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Civil defense workers search for survivors inside a destroyed apartment following the attack in Beirut. Associated Press/Alamy
Middle East

Hezbollah leader warns Israel against waging war on Lebanon as fears rise of wider conflict

Hamas’s number two Saleh al-Aruri was killed along with his bodyguards in the strike by Israel.


HEZBOLLAH CHIEF HASSAN Nasrallah has warned Israel against waging war on Lebanon, a day after a strike blamed on Israel killed Hamas’s number two in the group’s Beirut stronghold.

“If the enemy thinks of waging a war on Lebanon, we will fight without restraint, without rules, without limits and without restrictions,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

“We are not afraid of war.”

The Israeli army said earlier that it is “prepared for any scenario” after the Beirut strike.

The attack has stoked fears the conflict in the Gaza Strip could boil over into wider regional conflict.

In the occupied West Bank, where the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported multiple Israeli operations overnight, AFPTV images showed scores of people in the streets of Ramallah to protest at Saleh al-Aruri’s killing.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also condemned the killing, and warned about the “risks and consequences that could follow”, his office said.

Israeli strikes in neighbouring countries on groups acting in support of Hamas have fanned fears of a wider conflict.

In a call with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz after Aruri’s killing, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israel to “avoid any escalatory attitude, particularly in Lebanon”.

A strike inside Syria last month that was blamed on Israel killed a senior commander of the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

A high-level security official in Lebanon told AFP that Saleh al-Aruri was killed along with his bodyguards in a strike by Israel, which has vowed to destroy Hamas after the movement’s shock 7 October attacks.

A second security official confirmed the information, while Hamas TV also reported Israel had killed Aruri in Lebanon.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari did not directly comment on the killing, but said afterwards that the military was in “very high state of readiness in all arenas, in defence and offence”.

“We are highly prepared for any scenario,” he added.

hezbollah-civil-defense-workers-search-for-body-remains-near-an-apartment-building-where-an-apparent-israeli-strike-tuesday-killed-top-hamas-political-leader-saleh-arouri-in-the-southern-suburb-of-b Hezbollah Civil defense workers examine the scene near where the attack took place. Associated Press / Alamy Associated Press / Alamy / Alamy

Israel has previously announced the deaths in Gaza of Hamas commanders and officials during the conflict, but Aruri is the most high-profile figure to be killed, and his death came in the first strike on the Lebanese capital since hostilities began.

Hamas said Aruri’s death would not lead to its defeat, while its Lebanon-based ally Hezbollah vowed the killing would not go unpunished, calling it “a serious assault on Lebanon… and a dangerous development”.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the killing and said it “aims to draw Lebanon” further into the conflict.

people-gather-outside-a-damaged-building-following-a-massive-explosion-in-the-southern-suburb-of-beirut-lebanon-tuesday-jan-2-2024-the-tv-station-of-lebanons-hezbollah-group-says-top-hamas-offi People gather outside a building damaged in the attack. Associated Press / Alamy Associated Press / Alamy / Alamy

Aruri, who lived in exile, is accused by Israel of masterminding numerous attacks.

Following his death, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said that a movement “whose leaders fall as martyrs for the dignity of our people and our nation will never be defeated”.

After the 7 October, Israel began a relentless bombardment and ground offensive that has killed at least 22,185 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Hamas’s attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also took around 250 hostages back to Hamas-ruled Gaza, of whom 129 remain in captivity, according to Israeli figures.

- © AFP 2024