The ongoing hostage release negotiations between Israel and Hamas have come to an abrupt halt following the assassination of Saleh Arouri, Hamas’ deputy leader, in Beirut on Tuesday, according to reports.
Arouri, a key figure in the Hamas Political Bureau based in Beirut, was reportedly killed in a drone attack in a suburb of the Lebanese capital on Tuesday evening. His death has been confirmed by Hamas, marking a significant turn of events in the region’s delicate political landscape.
The assassination has dramatically altered the dynamics of the negotiations. Arab diplomatic sources, as quoted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, have stated that Arouri’s assassination has “changed the situation,” making it impossible to negotiate another deal at present.
Prior to this incident, the talks had been progressing towards a deal involving the exchange of 50 hostages held in Gaza for a four-day ceasefire. This potential agreement represented a glimmer of hope in the tense standoff between Israel and Hamas.
However, the unexpected incident has shifted the focus of the talks from the release of hostages to preventing an escalation of conflict between Israel and Lebanon. This marks a significant deviation from the earlier stages of negotiation and underscores the volatile nature of the situation.
In the wake of the incident, the Israeli army has refrained from commenting on Arouri’s assassination. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari, in a news conference, stated that the army is fully prepared for any scenario, with a high state of readiness on all fronts, both defensive and offensive. He emphasized that their current focus is on combating Hamas.
The sudden cessation of negotiations and the shift in focus highlight the complexities inherent in such sensitive negotiations. The future course of these negotiations is uncertain. While Arouri’s death could potentially harden positions, the need to avoid escalation and the humanitarian aspects of the hostage situation might push for the resumption of talks.