Bilal Hussein Associated Press Tuesday evening, many residents flocked to the area around the affected building, whose facade appeared to be badly damaged on two floors.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Aya Iskandarani – Agence France-Presse respectively in Beirut and the Gaza Strip
January 2, 2024
- Middle East
Hamas number two was killed in a strike attributed to Israel near Beirut on Tuesday, the Palestinian Islamist movement and Lebanese officials announced, almost three months after the start of the conflict in Gaza between Hamas and Israel.
Exiled in Lebanon for several years, Saleh al-Arouri was killed along with his bodyguards in a strike blamed on the Israeli army which targeted the Hamas office in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital , stronghold of pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to two Lebanese security officials.
At least one other Hamas official, Samir Fandi, was also killed, a Lebanese security official told AFP.
Hamas television confirmed the death of Saleh al-Arouri in “a Zionist strike.” A senior official of the Islamist movement, Ezzat al-Rishq, assured that the death of Saleh al-Arouri would not hinder “the valiant resistance” of the Palestinian people.
Questioned by AFP, the Israeli army indicated that it “does not comment on information from foreign media”.
The announcement of the death of Saleh al-Arouri sparked condemnation in the region: the Lebanese Prime Minister denounced a “new Israeli crime [which] aims to drag Lebanon into a new phase of confrontation” with Israel, his counterpart in the Palestinian Authority also warning “against the risks and consequences that could result from it”.
Same story with Islamic Jihad, an armed group in Gaza, which denounced an “attempt by the Zionist enemy […] to drag the entire region into war”.
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This strike attributed to Israel accentuates fears that the conflict between it and Hamas will drag the region into a spiral of violence. The Israeli-Lebanese border was already the almost daily scene of exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, which supports Hamas, but never had a strike hit the outskirts of the Lebanese capital since the start of the war.
Tuesday evening, many residents flocked to the area around the affected building, whose facade appeared to be badly damaged on two floors. Through the completely gutted walls of one of these floors, several silhouettes of people were visible, apparently trying to find information about the strike, which left six people dead according to the official Lebanese agency.
Many Palestinians also gathered after the announcement of the death of Saleh al-Arouri in the streets of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, where clashes with the Israeli army and settlers broke out. multiplied since the start of the conflict between Hamas and Israel, according to images from AFPTV.
After spending nearly twenty years in Israeli prisons, Saleh al-Arouri was released in 2010 on the condition that he go into exile. His empty house was destroyed with explosives by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank at the end of October, according to witnesses.
Hamas carried out an attack of unprecedented scale on Israeli soil on October 7, killing 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data, and taking around 250 people hostage – more than 100 of whom were released at the end of November during a truce, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
In response, Israel vowed to “destroy” the Palestinian Islamist movement, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union, and has been shelling from the Gaza Strip, subject to a total siege since October 9.
The war has cost the lives of 22,185 people in Gaza, mostly women, adolescents and children, Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007, announced on Tuesday.
Despite pressing demands from the international community for a ceasefire, the Israeli army is preparing for “protracted fighting”, which is expected to last “throughout the year”, a warned his spokesperson, Daniel Hagari.
“The idea that we might stop soon is wrong. Without a clear victory, we will not be able to live in the Middle East,” added Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who visited soldiers on Tuesday – 173 of whom died in the Gaza Strip.
On the ground, witnesses reported, during the night from Monday to Tuesday, missile fire towards the town of Rafah (south) and bombings around the Jabaliya refugee camp (north).
Fighting was also reported in the areas of al-Maghazi and Bureij, as well as in Khan Younes, a large city in the south of the territory, which has become the epicenter of Israeli army operations .
The Palestinian Red Crescent also declared on the social network X that its premises in Khan Younes had been targeted by Israeli strikes. According to the Hamas Ministry of Health, they left four dead, including an infant.
In the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, Fathi al-Af stands next to one of his children sitting on a stretcher, his hair covered in gray dust.
“We were in the premises of the Red Crescent, we are civilians evacuated from Gaza, we fled death […]. They told us to go to the South, that it would be safe, but they are liars,” he told AFPTV in tears.
The war has caused immense destruction and a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian territory, where famine threatens and most hospitals are out of service.
The Gaza Strip's 2.4 million residents – 85% of whom have been displaced according to the UN – face severe shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine .
Despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding the delivery of humanitarian aid, aid trucks are still trickling in.
International efforts, notably by Egypt and Qatar, to secure a new truce, have not materialized. At the end of November, a one-week truce allowed the release of more than 100 hostages and the entry of limited aid into Gaza.
On Tuesday, the leader of Hamas, Ismaïl Haniyeh, for his part assured – before the strike which killed Saleh al-Arouri – that the hostages still held in Gaza would only be released under the conditions set by movement.