However, CNBC reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the strike as a “surgical” hit on Hamas. According to Aljazeera, one of Netanyahu’s advisors, Mark Regev, told MSNBC that whoever conducted the strike was not attacking Lebanon specifically.

Still, Lebanon claimed Israel conducted the strike in an attempt to pull the country into the war. The director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House Sanam Vakil seemed to agree. He said the attack definitely “increased the risk of opening up another front” to the war and told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” the Israeli government was likely trying to “goad Hezbollah” into expanded warfare.

Al-Arouri and Reponses

Al-Arouri was living in exile in Lebanon and was one of the founders of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing. He recently became a spokesperson for the terrorist group, telling the news outlet that Hamas wouldn’t even entertain a hostage exchange deal before the end of the war. In 2015, the US labeled al-Arouri as a “global terrorist,” attaching a $5 million reward for information about him.

Hamas reportedly responded to al-Arouri’s death, calling it a “cowardly assassination” by Israel. Lebanon also responded. The country’s leader, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, called the attack a “new Israeli crime.” He warned Israel not to bring the war to Lebanon’s doorstep. Hezbollah vowed to punish those who attacked Beirut.

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