The recent assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al Arouri in Beirut marks a significant turning point and the end of an era for both him and the Hamas organization. Hamas has been operating with growing impunity for years, with its leaders freely moving between Doha, Beirut, and Ankara. The organization has also managed to evade condemnation for its crimes from key countries and international organizations, as well as receiving funding from abroad to build a tunnel empire in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority even continued to pay salaries in Gaza, despite being forced out by Hamas in 2007.
With the assassination of Saleh al Arouri, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has declared that the organization “will never be defeated.” Arouri, along with others, was killed in a blast in Beirut, and Hezbollah, which controls the area, has vowed to respond to the “assassination.” Turkey has previously warned against the killing of any Hamas members in the country.
Born in 1966, Arouri was involved in terrorist activities, including supporting and planning attacks and being linked to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in 2014. He was designated as a terrorist by the US and played a significant role in the Shalit deal in 2017. Despite this, he continued to operate openly in various countries and environments, establishing himself as a key figure in Hamas’s expansion efforts.
Overall, Arouri’s influence and activities have been emblematic of Hamas’s attempts to grow its regional influence, particularly after the attacks on October 7. He represented the organization’s ability to exploit regional dynamics and build up its capacity to become a significant terrorist threat in the Middle East. His assassination in Beirut marks the end of an era and signals a potential shift in the organization’s operations and influence in the region.