By Afshain Afzal
It started with international propaganda inside Lebanon that Saleh Al-Arouri and his group were architects “Al-Aqsa Flood operation”, in which Hamas and other Palestinian resistance factions attacked Israeli military bases and settlements on 7 October 2023. Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, was scheduled to hold a meeting through Ismail Haniyah on 3 January 2024. Nasrallah was all set to make a speech Wednesday, the 3rd of January 2024 marking the anniversary of the US killing of Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Al Quds Force. Ismail Haniyeh along with Palestinian leaders; Samir Fandi, Azzam al-Aqra, Mahmoud Zaki Shaheen, Mohammad Bashasha, Mohammad al-Rayes, Ahmed Hammoud were to jointly meet to make something public.
All these arrangements coincided with a huge was explosion that took place at the “Dahiyeh” area in southern Beirut on 2 January 2024, killing Palestinian leaders; Samir Fandi, Azzam al-Aqra, Mahmoud Zaki Shaheen, Mohammad Bashasha, Mohammad al-Rayes, and Ahmed Hammoud and injuring 11 other in this drone attack. An official statement from representative, Izzat al-Rishq said, “The strike proves once again the abject failure of the enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip.” Ismail Haniyah, was quick enough to admit in a televised address, “Seven members of the Palestinian group had been killed in the cowardly attack that killed Samir Fandi and Azzam al-Aqra, two leaders in the military wing of Hamas, as well as four other members of the group.”
Despite the rejection of Ismail Haniyah from the Hamas political authority in Gaza, Haniyah remained on public due to backing of Qatar and Iran, posing as true top leader of Hamas. Haniyah had been holding meetings with the Egyptian, Qatari and indirect Israeli leadership for the resolution of the Palestinian deadlock as well as close with the Hizbullah leadership in Lebanon. As per the details; Ismail Haniyah confirmed that he negotiated with Qatar and Egypt which is based on a complete cessation of the aggression against the Palestinians, helping them and responding to their rightful demands. And a condition that hostages will not be released except under the resistance's conditions. He also organized meeting of Palestinian leaders including Samir Fandi and Azzam al-Aqra killed on 2 January with Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, who was scheduled to hold a meeting through Ismail Haniyah on 3 January 2024.
Some time back, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly warned and threatened Israel that any attempt to kill Hamas leaders in Beirut would invite a strong response. After the killings, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's advisor issued a statement, "We did not claim responsibility for the Beirut attack, and we did not target the Lebanese government or Hezbollah." Interestingly, an hour earlier Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said, "I congratulate the Israeli army, Shin Bet, Mossad and security forces on the assassination of Hamas terrorist leader Saleh Al-Arouri." Washington, on the other hand, is blaming Israel claiming that Tel Aviv even sought permission to carry out drone attacks. Despite these developments, the Hamas leadership in Gaza did not share a strategy in the coming days.