‘The state has no say’: Lebanese politicians lament Saleh Al Arouri's killing in Beirut

Previous government efforts to stop Lebanon being dragged into Israel-Gaza conflict have achieved little

Top Hamas official killed in Israeli strike in Beirut

Top Hamas official killed in Israeli strike in Beirut
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While Lebanese politicians are condemning Tuesday's Israeli drone strikes on Beirut that killed Hamas's number two, there is an unmistakable sense the episode has underlined the powerlessness authorities have over the conflict with Israel, which has now moved to the capital.

And yet as Hamas and its allies – the so-called Axis of Resistance – threaten revenge for the killing of Saleh Al Arouri and six other Hamas members, the Lebanese government insists it is trying to calm matters, even if previous efforts have achieved little.

"Hamas leadership are present in Doha, in Turkey," said a representative from the Lebanese Forces, parliament's largest party.

"We didn't see such attacks in Doha and Turkey. Why? Because the state in Doha and Turkey is controlling the whole dynamics of these people. Here it's a totally chaotic situation. The state has no say in anything, it is a mere observer of events."

The LF is highly critical of groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas using Lebanese territory to conduct operations they say have taken place outside of state control.

"What were the interests of the Lebanese people yesterday?" the representative added.

"The trauma suffered by the Lebanese people since yesterday is for nothing. People are reconsidering everything, they are reconsidering going to work today, travelling in and out of the country.

"Everything was affected one way or another. For what purpose?"

The Lebanese government has strongly condemned Israel's actions in Palestinian territories since October 7, when Hamas went on a rampage in southern Israel. But the state, including the Lebanese Armed Forces, has refrained from directly entering the conflict.

Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, however, has engaged in daily cross-border clashes with Israel since the start of war in Gaza.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's attacks, Lebanon's Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib underlined the near complete lack of control. He said the government was seeking to convince Hezbollah not to respond, stressing it would become apparent if the group intend to do so within the next day.

"We are very concerned, [the] Lebanese don't want to be dragged – even Hezbollah does not want to be dragged – into a regional war," he said.

Hezbollah leader's speech eagerly awaited

Hezbollah says its attacks on northern Israel are aimed at alleviating the pressure on Hamas and other Palestinian allies in Gaza, which is being pummelled by a barrage of Israeli attacks from the air and on the ground.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati accused Israel on Tuesday of trying to "drag Lebanon further into the Israel-Gaza war". Mr Mikati, along with other ministers, have long voiced their wish to avoid such a scenario. But those calls have seemingly gone unheeded as daily clashes persist in southern Lebanon.

The country, once again, awaits Hassan Nasrallah's evening speech with bated breath, unsure what the response of the Hezbollah leader will be to the assassination of a close ally in a densely populated area of southern Beirut.

Israel's drone strike and breach of Lebanese sovereignty has been condemned from all sides but has also given the fiercest critics of Hezbollah a reason to once again decry a group they say is acting outside government authority.

"This is a brutal violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon," said a representative of the so-called opposition, a bloc of MPs that comprises about a third of parliament and includes the LF.

"But it's a brutal violation also of the sovereignty in all directions, not only the drone strike," the source said.

They were referring to the daily cross-border exchange of gunfire in which Hezbollah and its Palestinian allies have engaged with Israel.

"Make no mistake, we are not condemning the Palestinian cause," the opposition source added. "We are for the Palestinian cause 100 per cent. But how exactly are we helping their cause?"

Updated: January 03, 2024, 2:32 PM