Who is Saleh al-Arouri, the Hamas leader killed in Beirut?

January 07, 2024

Reading time: 5 minutes

A senior Hamas leader, Saleh al-Arouri, has been killed in a suspected Israeli attack. His assassination has been described as the “most high profile elimination” since the start of the Hamas-Israel war.

Who is Saleh al-Arouri?

Saleh al-Arouri was a senior political figure within Hamas and a founding member of its military branch, the al-Qassam Brigades. He also had strong ties with Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militant group similar to Hamas.

Saleh al-Arouri was one of the key masterminds of the October 7 Hamas attacks that resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 Israelis and the abduction of some 240 others. He was also allegedly involved in the 2014 kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).

The United States designated al-Arouri as a terrorist in 2015 and issued a $5 million bounty for information about him.

The Drone Strike: How it Happened

Spokespersons for Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, and Hamas have attributed the attack to Israel. However, Israeli officials have largely remained silent on the matter.

Hezbollah specifically described the attack as “a serious assault on Lebanon, its people, its security, sovereignty, and resistance, and the highly symbolic and significant political and security messages it contains."

The group also said the attack was "a dangerous development in the course of the war... [and] this crime will never pass without response and punishment". "Its hand is on the trigger, and its resistors are in the highest levels of readiness and preparedness."

Hamas is reported by Al Jazeera as saying the attack was a “cowardly assassination,” adding that attacks on Palestinians “inside and outside Palestine will not succeed in breaking the will and steadfastness of our people, or undermining the continuation of their valiant resistance”. The group added that the “[attack] proves once again the abject failure of this enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip.” 

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari discussed the group’s readiness for any possible outcome in a press briefing:

“The IDF is in a very high state of readiness in all arenas, in defense and offense. We are highly prepared for any scenario. The most important thing to say tonight is that we are focused and remain focused on fighting Hamas… we are operating above and below ground, eliminating terrorists and continuing to destroy terrorist infrastructure…we will continue to respond to any attacks against our territory.”

As yet, it is unclear how and when Hezbollah or Lebanon will respond. In Israel, people within 30km of the Lebanon border were told on Tuesday evening to sleep near bomb shelters. 

What is the Significance of al-Arouri’s Assassination?

Al-Arouri's assassination occurred just about a month after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to eliminate all Hamas leaders “wherever they are.” The killing of al-Arouri outside Gaza in the heart of southern Beirut seemingly emphasizes Israel's commitment to this pledge — although Israel hasn't been implicated in the attack.

Al-Arouri's assassination sends a stern warning, given al-Arouri's senior position and the place of his killing. His death signifies the potential consequences other leaders of Hamas and other anti-Israel military groups may face in the future. 

What happens now?

Some political commentators speculate that the recent drone strike could result in a serious escalation of the war. They suggest that the conflict may spread to neighboring countries and armed groups. 

Overall, Saleh al-Arouri's assassination has apparently changed the course of the Hamas-Israel war. It is unclear how events may unfold in the aftermath of his death, but God watches over Israel and His people are in His hands.

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