Hamas leader’s killing raises fears of wider conflict

3 months ago 72

Israel says it’s ready ‘for any scenario’ as strike kills Hamas deputy in Lebanon; bombing of the enclave continues

Israeli forces intensified their bombing of the Gaza Strip yesterday and told civilians to leave a refugee camp in the north of the Palestinian enclave after the offensive stretched into Lebanon with the killing in Beirut of the Hamas deputy leader.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it killed Saleh al-Arouri in a drone strike in the Lebanese capital on Tuesday. But military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces were in a high state of readiness and prepared for any scenario.

The military was in "very high state of readiness in all arenas, in defence and offence. We are highly prepared for any scenario," Hagari said.

The assassination of Arouri was a further sign that the nearly three-month conflict between Israel and Hamas was spreading across the region, drawing in the occupied West Bank, Hezbollah forces on the Lebanon-Israel border, and even Red Sea shipping lanes.

Hamas politburo member Hossam Badran said in a eulogy for Arouri: "We say to the criminal occupation (Israel) that the battle between us is open."

  • Israel strikes hit Al-Nusseirat, Al-Bureij refugee camps in Gaza 
  • Gaza death toll rises to 22,313
  • 128 Palestinians killed, 261 injured in 24 hours

Following Arouri's killing, the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon said it was deeply concerned about the possibility of an escalation "that could have devastating consequences for people on both sides of the border".

In Gaza itself, Israeli forces bombed Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in the northern part of the Hamas-ruled enclave overnight and into yesterday, destroying several multi-floor buildings, residents and Palestinian media said.

Israeli planes dropped leaflets on Al-Nusseirat ordering people to leave seven districts. War planes and tanks also stepped up attacks on the Al-Bureij refugee camp, reports Reuters.

Israel says it tries to avoid harm to civilians. But the total recorded Palestinian death toll has now reached 22,313, according to the Gaza health ministry. Some 128 Palestinians were killed and 261 injured in the past 24 hours, it added.

In the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, health officials said at least four people were killed in an Israeli air strike on a house. They said three people were also killed in an air strike on a house in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip.

In Iran, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Arouri's killing would "ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and the motivation to fight against the Zionist occupiers..."

Shortly before Arouri's killing, Hamas' paramount leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is also based outside Gaza, said the movement had delivered its response to an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal.

He reiterated that Hamas' conditions entailed "a complete cessation" of Israel's offensive in exchange for further releases of hostages.

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