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Senior Hamas official killed by blast in Lebanon, militant groups say

An apparent Israeli strike in the Lebanese capital of Beirut killed Hamas's No. 2 political leader on Tuesday, marking a potentially significant escalation of Israel's war against the militant group and heightening the risk of a wider Middle East conflict.

Saleh Arouri, 6 others died in Beirut in reported Israeli drone strike

A man with salt and pepper hair wears a black suit jacket as he speaks into a microphone while sitting at a table with a dark tablecloth.

An apparent Israeli strike in the Lebanese capital of Beirut killed Hamas's No. 2 political leader on Tuesday, marking a potentially significant escalation of Israel's war against the militant group and heightening the risk of a wider Middle East conflict.

Saleh Arouri, who was the most senior Hamas figure killed since the Islamist group's war with Israel began last October, was also a founder of the group's military wing. His death could provoke major retaliation by Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.

The strike hit an apartment in a building in a Shia district of Beirut that is a Hezbollah stronghold, and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to strike back against any Israeli targeting of Palestinian officials in Lebanon.

Lebanese soldiers guard a building reportedly targeted by an Israeli drone strike in Beirut.

Hezbollah and the Israeli military have been exchanging fire almost daily over the Israeli-Lebanese border since Israel's military campaign in Gaza began nearly three months ago.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said the strike was carried out by an Israeli drone, and Israeli officials declined to comment. Speaking to reporters, the Israeli military's Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari did not directly mention Arouri's death but said, "We are focused and remain focused on fighting against Hamas."

"We are on high readiness for any scenario," he added.

WATCH | Fears of widening conflict:

Senior Hamas leader killed in Beirut, Israel blamed

6 hours ago

Duration 2:52

Hamas says Israel killed one of its senior leaders, Saleh al-Arouri, in Beirut in an apparent drone strike. Israel has not taken responsibility and there are concerns the attack could trigger a response from Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, further escalating the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with the assault in Gaza until Hamas is crushed and the more than 100 hostages still held by the militant group in Gaza are freed, which he has said could take several more months. At the same time, Israeli officials have increasingly warned in recent days of stepped-up action against Hezbollah unless its cross-border fire stops.

Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to kill Hamas leaders wherever they are. The group's Oct. 7 attack from Gaza into southern Israel killed around 1,200 people, and some 240 others were taken hostage.

Israel claims to have killed a number of mid-level Hamas leaders in Gaza during the war, but this would be the first time it has reached into another country to target top leaders, many of whom live in exile around the region.

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Arouri was the deputy of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and headed the group's presence in the West Bank. He was also a key liaison with Hezbollah.

Haniyeh condemned the attack and said those responsible "left behind them strong men who will carry the banner after them."

Tuesday's blast shook a residential building in the Beirut suburb of Musharafieh, killing four people, according to the Lebanese news agency. Hamas confirmed that Arouri was killed along with six other members of the group, including two military commanders.

WATCH | Israel warns fight against Hamas could last months:

Israel claims it's reduced civilian casualties as Gazans pleads for help

6 days ago

Duration 2:04

While millions in Gaza scramble for any sort of shelter, Israel claims it’s trying to be more ‘surgical’ in its military operations to reduce civilian casualties, but also warns its campaign to crush Hamas could last months.

Hezbollah called the strike "a serious attack on Lebanon, its people, its security, sovereignty and resistance."

"We affirm that this crime will never pass without response and punishment," it said.

Since the Gaza conflict began, the Lebanese have feared their country could be pulled into a full-fledged war. Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006, when Israeli bombardment wreaked heavy destruction in southern Lebanon.

Combat in Gaza continues

Israel's air, ground and sea assault in Gaza has killed more than 22,100 people in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Fierce fighting has continued in other areas of the Palestinian territory, especially the south, where many of Hamas's forces remain intact and where most of Gaza's population has fled.

Palestinians reported heavy airstrikes and artillery shelling in the southern city of Khan Younis on Tuesday.

Fighting was also underway in and around the built-up Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. The army issued evacuation orders to people living in parts of nearby Nuseirat camp. A strike Tuesday levelled a building in Nuseirat, killing at least eight people, according to officials at the nearby hospital.

A group of people stand on top of concrete rubble where a house used to be.

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