Why Israel Killing Hamas Deputy Saleh al-Arouri Could Escalate War Beyond Gaza

His death heightened fears of a wider regional blowout.

New Delhi:

From his early days as a student leader at Hebron University to his eventual position as 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, comes as a defining moment in the escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Saleh al-Arouri’s ascent to the role of deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau in 2017 solidified his standing as a key political figure within the organisation. Accused by Israel and the United States of overseeing Hamas’s military operations in the occupied West Bank, his presence on the US list of terrorists since 2015 added an international dimension to his notoriety.

The Israeli strike that killed him targeted Hamas’s office in Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut, Lebanon. 

Ties And Accusations

Accused of financing and orchestrating military operations in the West Bank, Al-Arouri faced condemnation from both Israel and the US. The US-led Rewards for Justice Program offered $5 million for information leading to his identification or location, highlighting the severity of the allegations against him.

His involvement in planning the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank further solidified his reputation as a notorious militant.

The Two Faces Of Al-Arouri

A closer look at Al-Arouri’s life reveals a dual identity – a meticulous, bookish figure who was not only an organiser and militant but also a family man. Court records and international agency reports paint a complex picture of a man deeply involved in Hamas’s military activities while simultaneously navigating personal relationships and periods of incarceration.

Despite occasional claims of reform, Al-Arouri’s actions spoke louder than words. His exile to Turkey and subsequent alleged planning of increased West Bank terrorism suggested a relentless pursuit of Hamas’s objectives, particularly through the tactic of kidnapping Israelis.

The US Department of the Treasury designated Al-Arouri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2015. The repercussions of this designation included the blocking of assets and restrictions on transactions involving him.

Potential Escalation In Tensions

The Israeli strike in Beirut that claimed Al-Arouri’s life marked a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. As the most high-profile figure to be killed in the conflict, his death heightened fears of a wider regional blowout.

Hamas and its allies, including Lebanon-based Hezbollah, vowed retaliation, deepening concerns about the widening scope of the conflict. The strike not only stirred tensions between Israel and Lebanon but also drew condemnation from Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who feared further entanglement in the war.

Condemning Al-Arouri’s death, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said that a movement “whose leaders fall as martyrs for the dignity of our people and our nation will never be defeated”.

Images and videos on social media show many taking to the streets of Ramallah to protest the killing of Al-Arouri. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also expressed condemnation, emphasising the potential “risks and consequences” associated with the incident. 

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