JERUSALEM (AP) — The head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency vowed Wednesday that the agency will hunt down every member of Hamas involved in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, wherever they are. His pledge came a day after he became deputy head of a Palestinian militant group Killed in an Israeli attack in Beirut.
Israel has declined to comment on reports that it carried out the killing, but David Barnea's comments appeared to be an even stronger sign of the bombing being behind it. He drew comparisons to the aftermath of the 1972 Munich massacre, when Mossad agents tracked down and killed Palestinian militants involved in the killing of Israeli athletes at that year's Olympic Games.
Israel was on high alert Wednesday to expand with Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah militia after a strike in the Lebanese capital killed Saleh Arouri. The most senior Hamas member was killed The war in Gaza broke out almost three months ago.
The implications of killing for war are unclear. Israel has killed several top Hamas leaders over the years, only to see them replaced quickly. A strike on Hezbollah's southern Beirut stronghold could turn a low-intensity skirmish along the Lebanese border into an all-out war.
Much depends on how Hassan Nasrallah, who has led Hezbollah since an Israeli strike killed his predecessor in 1992, responds. He had earlier vowed to retaliate against any Israeli targeting of allied militia leaders in Lebanon and was expected to deliver a speech at 6pm on Wednesday.
But Arori's killing gave the Israelis even more morale October 7 attack Militants in Gaza are holding a number of hostages as they continue their fierce resistance.
“The Mossad is committed to settling accounts with the murderers who attacked the Gaza Strip,” Barnia said, referring to the area of southern Israel attacked by Hamas. He vowed to go after all those involved “directly or indirectly”, including “planners and messengers”.
“It will take time, like it took time after the Munich massacre, but we will get our hands on them wherever they are,” he said. Barnia spoke at the funeral of former Mossad chief Zvi Jamir, who died a day earlier at the age of 98.
Jamir headed the intelligence agency during the 1972 Munich Olympics attack, in which Palestinian militants killed 11 members of the Israeli delegation. Israel later killed members of the Black September militant group that carried out the attack.
Looking at Hezbollah
Hezbollah and the Israeli army have been firing on the Israel-Lebanon border almost daily since the war in Gaza began.
But Nasrallah has been reluctant to escalate, fearing a repeat of the month-long war in 2006, when Israel bombed Beirut and southern Lebanon heavily. The return of that destruction now will only heighten opposition to Hezbollah within Lebanon.
At the same time, Hezbollah also faces pressure to show support for its ally Hamas. Leaders in the Palestinian Authority clearly expect a return to Hezbollah.
In an interview on Saturday, three days before Aroori was killed, The Associated Press asked Beirut-based Hamas political officer Osama Hamdan if he was worried about the possibility of Israel assassinating its officials in Lebanon.
Hamdan predicted that Hezbollah would not let it go unpunished and that an all-out war would ensue. “So why does Israel want to do it? Does it want a war in Lebanon? he asked. He said that “war can happen if Israel acts wrongly and aggressively” or “war will not happen if Israel takes a step back and acts non-aggressively against Lebanon”.
Hezbollah vowed to “reply and punish” the strike. Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces are “ready for any situation”.
Hezbollah said on Wednesday that its fighters had launched at least eight attacks against Israeli positions along the border, including four using heavy-duty Burgan rockets. The report did not directly link the fire to Aruri's murder.
The US tried to prevent the conflict from escalating by Sending two aircraft carriers and other military assets to the region. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected in the region this week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to kill Hamas leaders wherever they are. The group's October 7 attack on southern Israel from Gaza killed about 1,200 people and took 240 hostages.
Israel says it has killed several mid-level Hamas leaders in Gaza, but this is the first time since the war that it has targeted the group's top leaders inside another country.
Aruri was deputy to Hamas' supreme political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, and presided over the group's presence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He was also a key contact with Hezbollah.
Israel seeks 'clear victory' in Gaza
The focus of the war is on Gaza, where Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said Israel was seeking a “clear victory” over Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007.
Israel's air, ground and sea attacks on Gaza have killed more than 22,300 people, two-thirds of them women and children. Ministry of Health in Hamas-ruled territory. No distinction is made between the number of civilians and combatants.
The campaign drove about 85% of Gaza's population from their homes, forcing hundreds of thousands into overcrowded shelters or tent camps in Israeli-designated safe areas. However, the army continued to bomb. A quarter of Gaza's population Face starvingAccording to the United Nations, Israeli restrictions and heavy fighting are preventing aid from being delivered.
However, Israel is far from achieving its goals of crushing Hamas and returning 129 hostages still held by the group.
Kelant said several thousand Hamas fighters are in northern Gaza, where Israeli troops have been fighting the militants for more than two months, and where entire neighborhoods have been blown to rubble.
Fierce fighting is also ongoing in central Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis, where Israeli officials say Hamas' military infrastructure is still largely intact. Yea Sinwar is the main leader of Hamas in GazaAnd his representatives have so far avoided Israeli forces.
Egypt, which works with Qatar as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, has proposed a multi-phase plan to end the war. Israel will withdraw from Gaza, and a government of Palestinian technocrats will rule Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank pending elections.
Neither Israel nor Hamas fully accepts the plan, but neither rejects it entirely.
An Israeli delegation was in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the plan, an Egyptian official said. The official said Aruri's killing would disrupt the talks for a couple of days.
Tawil was reported from Beirut and Magdi from Cairo.
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