Saleh al Arouri, born in 1966 in the West Bank town of Aroura, was considered the leader of the Palestinian armed group Hamas in this territory and was one of the founders of its military wing, the Izedin al Qasam Brigades. Israel holds him responsible for numerous attacks and the kidnapping, in 2014, of three Israeli teenagers.

A member of Hamas’s Politburo since 2010, he was elected its vice president in 2017, second only to Ismail Haniya, the organization’s top leader. That year Al Arouri led a Palestinian delegation that traveled to Iran and then met with the leader of Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, marking a relaunch of relations with both Tehran and the Lebanese Shiite group. The bond had been damaged by their participation in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar Assad. Hamas had positioned itself on the rebel side, led by Sunni armed groups, ideologically related to the Palestinian organization.

Although he had been in exile since 2010 – first exiled in Damascus, where he lived for three years, then moving to Turkey and in 2015 arriving in Beirut, where he was finally liquidated by Israel – he has played a fundamental role in the activity of Hamas as a negotiator thanks to its connections abroad. In 2011, he negotiated the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israeli prisons, among whom was Yahya Sinwar, current leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In 2020 he reached an agreement with Al Fatah, the Palestinian faction that has governed the West Bank since the schism created in 2006 by the electoral victory of Hamas in Gaza. But the pact to hold legislative and presidential elections – which were going to be the first since the 2006 division – never saw the light of day.

Al Arouri was considered a pragmatist. He was a member of Hamas since its inception in the early 1980s, where he began as a student leader at Hebron University, where he studied Islamic Law, before establishing the bases of its armed branch in the West Bank. He was arrested numerous times and imprisoned by Israeli authorities. He spent 15 years in prison.

The commander was already in Israeli sights before the bloody attack that Hamas carried out on October 7. But that pending death ‘sentence’ has now been carried out. A sign that Al Arouri was an immediate target was revealed a few weeks ago, when on October 27 the Israeli army gave the order to demolish his house in Aroura, a town near Ramallah.

In recent weeks he has been one of the Hamas leaders most involved in the negotiations to agree on a humanitarian ceasefire in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages captured on October 7. However, the organization has already said that there will be no further release agreements until the complete cessation of hostilities.

Its elimination represents a step up in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal of eradicating Hamas. The figure of El Arouri is considered key in the rise of the Islamist group in the West Bank in recent years. Last August he called on his bases to respond to increasing violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories. “I am waiting for martyrdom and I think I have lived too long,” he said then.