Thousands of people gathered this Thursday in the capital of Lebanon to pay a final tribute to the number two of the political wing of Hamas, Saleh al Arouri, who died on Tuesday in an Israeli air strike in Beirut. Arouri, 57, was one of the creators of the military wing of Hamas and is the highest-ranking member of the organization killed by Israel since the war began last October.

During the day on Thursday, the funerals of Arouri and his two companions from the military wing of Hamas, Azzam Al Aqra and Muhammad Al Rayes, who also died in the Israeli drone attack, were held. Wrapped in Palestinian and Hamas flags, their coffins were carried on the shoulders of their followers to the Ali Mosque in Beirut, where their funeral was held. Some senior Hamas officials, such as Moussa Abu Marzouk, as well as representatives of Lebanese political parties attended. Senior officials from Hamas and its ally in Lebanon, the Shiite Hezbollah party, did not attend the event for security reasons. However, during the funeral walk through the streets of Beirut, a speech was broadcast from loudspeakers by the top leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniya, who noted that “the enemy,” referring to Israel, “is fleeing from its failures and defeats in Gaza to Lebanon”. Haniya previously called Arouri’s death an “absolute terrorist act and a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

After the prayer in the mosque, Arouri’s followers carried the coffins on their shoulders in a funeral march to the Palestine Martyrs’ Cemetery, which houses Palestinian militants – from different groups and confessions – killed in fighting against Israel in the last five decades. . Thousands of people accompanied the march with portraits of the fallen militants, as well as flags of Palestine, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

In images of the march broadcast by Al Jazeera, Arouri followers are seen chanting for Palestine and against Israel and the United States. The cemetery is located near Beirut airport and is connected to the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. Hundreds of Palestinians residing in these camps came to the funeral march to pay tribute to Arouri for his actions for the Palestinian cause.

The Hamas leader is responsible, among other acts, for negotiating in 2011 the release of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners locked up in Israeli prisons, in exchange for freeing the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by the Palestinian organization. Arouri had deep knowledge of the region and close communication with Iran and Hezbollah. According to several reports, he was close to Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, and the two were scheduled to meet this Wednesday to discuss the war in Gaza and the growing tension on the border between Lebanon and Israel. Tel Aviv believes that Arouri was one of the masterminds of the attack in the south of the country on October 7.