Saleh Al-Arouri, number two in Hamas’s political bureau, was killed Tuesday, January 2, by an Israeli strike near Beirut, announced the Palestinian movement and two officials from the Lebanese security services.

According to one of them, the strike that caused his death and those of his bodyguards targeted the Hamas office in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital. According to the Lebanese news agency ANI, the explosion caused by a drone killed six people. “A meeting of Palestinian groups was being held” in the targeted building, she specifies. Saleh Al-Arouri was considered one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing.

Hamas confirmed he was “assassinated” in an Israeli strike in Beirut. “Martyrdom of the vice chairman of the Hamas politburo, Sheikh Saleh Al-Arouri, in a Zionist strike in Beirut,” the movement said in an announcement broadcast by its official channel, Al-Aqsa TV, and its other media outlets.

“The cowardly assassinations carried out by the Zionist occupier against the leaders and symbols of our Palestinian people inside and outside Palestine will not succeed in breaking the will and resilience of our people, nor will they hinder the continuation of his valiant resistance,” further states Ezzat Al-Rishq, member of the Hamas political bureau, in a statement.

Released in 2010

Contacted by Reuters, the Israeli army said it would not respond to questions regarding information from the foreign press. According to a Reuters journalist, the strike targeted a building located in a densely populated neighborhood of Daniyeh, near a highway. An Agence France-Presse photographer on site saw two floors of the building blown away and cars damaged in the area, to which ambulances were streaming.

The area is considered a stronghold of pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which has supported Hamas since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip on October 7, firing rockets almost daily into northern Israel, resulting in to unprecedented border clashes since 2006. The exchanges of fire were until now limited to the border area and the Israeli army had not targeted the Lebanese capital.

The Lebanese interim Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, denounced a “new Israeli crime” and considered that it was a new attempt by the Jewish state to push Lebanon to take part in the war. The death of Hamas number two occurred on the eve of a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah.

Accused by Israel of being the mastermind of numerous attacks, Saleh Al-Arouri was elected in 2017 to the post of deputy to Ismaïl Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, thus becoming the movement’s number two. After spending nearly twenty years in Israeli prisons, he was released in 2010 on the condition that he go into exile and have lived in Lebanon ever since.