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Hamas blames Israel for 'cowardly assassination' of deputy leader Saleh al Arouri

Hamas has said one of its top officials, Saleh al Arouri, has been killed in an explosion in Beirut - blaming the "cowardly assassination" on Israel.

Al Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas's military wing and the deputy leader of the group's political bureau. He also headed Hamas's presence in the West Bank.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said the blast in Beirut's southern suburb of Dahiyeh killed four people and was carried out by an Israeli drone.

Izzat al Rishq, a member of the political bureau of Hamas, has said al Arouri was killed in a "cowardly assassination" by Israel - and warned such attacks "will not succeed in breaking the will and steadfastness of our people, or undermining the continuation of their valiant resistance".

He added: "It proves once again the abject failure of this enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip."

Hezbollah has said the blast that killed al Arouri was a "serious assault on Lebanon".

The Lebanese militant group also said the death of al Arouri is a "dangerous development in the course of the war".

Hezbollah added that the killing "will not go without a response or punishment" and said the "axis of resistance" - a coalition of anti-Israeli and anti-Western groups backed by Iran - has its "finger on the trigger".

Meanwhile, Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said the "martyr's blood will undoubtedly ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and motivation to fight" against Israel.

Mr Kanaani also condemned the violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened to kill al Arouri even before the Hamas-Israel war began on 7 October 2023.

Hamas official Bassem Naim has confirmed al Arouri was killed in the blast.

Israeli officials declined to comment.

An explosion shook the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs on Tuesday evening causing chaos in Hezbollah's stronghold, but the nature of the blast was not immediately known.

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It was not clear if the explosion inflicted any casualties in the Beirut suburb, but videos circulating on social media showed serious damage and fire.

The explosion came during more than two months of heavy exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and members of Hezbollah along Lebanon's southern border.

Since the fighting began it has been concentrated a few miles from the border, but on several occasions Israel's air force hit Hezbollah targets deeper in Lebanon.

Earlier in the day, Hezbollah said its fighters carried out several attacks along the Lebanon-Israel border targeting Israeli military posts.