Fears of Gaza conflict spillover grow as Israel kills senior Hamas official in Beirut
BEIRUT: Fears that the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza might spill over into neighboring countries grew on Tuesday when an Israeli drone strike killed Hamas’s deputy leader, Saleh Al-Arouri, in Beirut.
He was among six people who died in the attack in the city’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh, the Lebanese National News Agency reported. Hamas said that the death would not “undermine the continued brave resistance” in Gaza.
“It proves once more the utter failure of the enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip,” said senior Hamas official Izzat Al-Rishq.
Mark Regev, an adviser to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told MSNBC that Israel “has not taken responsibility for this attack. But whoever did it, it must be clear, this was not an attack on the Lebanese state … Whoever did this did a surgical strike against the Hamas leadership.”
Al-Hadath TV said that Netanyahu’s office has told Israeli ministers not to comment on the assassination of Al-Arouri.
Lebanon’s prime minister condemned the killing and said it “aims to draw Lebanon” further into “a new phase of confrontations” in the Israel-Hamas war.
“Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the explosion in the southern suburbs of Beirut that killed and injured many,” his office said. Hamas ally Hezbollah has been exchanging daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.
Lebanese authorities said they will lodge a formal complaint with the UN Security Council against the “blatant” strike in Beirut and any “new Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh described the drone strike as a “crime” and said there might be repercussions.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group warned that Israel’s killing of Al-Arouri in a Beirut suburb they control “will not go unanswered or unpunished,” dubbing “a serious assault on Lebanon.”
“We, Hezbollah, affirm that this crime will not go unanswered or unpunished,” the group said in a statement.
“We consider the crime of assassinating Sheikh Saleh Al-Aruri… in the heart of the southern suburb of Beirut to be a serious assault on Lebanon… and a dangerous development in the course of the war,” the statement added.
Iranian authorities said the killing of Al-Arouri would encourage further resistance against Israel, the country’s state media reported.
“The martyr’s blood will undoubtedly ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and the motivation to fight against the Zionist occupiers, not only in Palestine but also in the region and among all freedom seekers worldwide,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani. He also condemned the violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by “the aggressive Zionist regime.”
Commentators also reacted on social media to the killing of Al-Arouri.
In a message posted on X, political analyst Omar Baddar wrote: “This is an extremely serious escalation. Bombing Beirut or its suburbs had long been declared a red line by Hezbollah that would necessitate significant retaliation. All eyes on Lebanon now.”
Haya Hijazi, a doctor from Gaza, said on Instagram: “They even say that they have defeated us. The situation is catastrophic. They want to kill every person from Hamas. Hamas is a line of defense for the Palestinian people.”
X user @bodan1 wrote: “Israel doing their best to start a regional conflict and try and get US boots on the ground.”
Instagram user @hajraashraf1 described Netanyahu as a “madman” who was “going to cause WW3.”
Khaled Beydoun, a professor and writer, said the attack marked the first time Beirut has been bombed by Israel since 2006.
He added that the next 24 hours will be “massively important and definitive, and can change the fate of the region.
“Netanyahu has been trying to pull Lebanon into war since the very beginning of this crisis.”
Videos also circulated online of protests in Ramallah, where Al-Arouri was born, condemning his assassination.