Saleh Al Arouri: Former Hamas military commander who became deputy leader

Official killed in Israeli strike in Lebanon became the group's deputy head in 2017

Who was Saleh Al Arouri, the Hamas leader killed in Lebanon?

Who was Saleh Al Arouri, the Hamas leader killed in Lebanon?
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Saleh Al Arouri, who was killed in an Israeli drone strike in southern Beirut on Tuesday, was a member of Hamas’s political bureau since 2010 and its deputy leader since 2017.

Mr Al Arouri, born in 1966 in the occupied West Bank, was the most senior Hamas official killed by Israel since the assault on Gaza began on October 7 following the militant group's attacks on Israel.

The former military commander and financier had managed the transfer of money and weapons for Hamas since the 1980s and helped to found the West Bank branch of its military wing.

He allegedly co-ordinated the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank, which sparked that summer’s war against Gaza. He also reportedly created and ran Hamas’s bureau in Turkey until his expulsion from the country in 2015.

The US Treasury accused Mr Al Arouri of serving as “a key financier and financial facilitator for Hamas military cells planning attacks and fomenting unrest”. In November 2018, the US offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

The US Department of Sate said that Mr Al Arouri was working closely with the late Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Qassem Suleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Suleimani commanded the Quds Force, a branch of the IRGC tasked with working with irregular militia forces across the region, building Iran's proxy units as a bulwark against Israel.

The killing of the Hamas leader came hours before the anniversary of Mr Suleimani's assassination.

The Hamas leader was repeatedly detained by Israel, including for long periods between 1985-1992, and 1992-2007. In 2010, he was deported by Israel to Syria, where he lived for three years before moving to Turkey and then Lebanon.

He was killed in a suburb of Beirut considered to be a stronghold for Hezbollah.

Mr Al Arouri reportedly headed Hamas’s delegation in successive reconciliation talks with other Palestinian factions including Fatah.

The senior official also helped negotiate the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails, including Yahya Sinwar, the group’s political leader in the Gaza Strip since 2017 and the founding member of Hamas’s military wing and intelligence service.

He was one of the Hamas officials most closely connected to Iran and its ally Hezbollah. His assassination marks a major escalation in Israel's attacks on Lebanon, which until now have concentrated on southern border areas.

Updated: January 03, 2024, 4:20 PM