Al-Arouri to be laid to rest on Thursday as Hezbollah-Israel clashes resume on southern border

BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s “direct hits” on two Israeli military sites — the Zar’it barracks and the Jal Al-Alam site — on Wednesday have broken the uneasy calm on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.

The group’s resumption of operations against the Israeli army followed the assassination of senior Hamas official Saleh Al-Arouri in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh on Tuesday night.

An Israeli drone had breached Hezbollah’s security square just hours before a scheduled speech by party chief Hassan Nasrallah, causing an explosion that killed Al-Arouri and six others.

The border area witnessed Israeli artillery shelling in the afternoon, targeting the Labouneh area in the town of Naqoura, in addition to an airstrike on the border town of Markaba.

The day after Al-Arouri’s assassination, the Israeli army announced the “strengthening of the Iron Dome system along the borders with Lebanon and the Galilee and raising alert levels along the borders.”

On Wednesday morning, the Israeli army fired on the outskirts of the towns of Boustane and Aita Al-Shaab with heavy machine guns from positions adjacent to Aita Al-Shaab.

The Israeli shelling of Markaba targeted a house on the eastern outskirts of the town, causing three casualties, according to preliminary information.

Hezbollah mourned two fighters — Mohammed Hadi Malek Obeid from Baalbek and Abbas Hassan Jammoul from Deir Al-Zahrani — without specifying where they were killed.

Israel’s drone strike on the Hamas building in Beirut left surrounding Dahiyeh resembling a war zone. Homes, cars, and shops around the building suffered significant damage.

The area was cleared of debris, and roads were opened to ease travel.

Residents were still in shock on Wednesday. Zainab, who lives nearby, told Arab News: “We heard two or three explosions that shook our homes, and we thought they were Israeli airstrikes on the neighborhood. We didn’t know how to react.

“My children were outside the house, on their way back from work. The attack happened during a busy time in the neighborhood, when people were either on the road or getting ready to close their shops, so there was heavy traffic as usual.”

A security source said: “Israel’s intelligence and technological capabilities were revealed through the assassination of Al-Arouri. This incident has presented significant security challenges for Hezbollah, Hamas leaders and Islamic Jihad, as it demonstrates Israel’s ability to target any location in Lebanon.”

Several people living in Dahiyeh told Arab News: “Before the raid on Hamas offices, there was disruption in the television cables in the area. The interference ceased once the raid was over, but they were unaware of the cause behind it.”

MP Jamil Al-Sayyed, a former director general of Lebanese Public Security, used social media to highlight threats leveled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Al-Arouri in August last year.

Al-Sayyed said: “The assassination was carried out using intelligence information about the person, location,and timing. This information could have been obtained through advanced technology or from agents on the ground.”

He advised Palestinian leaders in Lebanon who could also be targeted “to avoid exposing themselves through transportation, communication or media interviews conducted from their offices.”

Besides Al-Arouri, six others affiliated with Hamas were killed in the drone strike: Azzam Al-Aqra’, Samir Fandi, Ahmad Mahmoud (a Palestinian refugee residing in the northern Burj camp in Tyre), Mahmoud Zaki Shaheen (a Lebanese national from the Bekaa region), Mohammed Bashasha (a Lebanese resident of Sidon) and Mohammed Al-Rayes (a Lebanese national from the Bekaa Valley).

Mahmoud’s burial took place on Wednesday at Burj Al-Shamali camp, while Mahmoud Shaheen’s funeral was held in Taalabaya-Bekaa.

Hamas said that the funeral of Al-Arouri, Al-Aqra’ and Al-Rayes will take place on Thursday from Imam Ali Mosque on the New Road to the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Beirut’s Shatila Camp.

On Friday, Fandi’s funeral is scheduled in the Rashidieh camp after Friday prayers, and Bashasha’s funeral is scheduled at the Martyrs’ Mosque in the city of Sidon after Friday prayers.

Candice Ardell, deputy director of the UNIFIL Media Office, said in a statement that the UNIFIL leadership felt “deeply concerned about any possibility of escalation that could have devastating consequences for the people on both sides of the Blue Line.

“We continue to call on all parties to cease fire, and we also appeal to any influential interlocutors to urge restraint.”

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair, secretary-general of the High Relief Commission, inspected the site of the Israeli attack and announced “the start of the assessment process of the damage to provide compensation for affected individuals, following the guidelines set by the cabinet.”

He added: “Further investigations are needed by several parties, and the damage is limited.”

In response to the Israeli escalation, Lebanon’s Maronite bishops warned in their monthly meeting on Wednesday “of the repercussions of the field escalation in southern Lebanon.”

They added that Israeli strikes had “left casualties among the people and great destruction in many villages and towns, in addition to the burning of forests and orchards with phosphorus bombs, and this escalation reached the southern suburbs of Beirut.”

The bishops requested that “people involved in the local community and supporters of Lebanon from all over the world actively participate in the enforcement of Resolution 1701.

“This resolution will prevent Israel from launching attacks and ensure a strong and efficient foundation for peace in the southern region.”

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