January 3, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

By Chris Lau, Sana Noor Haq, Antoinette Radford, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, January 4, 2024
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12:13 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

Hamas political leader claims "cowardly assassination" of Saleh Al-Arouri is a "terrorist act"

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Ismail Haniyeh speaks to the media in Istanbul, Turkey on September 22, 2023.
Ismail Haniyeh speaks to the media in Istanbul, Turkey on September 22, 2023. Cem Tekkesinoglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, mourned the death of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, calling the attack in Lebanon a "terrorist act."

In a televised speech, Haniyeh condemned Arouri's killing as a "cowardly assassination" and blamed Israel for the deadly strike.

Haniyeh also mourned the deaths of two leaders from Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades — Samir Findi Abu Amer and Azzam Al-Aqraa Abu Ammar — who were killed in the same strike.

Despite the assassinations, Haniyeh claimed Hamas would not be beaten.

"A movement whose leaders and founders fall as martyrs for the dignity of our people and our nation will never be defeated," Haniyeh said.

At least four people were killed in the attack that targeted an office belonging to Hamas in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahieh, Lebanese news agency NNA reported. The area is also a stronghold of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Israel has not confirmed it was behind the strike.

"Israel has not taken responsibility for this attack," Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with MSNBC. "But whoever did it must be clear that this was not an attack on the Lebanese state. It was not an attack even on Hezbollah." 

Escalation fears: For nearly three months, tit-for-tat fighting between Israel’s military and Hezbollah has largely stayed within a roughly 4-kilometer range of the border region, with Hezbollah striking Israel while Israel struck Lebanon.

The fighting has raised fears among the United States and other Western countries that a full-scale war could break out between Israel and the Middle East’s most powerful paramilitary organization, Hezbollah.

Those fears have so far failed to materialize, but the blast in Beirut on Tuesday afternoon is likely to fuel concerns about the potential for escalation.

8:15 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

US denounces comments by far-right Israeli officials on resettlement of Palestinians

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler

Calls from far-right Israeli officials for the resettlement of Gazans outside of Gaza are "inflammatory and irresponsible," the US State Department said on Tuesday.

Two members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition have in recent days expressed views that Palestinian residents should leave Gaza as officials consider the coastal enclave's post-war future.

In a statement, US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Washington had been "told repeatedly and consistently by the Government of Israel, including by the Prime Minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government."

"They should stop immediately," he said.

Last month, US officials discussed post-war Gaza governance plans with the Palestinian Authority along with regional US allies — making it a key focus as they try to look beyondthe immediate conflict.

In the statement Tuesday, Miller said the State Department had been "clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel."
"That is the future we seek, in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region, and the world," he said.

What the Israeli officials said: Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday called for Palestinian residents to leave Gaza to make way for Israelis who could "make the desert bloom," Reuters reported. A day later, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he supported resettling Palestinians from Gaza overseas. During a political meeting, he declared that Israel's war with Hamas presents an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza.”

CNN’s Jonny Hallam contributed to this report.

2:55 a.m. ET, January 3, 2024

What we know about the senior Hamas leader killed in the Beirut attack

From CNN’s Abeer Salman and AnneClaire Stapleton

People search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on January 2.
People search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on January 2. Hassan Ammar/AP

Hamas said Tuesday that one of its senior leaders has been killed in an attack in the south of the Lebanese capital Beirut, raising fears of a potential escalation in fighting in the region.

Hamas media outlet Al Aqsa TV said Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, was “martyred in a treacherous Zionist airstrike in Beirut.”

If true, Arouri would be the most senior Hamas official killed by Israeli forces since the start of the war sparked by the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Here's what we know about Arouri:

  • The prominent Hamas political and military leader was born in 1966 in the village of Aroura in the Ramallah district of the West Bank. He went on to play a role in founding the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas in the West Bank, and is considered to be the mastermind behind arming the group.
  • Arouri was a member of Hamas since 1987 and considered its leader in the West Bank prior to his death, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). He has been a member of Hamas Politburo since 2010 and was elected its deputy head in 2017, ECFR added.
  • He had been repeatedly detained by Israel, including for long periods between 1985-1992, and 1992-2007, according to ECHR. In 2010, he was deported by Israel to Syria, living there for three years before moving to Turkey and traveling to several countries, including Qatar and Malaysia. He finally settled in the southern suburbs of Lebanon.
  • The Israeli army demolished Arouri's house in Aroura in October. The IDF said at the time that forces “operated in the town” to “demolish the residence of Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the Hamas terrorist organization’s political bureau and in charge of Hamas’ activities in Judea and Samaria.”
  • In 2015, the US Department of the Treasury designated Arouri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and offered a reward of up to $5 million for information on him. CNN has reached out to the US State Department to see if the reward will be paid and to whom.
  • He was married with two daughters and lived in Lebanon at the time of his death.

Read more about the killing of Arouri.

7:50 p.m. ET, January 2, 2024

"Dreams have been shattered": Displaced Palestinians describe fear, death and disease as war rages into 2024

From CNN's Sana Noor Haq

Mohammed Aghaalkurdi says his nephews and nieces in Gaza are “craving a warm and healthy dinner” this year, as hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians try to seek protection from Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive.

“While children all around the world are celebrating Christmas and New Year’s and setting resolutions for what is hoped to be a bright future, children of Gaza are being heavily attacked,” Aghaalkurdi, a program officer with UK-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), said Monday.

Aghaalkurdi’s testimony was shared with CNN by MAP. He’s staying in a rented house in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, with at least 10 other people — including five of his colleagues and their families.

Israel’s complete siege on the Palestinian territory and severe restrictions of essential supplies entering the strip have triggered spiraling food prices, leaving 2.2 million residents in Gaza at risk of severe dehydration, malnutrition and infectious diseases including upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, lice and scabies, chickenpox, skin rash, jaundice and meningitis, according to the World Health Organization.

Israeli attacks on Gaza since Hamas’ October 7 attacks have killed at least 22,185 Palestinians, most of whom are women, children and the elderly, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health. CNN is unable to independently confirm the figures provided by the health ministry in Gaza due to restricted access to the region and the difficulty in verifying accurate numbers amidst the ongoing war.

“For more than 80 days, (children) have been unmercifully killed and displaced with their families for countless times until (they) ended up in a helpless and cold tent, unprotected, hungry and thirsty,” Aghaalkurdi said.
“Their beautiful dreams have been shattered and turned into nightmares filled with fear and homelessness. Surrounded by exhausted and busy adults (looking for food and drinking water), our kids have lost the beautiful meanings of life.
“Despite what has been happening, there is a little hope we carry inside our hearts that calm will prevail soon and our kids will heal.”

Salwa Tibi, a displaced aid worker with humanitarian agency CARE International, told CNN on Tuesday she hopes 2024 will bring “security, safety, peace and prosperity.”

Tibi, 53, is staying in a rented house in Rafah, southern Gaza, with at least 20 relatives including eight children — the youngest of whom is 3 months old.

“(I) hope Gaza will be reconstructed as quickly as possible, and that life will return to normal despite the severe pain, losses of loved ones, friends and relatives,” she said.