Protests in the West Bank over the killing of Hamas deputy political leader in Lebanon

Protests erupted in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday shortly after top Hamas official Saleh Arouri and six other members of the militant group were killed by a drone strike in Beirut.

Hamas and Hezbollah officials confirmed that Arouri was killed in an explosion in a southern Beirut suburb and accused Israel of conducting the deadly strike. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have not publicly commented on Arouri’s death, though they wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that IDF fighter jets “struck Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon” on Tuesday.

Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing and led the group’s presence in the West Bank. He was considered Hamas’ Number Two, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had expressed the wish to have him killed even before the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October.

Arouri’s death has raised fears of the conflict expanding further in the Middle East, with Lebanon’s Hezbollah dramatically scaling up the fighting which has so far kept to a few exchanges of fire with Israeli forces at the border between the two countries. Hezbollah said the killing of the Hamas senior official “will not go unpunished.”

The killing of Arouri comes at a time when Israel has stepped up raids across the West Bank following the militant group’s attack which killed about 1,200 Israelis, most of them civilians.

People gather outside a damaged building following a massive explosion in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024.

The Israeli military confirmed that its forces killed four Palestinian militants early on Tuesday during a raid in the West Bank, saying the men had opened fire on troops attacking the village of Azzun, in the northern West Bank.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, an armed group loosely tied to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah movement, said the four dead belonged to its group. It said the four died defending the village.

More than 300 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the 7 October attack that sparked the war in Gaza. Most were killed in confrontations with Israeli forces during raids or protests, while some were killed in attacks by armed settlers.

Israel’s air, ground and sea assault in Gaza has killed more than 22,100 people in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.

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