The prime minister of Lebanon blamed Israel for a drone strike in the suburbs of Beirut Tuesday that killed the deputy head of Hamas and two other commanders of the group. Najib Mikati said the attack was an attempt by Israel to drag the country into a new phase of the war.
Before his death, Saleh Al-Arouri played a key role in founding and operation of Hamas’ military wing in the occupied West Bank. The strike reportedly killed a total of six people in what would be Israel’s boldest offensive on Lebanese soil since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks revived tensions between the country and the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon.
Israeli officials are preparing for a considerable response from Hezbollah, which they fear may include long-range missiles aimed at targets in Israel, Axios reported.
Israel has not officially taken responsibility for the drone strike. In an appearance on MSNBC, Mark Regev, an advisor to the Israeli prime minister said that “whoever did this did a surgical strike against the Hamas leadership.”
Israeli fighter jets also struck Syrian military targets and Hezbollah outposts in Lebanon overnight, further increasing tensions between Israel and its neighbors.
The strikes may bring Hezbollah and Israel to the brink of war
The two sides have been exchanging fire for months, but “we’ve never been this close to a full-scale confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel,” a Middle East analyst wrote on X after the latest strikes. Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank said that Israel seems increasingly ready for war and that U.S. efforts to deter it from escalating the conflict have failed. Israeli officials have said the county will increase their attacks on Hezbollah if the militant group does not cease its strikes on Israel. Hezbollah has demanded Israel stop the conflict in Gaza if it wants a ceasefire on the border.
Israel will likely continue trying to take out “all the leaders of Hamas wherever they are”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in November that he had instructed the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, to “assassinate all the leaders of Hamas wherever they are.” As Israel pulls thousands of troops from the Gaza Strip, analysts expect more strikes such as the one that killed al-Arouri in Lebanon. “We will see more precision strikes and precision operations against Hamas leadership,” a former U.S. official told the New York Times. Topping Israel’s most-wanted list are the head of Hamas’ military wing, his second in command, and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. Sinwar is believed to be hiding in the tunnels under Gaza. Israel has recently intensified its attacks on the city of Khan Younis in Gaza, where it believes some of Hamas’s top brass are located.