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Hamas deputy leader assassinated in alleged Israeli drone strike in Beirut

Surgical drone strike hits after several days of increased Hezbollah activity

File photo: Head of Hamas delegation Saleh al-Arouri speaks during a reconciliation deal signing ceremony in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo)

An explosion early on Tuesday evening shook several buildings in Dahieh, a residential neighborhood in Beirut, home to several Hezbollah members. 

Shortly after the explosion, Hamas leaders confirmed that senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri was killed in the targeted attack, which appeared to be a drone strike. 

Videos uploaded to social media showed the burnt out wreckage of vehicles and a destroyed apartment on one of the streets in the neighborhood. 

Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas' military wing and was in charge of the group’s operations in the West Bank. 

While no other names have been released yet, Hamas officials said two other Qassam Brigade commanders were killed in the strike, as well. Conflicting reports in Lebanese media place the number of dead as either four or five. According to reports in Lebanese media, all those killed were Hamas members. 

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati called the assassination a "new Israeli crime intended to spur a new phase of the conflict, following daily attacks in the south [of Lebanon].” 

Israel has not officially commented on the strike, in keeping with its standing policy regarding high profile strikes outside of Israel and the Palestinian territories. 

Last month, Ronen Bar, head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, told Knesset members that Hamas leaders would be targeted “in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar, everywhere … It will take a few years, but we will be there in order to do it.” 

After Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh, Arouri was one of the top-ranked Hamas officials. His killing marks the highest-level Hamas official killed since the start of the war.

According to a New York Times report, Arouri was responsible for strengthening ties between Hamas and Iran, traveling to Tehran several times. 

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs had instructed cabinet members not to comment on the assassination, however, Likud party member Danny Danon praised the IDF, the Mossad and Shin Bet in a post to social media. 

“I bless the Israeli army, the Shin Bet, and the Mossad on the killing of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut. Anyone involved in the October 7 massacre should know that we will reach him and close accounts.” 

Hamas released a statement following the assassination, saying: “The cowardly assassinations by the Zionist occupation against the leaders and symbols of our Palestinian people will not break our people's will and steadfastness…it reaffirms the enemy's failure to achieve its aggressive goals in Gaza.” 

The assassination of Arouri comes after an escalation in Hezbollah attacks against Israel’s northern border communities, including several earlier on Tuesday. 

There were numerous launches detected shortly after the assassination, which are believed to be the response from Hezbollah. 

The Fatah party, led by Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, has reportedly declared a general strike in protest of the Arouri's assassination.

Hamas has been growing in popularity in the West Bank over the last couple of years. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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