Gaza war spreads to Beirut with killing of Hamas deputy leader

Gaza war spreads to Beirut with killing of Hamas deputy leader
Gaza war spreads to Beirut with killing of Hamas deputy leader

Hello and welcome to the details of Gaza war spreads to Beirut with killing of Hamas deputy leader and now with the details

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Destroyed buildings lie in ruin in the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as seen from Israel, January 2, 2024. ― Reuters pic

BEIRUT, Jan 3 ― Israel killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in a drone strike in Lebanon's capital Beirut yesterday, Lebanese and Palestinian security sources said, raising the potential risk of war in Gaza spreading well beyond the Palestinian enclave.

Arouri, 57, was the first senior Hamas political leader to be assassinated since Israel launched a shattering air and ground offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers almost three months ago after the group's shock rampage into Israeli towns.

Lebanon's heavily armed Hezbollah group, a Hamas ally, has been exchanging near-daily fire with Israel across Lebanon's southern border since the war in Gaza began in October.

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Israel has long accused Arouri of lethal attacks on its citizens, but a Hamas official said he was also “at the heart of negotiations” conducted by Qatar and Egypt over the outcome of the Gaza war and the release of Hamas-held Israeli hostages.

Israel neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the killing, but its military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces were in a high state of readiness and prepared for any scenario.

“The most important thing to say tonight is that we are focused and remain focused on fighting Hamas,” he said when asked by a reporter about the reports of Arouri's killing.

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In Washington, the State Department denounced as “inflammatory and irresponsible” statements by Israeli cabinet ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.

Smotrich, one of the senior figures in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition, on Sunday called for Palestinian residents to leave the besieged strip, making way for Israelis who could “make the desert bloom.”

Such statements underscore fears among some in the Arab world that Israel wants to drive Palestinians out of land where they envision a future state, repeating the mass dispossession of Palestinians when Israel was created in 1948.

'I am waiting for martyrdom,' Arouri had said

Israel had accused Arouri, a co-founder of the Hamas' military wing, the Izz-el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, of ordering and supervising Hamas attacks in the Israeli-occupied West Bank for years.

“I am waiting for martyrdom (death) and I think I have lived too long,” Arouri said in August 2023, alluding to Israeli threats to eliminate Hamas leaders whether in Gaza or abroad.

Nasser Kanaani, spokesperson for the foreign ministry of Iran, a major supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, said Arouri's killing would “undoubtedly ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and the motivation to fight against the Zionist occupiers, not only in Palestine but also in the region and among all freedom-seekers worldwide.”

In a televised speech in August, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had warned Israel against carrying out any assassinations on Lebanese soil, vowing a “severe reaction.”

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah and other towns in the West Bank to condemn Arouri's killing, chanting, “Revenge, revenge, Qassam!”

The Gaza war was triggered by a shock cross-border Hamas assault on Israeli towns on October 7 in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and some 240 hostages spirited back to Gaza.

The Gaza health ministry said 207 people had been killed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total recorded Palestinian death toll to 22,185 in nearly three months of war in Gaza.

Civilian casualties have mounted in south Gaza as the brunt of Israel's offensive has shifted there from the north. Israel says it tries to avoid harm to civilians and blames Hamas for embedding fighters among them, an accusation Hamas denies.

The United States, Israel's main supporter, has been urging it to rein in its air and ground blitz, which has demolished vast tracts of densely populated Gaza, in favour of more targeted strikes focusing on Hamas leaders.

Israel has announced plans to pull back some troops, hinting at a new phase in the war amid a rising global outcry over the plight of Gaza civilians, although it also warned its offensive has many months to run.

Israeli bombardments have engulfed Gaza's 2.3 million residents in a humanitarian disaster in which thousands have been left destitute and threatened by famine due to a lack of food supplies.

Hamas responds to ceasefire proposal

Shortly before Arouri's killing, Hamas' paramount leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is also based outside Gaza, said the movement had delivered its response to an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal.

He reiterated that Hamas' conditions entailed “a complete cessation” of Israel's offensive in exchange for further releases of hostages.

Israel believes 129 hostages remain in Gaza after some were released during a brief truce in late November and others were killed during air strikes and rescue or escape attempts.

Israel has vowed to keep fighting until it has wiped out Hamas but it is unclear what it plans to do with the enclave should it succeed, and where that leaves the prospect of an independent Palestinian state.

Gaza residents said Israeli warplanes and tanks stepped up bombardments of eastern and northern districts of Khan Younis, where tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge after being forced to flee their homes elsewhere.

A United Nations worker who visited a hospital there on Tuesday said a 5-day-old baby and four other people were killed in a strike that hit the hospital.

In the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said, Israel had destroyed 12 Hamas regiments and only a few thousand militants remained out of 15,000-18,000 who had been based in the area. Others had fled to the south, he said. ― Reuters

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