Hundreds mourn Hamas deputy leader killed by Israel at Beirut funeral

Hundreds mourn Hamas deputy leader killed by Israel at Beirut funeral
Hundreds gathered on Thursday for the funeral of Hamas' deputy leader and two other officials from the group, who were killed Tuesday in an Israeli airstrike.
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The coffins of the three were draped in Palestinian and Hamas flags [Getty]

Hundreds of people attended the funeral in Beirut on Thursday of Hamas number two Saleh al-Arouri who was killed in an Israeli airstrike near Lebanon's capital.

Calling on Hamas to avenge his death and the killing of five other members of the Palestinian group on Tuesday, the mourners gathered at a mosque to recite the prayer of the dead before marching to Shatila refugee camp where three of them were buried.

The coffins of the three - Arouri, Azzam al-Aqraa of the Hamas military wing Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and Mohammad al-Rais - were draped in Palestinian and Hamas flags.

A machine gun was laid on top of each coffin and heavy gunfire rang out as the funeral procession made its way to the cemetery, drowning out chants of "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) by mourners waving Palestinian flags and those of Hamas ally Islamic Jihad.

Arouri and the six other Hamas members were killed in a strike between Chiyah and Haret Hreik, in Beirut's southern suburbs.

Hamas and Lebanese security officials accused Israel of launching the attack, with one high-level Lebanese security official saying they were targeted by guided missiles.

A US defence official told AFP on Wednesday that Israel was behind the attack. Israel has not claimed any responsibility.

Arouri is the most senior Hamas figure to be killed since the Israel's war on Gaza broke out on October 7, the day Hamas carried out a surprise attack on southern Israel.

"The assassination of Saleh al-Arouri and of any other Palestinian is a failed act because the resistance will continue to produce new leaders," one of the mourners, Oman Ghannum, told AFP.

The 35-year-old Palestinian said he wanted to take part in the funeral procession "to denounce the genocide underway in Gaza and the violation of Lebanese sovereignty by Israel".

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel in a speech on Wednesday against starting a war in Lebanon, vowing that his group would fight back without restraint.

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Several Hamas figures in exile reside in Lebanon, under the protection of Hezbollah.

Israel vowed to "destroy" Hamas after the unprecedented attack on October 7, which left around 1,140 dead in Israel, according to an AFP count based on official figures.

The indiscriminate Israeli offensive on Gaza has killed 22,438 people, mostly women and children, according to the later figures supplied by the health ministry.

Since the war began there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah in the border area.

Tuesday's strike that killed Arouri was the first on the Lebanese capital since hostilities began.