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War on Gaza: Hezbollah vows retaliation over Israel's killing of senior Hamas leader in Beirut

Lebanese group says 'finger on the trigger' after drone strike killed Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut neighbourhood of Dahiyeh
Hezbollah fighters attend funeral of comrade killed in southern Lebanon in cross-border fire with Israeli troops, on 21 December 2023 in Markaba, Lebanon (AFP)

The Lebanese Hezbollah movement has vowed to respond to Israel's killing of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut.

"We affirm that this crime will never pass without response and punishment," the Lebanese armed group said in a statement on Tuesday evening, local time.

"We consider the crime of killing Saleh al-Arouri and his companions in the heart of Beirut’s Dahiyeh a dangerous aggression against Lebanon and its people, security, sovereignty and resistance."

Hezbollah added that the killing of Arouri, which happened with a drone strike that also killed two commanders of the al-Qassam Brigades, was a "serious assault on Lebanon" and that it has "its finger on the trigger".

"The criminal enemy - which after ninety days of crime, killing and destruction was unable to subjugate Gaza - is resorting to a policy of assassination," Hezbollah said.

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Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the country's military is at a "very high level of readiness - in all arenas, in defence and offence", as the country braces for retaliation by Hezbollah.

"We are in a high state of readiness for any scenario," Hagari said, without acknowledging the strike.

Hours after the assassination, Hezbollah said it attacked a group of Israeli soldiers near the vicinity of Marj with missiles - the first cross-border fire from the group since Arouri was killed.

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Hezbollah said the attack happened across from the Lebanese border town of Markaba.

Axios reported that Israel is preparing for the firing of long-range ballistic missiles by Hezbollah in response to the assassination.

'A decisive response'

Israel has not publicly taken credit for the killing of Arouri. However, two US officials told Axios that Israel was behind the strike.

The officials stressed that Israel did not notify the Biden administration in advance of the attack.

Israel assassinates Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon's Beirut
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A senior Israeli official also told the news site that it did not give Washington advanced notice of the attack, which comes after the US announced it would be pulling one of its carrier strike groups from the region.

The assassination of Arouri is the latest sign of a wider escalation of the conflict in Gaza extending outside its borders.

On Sunday, the US military killed 10 Houthi fighters, in an incident condemned by the Yemeni group.

Meanwhile, Arouri's killing could lead to a larger retaliation by Hezbollah against Israel, a move that the Lebanese group has so far avoided as it engages in cross-border attacks.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, previously said that "any assassination on Lebanese soil against a Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian or Palestinian will be met with a decisive response".

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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