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Who was Saleh al-Arouri? And why his assassination matters

Saleh al-Arouri was deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau and commander of Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank.

Arouri was assassinated by Israel in a strike on Tuesday, along with two commanders from Hamas's military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades.

Arouri was born on 19 August 1966 in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. He worked his way up through Hamas, starting with student politics at Hebron University. He was one of the founders of the al-Qassam Brigades.

Arouri lived relatively freely within Beirut, but he has been on the US terrorist list since 2015 and had a $5m bounty placed on his head by Washington.

According to a New York Times report, Arouri was responsible for strengthening ties with both Iran and Hezbollah. He visited Tehran to meet the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in 2017 after he was elected as deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau.

He also expanded Hamas’s military infrastructure within Lebanon.

Arouri's assassination on Tuesday is a serious escalation by Israel, both against Hamas’s leadership abroad and Hezbollah. The southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh where Arouri was killed is a Hezbollah stronghold where the group maintains its headquarters.

Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged near-daily fire along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Tuesday’s strike could imperil US efforts to reduce tensions along the border and contain the conflict in Gaza.

The attack is also the most senior on a Hamas leader since 7 October and could mark the beginning of Israel’s campaign to target the group's leadership abroad.