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UN warnings against ‘devastating’ Lebanon escalation

UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon have warned that increased hostilities could prove “devastating”, a day after a presumed Israeli strike killed Hamas’s deputy leader in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut.

“We are deeply concerned at any potential for escalation that could have devastating consequences for people on both sides,” said UNIFIL deputy spokeswoman Kandice Ardiel.

“We continue to implore all parties cease their fire, and any interlocutors with influence to urge restraint.”

There are currently 353 Irish personnel serving as part of UNIFIL.

This figure includes Irish personnel serving in headquarters appointments along with the 123rd Infantry Battalion, which patrols along the Blue Line.

The Blue Line is the 120km demarcation line, drawn by the United Nations, to which Israeli forces withdrew to when they left south Lebanon in 2000.

The strike yesterday killed Saleh al-Aruri, deputy head of Hamas, in Beirut’s southern suburbs, two Lebanese security officials told AFP, blaming Israel.

Hamas, at war with Israel in Gaza for almost three months, confirmed Aruri’s death, which Lebanese state media said came in an Israeli drone strike that also killed six others.

Hamas said Aruri would be buried tomorrow in Beirut’s Shatila Palestinian refugee camp.

Saleh al-Aruri

Read more: Who was Saleh al-Aruri?

The attack marked an escalation in the nearly three-month-old war.

Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily border fire with Israel since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on 7 October.

More than 160 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah members but also more than 20 civilians including three journalists, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, at least five civilians and nine soldiers have been killed, according to figures from the military.

Aruri, one of Hamas’s principal military strategists, was the first senior official of the movement killed during the war.

The strike was also the first on the Lebanese capital since hostilities began.

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group, a Hamas ally, warned that the killing “will not go unanswered or unpunished”.

The group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah is set to give a much-awaited televised speech later this afternoon.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari did not directly comment on Aruri’s killing but said the military was “highly prepared for any scenario” in its aftermath.

Several exiled Hamas leaders have found refuge in Lebanon, under the protection of their ally Hezbollah.

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