Senior Hamas commander killed in Beirut drone blast
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Hamas officials say a blast in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has killed one of their most senior commanders. Lebanese state media attributes the killing to an Israeli drone strike. Israel has not confirmed this. Meanwhile, fierce fighting continues in Gaza as Israeli troops strike targets in the center and in southern cities there. Health officials in Gaza report that some 22,000 people have been killed since the start of the war - a war which is now in its 13th week. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Tel Aviv. Hey there, Carrie.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi. Good evening.
KELLY: Hi. What more can you tell us about the killing of this senior Hamas leader in Lebanon tonight?
KAHN: Well, according to Lebanese media, a blast killed Saleh al-Arouri in a Beirut suburb, and he was one of Hamas' most senior leaders. Arouri was in a meeting when the blast occurred, according to Lebanese state TV. Three other Hamas officials were killed, and as many as 11 were injured, and that's according to the official state press there. Hamas confirmed and condemned his death on its official Telegram account.
KELLY: And how big a deal might this be? What would the repercussions be?
KAHN: This is significant not only due to his prominence in Hamas, but also that the strike took place in Lebanon. Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas' military wing. He had spent time in Israeli prisons and, after his release, was elected to Hamas' political bureau in 2017. In recent years, he had spent much of his time in Lebanon, and he fostered closer ties between Hamas and Lebanon's powerful Iranian-backed militia, Hezbollah. The question now is what response will come from the assassination, especially from Hezbollah, which has been engaging in daily - daily - cross-border fire along Israel's northern border. Lebanon's prime minister blamed Israel for the killing and accused Israel of trying to drag Lebanon into, quote, "a new phase of the war."
KELLY: OK. Well, let's turn back to that war - the war underway in Gaza. What is the latest on the fighting?
KAHN: It's been very intense in the center and south of the country, especially around the city of Khan Younis, with airstrikes continuing even in the south, where Israel has told people to go to be safe. Today I was able to reach someone in Khan Younis, and I want to play you a little bit of that interview of him. He is 48-year-old Akram Al Satarri (ph), a father of three. He is an English language interpreter there. He has already had to move twice from his home at the orders of Israel's military. He's now in a house, he says, of a friend, with a total of 25 people living there. He said that, every day, he is filled with every emotion you can think of.
AKRAM AL SATARRI: Sometimes I'm scared for my children - sometimes anger, sometimes fear, some other times despair. And this whole thing is what is really molding our life in the meantime.
KAHN: He says bombs go off, and the house he's in just rocks. He described one that hit this morning. He's fearful the Israeli military is going to give him another order to leave, and he's been trying, he says, to find someplace further south in Rafah to go. But the city there is so overcrowded, and he's found nothing. The U.N. has repeatedly made warnings about the overcrowding in Gaza's south, with severe sanitation and water shortages, limited food and disease outbreaks.
KELLY: Ah, just such a difficult situation. I want to ask about news that we were reporting on last night, Carrie. This is the news that Israel has begun to move some troops out of Gaza. How significant a shift is that in Israeli strategy?
KAHN: Israel says it is beginning to move troops out of Gaza - five brigades in all. But Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was in Gaza today, and he told the troops that, quote, "the feeling that we will stop soon is incorrect. Without a clear victory, we will not be able to live in the Middle East."
KELLY: NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting from Tel Aviv. Thanks, Carrie.
KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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