From his early days as a student leader at Hebron University to his ascent to the position of deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau, Saleh Al-Arouri’s journey was marked by violence, imprisonment, and a tumultuous relationship with Israel. His death in an Israeli strike in Beirut on Tuesday, which Hezbollah says killed six of its members, comes as a defining moment in the escalating tensions that have shaken the Middle East this month.
The 57-year-old Arouri, who was a founding member of Hamas’ military wing, the al Qassam Brigades, had been working to develop closer ties between the group and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. He was also influential in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians have been rising against Israeli control over their lands and homes.
According to a senior Lebanese official, Israel’s strike in southern Beirut on Tuesday targeted an apartment building that Hezbollah uses for its political and security offices. Al-Arouri’s name was on the list of those killed in the attack. The building is located in the contested Dahiyeh neighborhood, a Hezbollah stronghold and a hotbed of anti-Israel activity.
Israel is believed to have launched the missile strike from a drone positioned in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Beirut. The missiles reportedly struck the building from a distance of more than 20 miles, according to reports. An Israeli military spokesman said he could not comment on the details of the operation.
A US official tells Axios that while the killing of the Hamas deputy is a significant blow to the organization, it won’t stop Hezbollah from increasing its attacks against Israel, especially in the northern part of the country. The official says the United States has been pressing Hezbollah to hold off on an escalation of its attacks.
Several other senior Hezbollah and Hamas officials have warned that the escalating conflict in Gaza could rapidly escalate into a wider war across the region. Israeli officials say they believe that Hezbollah is planning to increase the range of its missiles from short-range rockets to long-range precision-guided missiles capable of hitting major Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv and Haifa.
On Wednesday, the heirs of Arouri’s family told the Palestinian news agency Wafa that although his death saddens them, they had been expecting it for a long time. They said they had hoped that the Palestinians would be able to achieve peace through a dialogue with Israel rather than a violent confrontation.
The killing of Arouri will likely only strengthen the resolve of Palestinians to resist Israeli aggression, experts say. It will also fuel the fires of a war between Israel and Hezbollah, which is already threatening to expand its operations in Lebanon into an all-out war against Israel.