Al-Arouri’s assassination is a blow to Hamas, although probably not debilitating, analysts say. | ET REALITY


The killing of Saleh al-Arouri deprives Hamas of one of its most skilled tacticians, who helped send money and weapons to its agents in Gaza and other parts of the Middle East and integrated the group more closely into Iran’s network of compromised forces. with the fight against Israel. according to analysts.

But it was far from clear that his death would be a debilitating blow to the organization, which has rebuilt itself again and again after the assassinations of its leaders and remained agile enough to plan the October 7 terrorist attacks despite years of Israeli military and intelligence efforts. to weaken it.

Still, al-Arouri’s killing — in an attack in a Beirut suburb on Tuesday that senior officials in Hamas, Lebanon and the United States blamed on Israel — puts Hamas at the most vulnerable moment in its history, analysts said.

Israel’s overwhelming offensive in Gaza has significantly weakened the group’s military strength there, including its ability to make rockets and other weapons. Al-Arouri’s position, as Hamas’s de facto ambassador to Iran and Hezbollah, meant that he would have played an important role in the group’s efforts to rebuild itself militarily with the help of foreign backers. Israel has not taken responsibility for his murder.

“Hamas will suffer because it has lost one of its key strategists,” said Emile Hokayem, regional security director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “He was someone who handled high-level political relations well and also had credibility as a commander.”

Rebuilding its military capabilities “will be the problem for Hamas in the next phase, and will likely rely more on foreign support as its base in Palestine weakens,” Hokayem added.

The killing of al-Arouri also further internationalized Israel’s war against Hamas, significantly increasing the risks for countries hosting Hamas officials and placing new pressures on the group that, if sustained, could transform it.

In recent years, Hamas has operated as a network with nodes throughout the Middle East. Since 2007, it has been the de facto government for Gaza’s 2.2 million Palestinians, overseeing services such as water and electricity while its armed wing frequently fought with Israel. Its agents also organized covertly in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, while officials in other countries raised money to finance their operations, maintained relations with their allies, and communicated their views to foreign journalists and diplomats.

The killing of al-Arouri suggested that Hamas members can no longer operate safely in Lebanon, where Hamas officials have held frequent press conferences throughout the Gaza war. They may also need to be careful in Qatar, where the group’s top political leaders have an office, and in Turkey, where top Hamas figures regularly spend time.

“The movement is going to change significantly,” Hokayem said.

Israel, the United States and other countries consider Hamas a terrorist organization, limiting where its leaders can go, and even countries that have not banned the group might hesitate to host its operatives, fearing assassinations in his territory.

Mr al-Arouri met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; he approached Hassan Nasrallah, the powerful leader of Hezbollah; and he helped strengthen Hamas forces in Lebanon, along Israel’s northern border.

Even before the war, Nasrallah had warned that any assassination on Lebanese territory would meet with a strong response. He is expected to speak publicly again on Wednesday, in a speech scheduled before al-Arouri’s assassination.

Imad Alsoos, Gaza researcher at the MECAM Center of the University of Tunis, said the loss of al-Arouri would not paralyze Hamas. Israel, he said, had killed dozens of Hamas leaders over decades without permanently undermining the group’s ability to rebuild or plan the Oct. 7 attack.

Those assassinations had made the group agile, he said, and its leaders rose to prominence through elections and their legitimacy within the organization, not because of their personal charisma or religious credentials.

“Within Hamas there is always a certain hierarchy and replacement is very fluid,” he said. “Within Hamas, personality is not the source of power.”

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