Skip to main content

Top Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri killed in Beirut as Lebanon-Israel tension soars

Videos of the aftermath of the reported drone strike showed a large impact on cars and residential buildings as the Israel-Lebanon border heats up.
An image of the aftermath of the explosion in southern Beirut on Jan. 2, 2023.

BEIRUT/NEW YORK — An explosion rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Tuesday, killing Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy political leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The explosion took place around 5:45 p.m. local time in the Mashrifiyah area in the Dahiyeh district, south of Beirut. Videos showed a large impact on cars and residential buildings. Reuters reported that the blast was caused by an Israeli drone strike, citing three security sources.

Hamas confirmed that Arouri was killed in the explosion along with two leaders of its militant wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) later said that Arouri was killed in a strike targeting a meeting of Palestinian factions. Six others were killed and 11 injured, NNA said.

The Washington Post quoted a Hezbollah spokesperson as saying that the headquarters of a Palestinian official was targeted in the Dahiyeh district. The area also hosts Hezbollah's headquarters. 

The US Treasury Department added Arouri to its terrorism blacklist in 2015, and the State Department had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information on his whereabouts.

Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said Arouri’s assassination in Beirut will not stop his group’s commitment to fighting Israel. 

“The cowardly assassinations carried out by the [Israeli] occupation against the leaders and symbols of our Palestinian people inside and outside Palestine will not succeed in breaking the steadfastness of our people,” Rishq said in a statement.

For his part, Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the killing, which he warned may drag Lebanon further into a new stage of confrontations.

The explosion came as tension escalated on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Israel carried out strikes in Syria and Lebanon overnight on Tuesday that it said targeted Hezbollah infrastructure.

The Israeli leadership declined to comment on the killing. Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered cabinet ministers not to react to the news. Yet Knesset member Danny Danon of the Likud party congratulated the security agencies for allegedly carrying out the attack. "I congratulate the Israeli military, the Shin Bet, the Mossad and the security forces for killing senior Hamas official Salah al-Arouri in Beirut," Danon wrote in a post on X. 

Speaking to MSNBC, Mark Regev, an adviser to Netanyahu, reiterated that Israel had not taken responsibility for the attack but added that "whoever did it, it must be clear: that this was not an attack on the Lebanese state."

Israeli analysts qualified the killing as a game-changer significantly damaging the backbone of Hamas leadership, and an indication that Israel appears to have taken off the gloves in all that relates to Hamas leaders at home and abroad. 

Rina Bassist contributed to this report. 

This is a breaking story and will be updated.