Officials from Hamas and Hezbollah claimed an Israeli drone strike caused the January 2 explosion in Beirut and killed top Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri and several others, CBS News reported.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that the blast was allegedly carried out by an Israeli drone. However, officials in Israel declined to comment on the incident.
The explosion rattled a residential building in the suburb of Musharafieh, one of the areas that is a stronghold of the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah. While reports on the death toll differed, Hamas claimed that six other members of the terrorist group were also killed in the blast, including two military commanders.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, a leader of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah blamed Israel for the attack and said on local television that the crime would not “pass without response and punishment.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati described the attack as a crime and claimed that it was designed to “drag Lebanon” into confrontation with Israel.
The Associated Press reported that Hamas official Bassem Naim confirmed al-Arouri was among the dead.
One of the founders of the Hamas military wing, al-Arouri headed up the group’s activities in the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister had previously threatened to kill al-Arouri even before the October 7 terrorist attacks on Israel.
The United States was offering a reward of up to $5 million for information on al-Arouri who had been linked to multiple kidnappings, hijackings, and terrorist attacks.
The explosion in Musharafieh came after over two months of heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border.
Israel started evacuating communities near the border with Lebanon in mid-October, ultimately displacing around 200,000 residents.
At least nine Israeli soldiers and four civilians have been killed in Hezbollah attacks. Israel’s counter-attacks in southern Lebanon have killed over 150 people, mostly members of Hezbollah.