Hamas deputy leader killed in Beirut

Gaza war reaches beyond the Palestinian enclave, with the killing of Hamas’ deputy leader in Beirut.

Reports from Lebanese and Palestinian security sources indicate that Israel conducted a drone strike in Beirut, Lebanon, resulting in the death of Saleh al-Arouri, deputy leader of Hamas. This development raises concerns about the potential spread of the conflict beyond the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

Al-Arouri, aged 57, is the first senior Hamas political leader to be assassinated since Israel launched a major offensive against Hamas in Gaza nearly three months ago. The offensive was triggered by Hamas’ surprise attacks on Israeli towns. Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas, has been engaged in frequent exchanges of fire with Israel along the southern border since the Gaza war began in October.

Israel has long accused al-Arouri of orchestrating lethal attacks against its citizens. However, a Hamas official stated that al-Arouri was also involved in negotiations conducted by Qatar and Egypt regarding the outcome of the Gaza war and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the killing. Nevertheless, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the spokesperson for the Israeli military, emphasized that Israeli forces are prepared for any scenario and remain focused on combating Hamas.

The State Department in Washington denounced statements made by Israeli cabinet ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, which advocated for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza. These statements have raised concerns in the Arab world that Israel intends to forcibly remove Palestinians from their land, potentially repeating the mass displacement that occurred during Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Al-Arouri, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz-el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, had been accused by Israel of ordering and overseeing Hamas attacks in the Israeli-occupied West Bank for many years. In the past, he expressed his expectation of martyrdom, referring to Israeli threats to eliminate Hamas leaders.

The killing of al-Arouri is expected to reignite resistance and motivate fighters against the Israeli occupiers, not only in Palestine but also in the broader region and among freedom-seekers worldwide, according to Nasser Kanaani, a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, a major supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Following the news of al-Arouri’s killing, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah and other West Bank towns, chanting slogans demanding revenge.

The Gaza war, which began with Hamas’ cross-border assault on Israeli towns in October, has resulted in significant casualties on both sides. Israel claims that 1,200 people were killed, while the Gaza health ministry reports 207 deaths in the past 24 hours alone, bringing the total Palestinian death toll to 22,185.

Civilian casualties have increased in southern Gaza as Israel’s offensive has shifted focus to the region. Israel asserts that it takes measures to avoid harm to civilians and blames Hamas for embedding fighters among them, a claim Hamas denies.

The United States, Israel’s main supporter, has urged Israel to adopt more targeted strikes on Hamas leaders instead of its widespread air and ground blitz, which has caused extensive damage and a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Israel has announced plans to withdraw some troops, indicating a potential new phase in the war. However, it has also warned that the offensive will continue for several more months.

The bombardment of Gaza has created a dire humanitarian situation, with thousands of residents left destitute and at risk of famine due to a lack of food supplies.

Response of Hamas to Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal

Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh, stated that the group has delivered its response to an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal. Hamas demands a complete cessation of Israel’s offensive in exchange for further releases of Israeli hostages.

Although Israel has vowed to continue fighting until Hamas is eradicated, its plans for the future of Gaza and the prospects for an independent Palestinian state remain uncertain. Israeli warplanes and tanks have intensified bombardments in Khan Younis, where displaced Palestinians have sought refuge, resulting in further casualties. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that Israel had destroyed 12 Hamas regiments, with only a few thousand militants remaining in the northern Gaza Strip.

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