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Analysts Warn of Escalation Risk Following Drone Strike Death of Hamas Leader

An Israeli drone strike reportedly killed Saleh Arouri in Beirut, an attack likely to further inflame the region.

Smoke rises after Israeli drone struck a Hamas office in Dahieh region of Beirut, Lebanon, on January 2, 2024.

Fears of an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah intensified Tuesday after an Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a senior Hamas official in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, an attack likely to further enflame a region reeling from Israel’s catastrophic assault on Gaza.

Citing three unnamed security sources and Lebanese news outlets, Reuters reported that an Israeli drone attack on an office building in the suburbs of Dahiyeh killed Saleh Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas’ political wing and one of the founders of the group’s military arm. The strike also killed several others, with Reuters observing that “limbs and other pieces of flesh could be seen on the roadside.”

One Hamas official, Bassem Naim, confirmed to The Associated Press that Arouri was killed in the alleged Israeli drone strike. Israel has thus far declined to say whether it carried out the attack.

“If Israel wants to kick-start a major war with Hezbollah, bombing a target in Beirut is exactly the way to do it,” Firas Maksad, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, wrote in response to the blast. “Hezbollah will now have to go up the escalation ladder and respond in kind.”

AP noted that “Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to retaliate against any Israeli targeting of Palestinian officials in Lebanon.”

Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire with growing frequency and intensity since October 7, when a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel was met with one of the most destructive bombing campaigns in modern history, devastating Gaza.

Middle East analyst Omar Baddar argued that Israel’s alleged strike in Beirut marks “an extremely serious escalation.”

“Bombing Beirut or its suburbs had long been declared a red line by Hezbollah that would necessitate significant retaliation,” Baddar wrote. “All eyes on Lebanon now.”

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