A Hamas leader is killed in an explosion in Beirut

Smoke rises from a destroyed apartment following a large explosion in a southern suburb of Beirut on Tuesday. The TV

AMMAN, Jordan — A senior official of the Palestinian militant group Hamas has been killed in what it believes to be an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut, according to Hamas media networks.

Saleh Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing and a deputy chief of the group’s political bureau.

Israel has not taken responsibility for the attack. But if later confirmed, it would be the country’s first assassination of a top Hamas official since the start of the war in Gaza in October.

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Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV channel announced the killing Tuesday in what it called a “Zionist strike.” Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said an alleged Israeli drone strike caused an explosion in one of Beirut’s southern suburbs, killing four people.

Israeli leaders vowed after Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel that they would assassinate leaders of the organization in any country they found them.

Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militia, backed by Iran, said if Israel did kill Hamas leaders, it would retaliate.

Hezbollah and Israel have so far been attacking each other near the Israel-Lebanon border since the war in Gaza began.

Other militant Palestinian factions said they would respond with full force to Tuesday’s reported assassination of Arouri.

Arouri had been jailed by Israel and was deported to Turkey after being released in 2010. In Beirut, he served as a liaison between Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as with Turkey and other countries.

Arouri was also involved in reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the rival Palestinian political party Fatah.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Tuesday’s blast was sure to drag Lebanon into a new phase of conflict.

“This explosion undoubtedly aims to implicate Lebanon, serving as a clear response to our efforts to keep the specter of the ongoing war in Gaza away from Lebanon,” the National News Agency quoted Mikati as saying.

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