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Funeral Procession for Slain Hamas Leader Draws Thousands in Beirut

Thousands of mourners gathered in Beirut to bid farewell to Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy leader of Hamas, two days after his assassination in the Lebanese capital. The funeral procession saw crowds carrying banners adorned with Al-Arouri’s image, waving Palestinian and Hamas flags amidst a backdrop of music, prayers, and gunfire.

Al-Arouri, a prominent figure in Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, was a close ally of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. The procession, watched across Lebanon, raised questions about the impact of the killing on the country.

The targeted assassination not only dealt a blow to Hamas but also impacted its ally Hezbollah, the influential Iranian-backed Lebanese movement. The attack in Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah stronghold, underscored the shared challenges faced by the two groups.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s response to the incident remains a focal point of attention. In a scheduled address less than 24 hours after the attack, Nasrallah condemned the assassination as a “flagrant Israeli aggression” but stopped short of issuing a direct threat against Israel.

While Nasrallah asserted that Lebanon’s response would be unrestrained if Israel considered waging war, he did not openly threaten an attack. Hezbollah, with its significant arsenal and battle-hardened fighters, has refrained from escalating conflicts with Israel, mindful of the destructive 2006 war. Amid Lebanon’s economic crisis, public sentiment does not favor military confrontation.

Israeli authorities cautioned Hezbollah against escalation, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant suggesting potential actions similar to those taken in Gaza. Nasrallah is expected to address supporters again, and his response will be closely watched for indications of his stance on avoiding a larger conflict with Israel while still addressing the attack in Beirut.

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