At least six people killed in Israeli drone strike on Lebanese capital, state media report.

Senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri has been killed in an Israeli drone strike on Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh, the Palestinian group and Lebanese media outlets say.

Al-Arouri was killed on Tuesday in a “treacherous Zionist strike”, Hamas said on its official channel. Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Sharq called it a “cowardly assassination”.

Al-Arouri was a senior official in Hamas’s politburo but was known to be deeply involved in its military affairs. He had previously headed the group’s presence in the occupied West Bank.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said the blast killed at least six people and was carried out by an Israeli drone.

People gather on January 2, 2024, in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh after an explosion [Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

Hamas vowed that al-Arouri’s killing will not “undermine the continued brave resistance” in Gaza, where the Palestinian group’s fighters are battling Israeli ground forces.

“It proves once more the utter failure of the enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip,” senior Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told MSNBC that Israel had not taken responsibility for this attack, but “whoever did it, it must be clear: That this was not attack an attack on the Lebanese state.”

“Whoever did this did a surgical strike against the Hamas leadership,” Regev told MSNBC in an interview.

Lebanon’s prime minister condemned the killing, saying the attack “aims to draw Lebanon” further into the Israel-Hamas war.

“Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the explosion in the southern suburbs of Beirut that killed and injured many,” his office said in a statement.

The attack “aims to draw Lebanon into a new phase of confrontations” with Israel at a time when Hamas ally Hezbollah has been exchanging daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in northern Israel, the statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened to kill al-Arouri before Israel’s latest assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Since the heavy exchanges of fire began on October 8 on the Lebanese-Israeli border, the fighting has been concentrated a few kilometres from the border, but on several occasions, Israel’s air force has hit what it said were Hezbollah positions deeper inside Lebanon.

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