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Has Israel opened the Lebanese front in its battle with Hamas?

An assassination attempt in Sidon against a Hamas military leader appears to have been a pre-emptive Israeli strike warning his movement against attacking it from Lebanon.

An assassination attempt against a Hamas military leader last month has sparked speculation as to whether Israel and Hamas have opened a northern front in Lebanon in their ongoing struggle. On Jan. 23, Turkey handed over Ahmad Beitiye to Lebanese authorities for suspected involvement in the Jan. 14 car bombing that targeted Hamas leader Mohammed Hamdan in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, leaving him with an injured leg. Israel did not comment on the assassination attempt, but Hamas accused it of being behind it.

It has become customary for Israel to remain silent after conducting assassinations outside the Palestinian territories — perhaps to escape the immediate wrath of the countries whose laws it has violated — but it will sometimes claim responsibility years later. In December 2016, Hamas accused Israel of killing Mohammed Alzoari, a Tunisian with ties to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. Assassins shot him at point-blank range in Sfax, Tunisia. Israel is also believed to have killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas military official, in Dubai in 2010. Hamas accuses Israel of having killed another military official, Izz ad-Din Sheikh Khalil, in Damascus in 2004.

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