Israel Takes Out Top Hamas Terrorist in Lebanon

It could lead to a significant escalation between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel.

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: An alleged Israeli drone strike inside Lebanon recently killed top Hamas commanders including Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau and commander of its West Bank military wing.

Context: One of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, Al-Arouri was at the forefront of strengthening Hamas’s ties with Hezbollah and Iran, and he was behind terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians over the past year. The U.S. had offered up to $5 million for information on his location.

The fallout: Immediately after the strike, Hamas said it would cease all negotiations with Israel over a possible deal to release more hostages. Protests for al-Arouri broke out in Arab cities. The U.S. made it clear Israel did not inform it of the strike in advance.

What’s next: Israel is reportedly preparing for a substantial response from Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s capabilities are significantly more advanced than those of Hamas and there is concern Hezbollah could use long-range missiles to attack major population centers such as Tel Aviv or Haifa.

  • Why? Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in August 2023 that such strikes, especially in Beirut, “cannot be tolerated, and we will not allow Lebanon to open the arena for assassinations.” Then, on Tuesday, Hezbollah said the assassination “will never pass without a response and punishment.”

Why it matters: Hezbollah has launched hundreds of attacks from Israel’s North since October 7, killing both soldiers and civilians, but this represents an entrance to a new, more dangerous phase in this front of the war, which still includes Hamas in Gaza.

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