Hamas deputy head killed in Beirut attack

Hamas says its deputy head has been killed in an Israeli drone attack in southern Lebanon

Hamas political leaders Haniyeh (right) and al-Arouri in this photo from 2018 distributed by Hamas Media Office
Hamas political leaders Haniyeh (right) and al-Arouri in this photo from 2018 distributed by Hamas Media Office

Hamas deputy head Saleh al-Arouri has been assassinated in a targeted attack in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Hamas media outlets have officially announced.

Al-Arouri is the deputy leader of Hamas' Political Bureau, and co-founded Hamas' military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades. He is deputy to Ismail Haniyeh, and head of operations in the West Bank.

His assassination was first reported by the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar news agency that said al-Arouri was the target of a drone attack in southern Beirut.

The neighbourhood is one where the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group is based. Hamas, which enjoys Hezbollah’s backing, has an office in the area.

Al-Arouri was born in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in 1966. He had long been living in exile in Lebanon after spending 15 years in an Israeli jail. In recent weeks, he acted as a spokesperson for Hamas and its strategy in the war in Gaza.

Last month, he told Qatar-based Al Jazeera that Hamas would not discuss a prisoner exchange deal before ending the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

In October, Israeli forces demolished his home near Ramallah.

The US government designated him as a “global terrorist” in 2015 and put out a $5m reward for information on him.

This happened one year after Arouri announced Hamas' responsibility for the June 2014 attacks in which three Israeli teens were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank, including dual US-Israeli citizen Naftali Fraenkel.

Hamas militants carried out deadly raids in Israeli villages neighbouring the Palestinian territory of Gaza on 7 October. The attacks killed almost 1,200 Israelis and more than 200 were kidnapped and taken hostage to Gaza.

Israel retaliated by cutting off basic supplies to Gaza and bombing the territory. Israeli soldiers are also engaged in a ground offensive. The Israeli attacks have killed some 22,000 Palestinians, injured many more and displaced more than 1 million people from their homes.

Over the past 24 hours, Israel has scaled down the number of troops operating in Gaza as it continues with its operations to destroy Hamas militants and their infrastructure.

The targeted assassination in Lebanon, risks escalating an already tense situation on Israel’s northern border where Hezbollah militants have been launching sporadic rocket attacks across the border with the Israeli military retaliating accordingly.