Hamas leader killed: Israel is on high alert in anticipation of a possible response from Hezbollah

JERUSALEM (AP) — The head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service vowed Wednesday that the agency will pursue every Hamas member involved in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, regardless of their whereabouts. His pledge came a day after he was appointed deputy head of the Palestinian armed group Killed in a suspected Israeli raid in Beirut.

Israel refused to comment on reports that it carried out the killing, but David Barnea's statements seem to be the strongest indication yet that it was behind the explosion. Compare this to what happened in the aftermath of the killings at the 1972 Munich Olympics, when Mossad agents tracked down and killed Palestinian activists involved in the killings of Israeli athletes.

Israel was on high alert on Wednesday in anticipation of an escalation with the powerful Hezbollah militia in Lebanon after a raid in the Lebanese capital killed Saleh Al-Arouri. The most senior member of Hamas was killed Since the outbreak of war in Gaza about three months ago.

A strike on Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut could escalate low-intensity fighting along the Lebanese border into an all-out war.

In a speech on Wednesday evening, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed revenge, repeating his group’s statement that “this grave crime” of Al-Arouri’s killing will not go “without response and without punishment.” But he left the audience guessing when and in what form.

Nasrallah said that Hezbollah has so far been cautious in its strategic calculations in the conflict, balancing “the need to support Gaza with taking into account Lebanese national interests.” But if the Israelis wage war on Lebanon, the group is prepared to “fight without borders.”

“They will regret it,” he added. “It would be very, very, very expensive.”

Al-Arouri's killing provided a morale boost to Israelis who are still suffering from the crisis October 7 attack At a time when militants continue intense resistance in Gaza and take dozens of hostages.

Barnea said that the Mossad is “committed to settling scores with the killers who raided the Gaza Strip,” referring to the area of ​​southern Israel that Hamas attacked. He pledged to pursue all those involved “directly or indirectly,” including “planners and envoys.”

He said: “It will take time, just as it took time after the Munich massacre, but we will put our hands on them wherever they are.” Barnea was speaking at the funeral of former Mossad chief Zvi Zamir, who died the previous day at the age of 98.

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Zamir was heading the intelligence service at the time of the Munich attack, in which Palestinian gunmen killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic delegation. Israel subsequently killed members of the Black September armed group that carried out the attack.

Looking to Hezbollah

Hezbollah and the Israeli army have exchanged fire on an almost daily basis on the Israeli-Lebanese border since the start of the war in Gaza. But Nasrallah seemed reluctant to escalate the matter further, perhaps fearing a repeat of the month-long 2006 war, when Israel heavily bombed Beirut and southern Lebanon.

At the same time, Hezbollah is also facing pressure to show support for its ally Hamas.

Nasrallah's comments about balancing interests reflect the group's wariness of being blamed by the Lebanese if its talks with Israel escalate into an all-out war that brings devastation similar to the 2006 war. He avoided details about any possible retaliation for Arouri's killing, though he said he would address the issue further in a speech. He delivers it on Friday.

But he said that if Israel attacked Lebanon, it would be in the national interest to respond. He added: “We are not afraid of war.” If the enemy thinks about waging war on Lebanon, we will respond without limits or limits.”

Hezbollah boasts an arsenal that includes tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, in addition to various types of drones. The United States sought to prevent any expansion of the conflict, including by Deploying two aircraft carriers and other military assets to the region. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to arrive in the region this week.

Nasrallah praised Al-Arouri as well as the attack carried out by the movement on October 7, saying that it “restored light to the Palestinian issue after it had been almost forgotten.” He said that Israel has so far failed to achieve all its goals in the Gaza war and its international reputation is being damaged.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Herzi Halevy visited Israel's northern border with Lebanon on Wednesday, saying, “We are highly prepared in the north.”

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It is clear that Hamas leaders expect Hezbollah to have its back.

In an interview on Saturday, three days before Al-Arouri's killing, the Associated Press asked Osama Hamdan, a Hamas political official based in Beirut, whether the movement was concerned about the possibility of Israel assassinating its officials in Lebanon.

Hamdan predicted that Hezbollah would not let this go unpunished, and that an all-out war would ensue.

“So why would Israel want to do that? “Do you want a war” in Lebanon? Asked. “War could happen if Israel behaved wrongly and aggressively,” or war might not happen “if Israel took a step back and acted in a non-aggressive manner against Lebanon.”

In what appeared to be an escalation, Hezbollah said on Wednesday that nine of its fighters were killed in Israeli raids in Lebanon, among the highest daily death tolls in nearly three months of clashes.

Hezbollah also announced that its fighters carried out 11 attacks on Israeli positions along the border, including four using Burkan rockets with heavy warheads, which the group has rarely fired during the current conflict. The statement did not directly link the fire to Al-Arouri's death.

Al-Arouri was deputy to the supreme political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, and headed the movement’s presence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He was also a key contact with Hezbollah.

An American official confirmed that the Israeli army carried out the raid that resulted in Al-Arouri's death and did not provide prior notice to the White House. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation.

This strike will be the first time since the war that Israel has reached out to another country to target Hamas leaders, many of whom live in exile across the region.

The Mossad chief's comments indicate that more assassinations of Hamas figures will occur, echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's threats to kill Hamas leaders wherever they are. The October 7 Hamas attack from Gaza on southern Israel left about 1,200 people dead and about 240 others taken hostage.

Israel seeks to achieve a “clear victory” in Gaza

The focus of the war remains on Gaza, with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant saying that Israel seeks to achieve a “clear victory” over Hamas, which has ruled the Strip since 2007.

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The Israeli air, sea and naval attack on Gaza killed more than 22,300 people, two-thirds of whom were women and children, according to United Nations estimates. Ministry of Health in Hamas-controlled areas. The number does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The campaign has displaced about 85% of Gaza's population from their homes, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to live in overcrowded shelters or crowded camps in safe zones designated by Israel and prohibited by Israel. However, the army bombed. A quarter of Gaza's population Facing famineThe United Nations says Israeli restrictions and heavy fighting are hampering aid delivery.

However, Israel appears far from achieving its goals of crushing Hamas and returning the estimated 129 hostages still held by the movement.

Gallant said several thousand Hamas fighters remain in northern Gaza, where Israeli forces have been fighting the militants for more than two months and where entire neighborhoods have been bombed and reduced to rubble.

Heavy fighting is also taking place in central Gaza and the southern city of Khan Yunis, where Israeli officials say Hamas's military structure remains largely intact. Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in GazaHis deputies have so far managed to evade the Israeli forces.

UN spokeswoman Florencia Soto-Nino said officials from the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs and the World Health Organization visited Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Yunis on Tuesday, which was reported to have suffered a fatal blow and witnessed extensive damage.

Sotto Nino said that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners were unable to deliver aid to northern Gaza for three days.

She said the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs warned that “Gaza represents a public health disaster in the making.”

Since Oct. 7, more than 400,000 cases of infectious diseases have been reported, including about 180,000 people with upper respiratory infections and more than 136,000 cases of diarrhea – half of them among children under five, Sotto Nino said.

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Al-Taweel reported from Beirut and Magdy from Cairo. Associated Press writers Abby Sewell and Bassem Mroueh in Beirut, Tara Cobb in Washington, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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