BEIRUT (AP) — A top official of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Saleh Aruri, and three others were killed in a bombing in Beirut on Tuesday, officials from Hamas and the Lebanese group Hezbollah said.
Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said four people were killed in the blast, which was carried out by an Israeli drone. Israeli officials declined to comment.
If Israel is behind the attack, it could mean a major escalation in the Middle East conflict. Hezbollah leader Syed Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to retaliate against any Israeli targeting of Palestinian officials in Lebanon.
Hamas official Bassem Naim confirmed to The Associated Press that Aruri was killed in the blast. A Hezbollah official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to comply with regulations, said Aruri was killed.
Aruri, one of the founders of Hamas's military wing, heads the group's presence in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to kill him before the start of the Hamas-Israeli war on October 7.
The blast rocked Musharrafih, one of the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital, a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas. The blast caused a fire on Hadi Nasrallah Street south of Beirut.
The explosion comes after more than two months of heavy firefights between Israeli troops and members of Hezbollah along Lebanon's southern border.
Since fighting began on October 8, fighting has been concentrated a few miles (kilometers) from the border but on several occasions Israel's air force has struck Hezbollah targets deep in Lebanon.
Earlier, Hezbollah said its fighters had carried out several attacks targeting Israeli military positions along the Lebanon-Israel border.