1704353311 The people of Saleh al Aruri say goodbye to their

The people of Saleh al Aruri say goodbye to their most famous son with resignation and pride: “I knew they would kill him”

The large mosque in Arura, a small town of 4,000 in the West Bank, was decorated with green flags to mark the occasion. A series of verses from the Koran are played on an endless loop from the minaret's speakers. He will do so for three days in an extraordinary display of mourning, unusual in Palestine. The most famous man in the area has died. A rocket fired from a drone over a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, ended the life of Saleh al Aruri, Hamas' number two, on Tuesday. Israel has not acknowledged responsibility for the attack, but anonymous sources in the U.S. government have attributed it to it. In Arura no one doubts who it was. It was an expected murder. Sooner or later it would happen. Even Al Aruri himself (57 years old) knew it. Last August he assured that the time of his martyrdom had come. That he had already lived enough.

At home, just 10 meters from the temple, the women of the family receive condolences from neighbors who approach while the men serve coffee. In the back of the house, surrounded by other women, sits Mislimán (81 years old), the mother of the deceased. “He got what he wanted,” she explains calmly and without shedding a single tear. “I thank God that his wish to become a martyr has come true,” continues the old woman, who had not seen her son for 20 years due to his stay in prison and exile. “We are proud of him and everything he has done. “He knew that sooner or later this would happen,” he adds.

The Al Aruri are newly accommodated in the house where the condolence ceremony is taking place; It is not the place they had inhabited for generations. On October 31, Israeli soldiers, during a search-and-capture operation against Hamas, used explosives to blow up one of the Islamist organization's symbols, the residence of the second in command. They also took his nephew into custody, interrogated and threatened him for five hours. “Don’t even think about making anything related to Hamas public,” the Israeli military said he was told. “If you upload a video or like it on social media, you will find out,” they warned him. “Hamas is the same as the Islamic State, you’d better stay away from them as much as possible.”

Right: Um Quteiba, sister of Saleh al Aruri, Hamas' number two, in her home in Arura this Wednesday.Right: Um Quteiba, sister of Saleh al Aruri, Hamas' number two, in her home in Arura this Wednesday. Manuel Altozano

Of all the family members, his sister Um Quteiba (52 years old) was the last to see Al Aruri. Last July she undertook the Hajj with him – the pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five commandments of Islam. Both traveled to the holy Saudi city along with several members of the leadership of the Islamist movement that Israel has conspired to make disappear. A photo from his cell phone (illustrating this information) attests to this. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya appears along with Um Quteiba and her brother Saleh. Also the head of the political office, Khaled Meshal, and another of its members, Jalil al Jayya, with one of the founders, Izzat al Rishq. Everyone wears the typical white robes to observe this religious rite, which gives those who practice it a special status and makes them respectful people.

The smile that Um Quteiba shows in this photo today has been deleted. She is sitting on a sofa in her house and is covered with a beige wool shawl. When she heard on the news on Tuesday afternoon that something had exploded in Beirut, her heart skipped a beat, she says. “At first they didn’t say anything, but I knew it was Saleh,” says the woman. “As soon as I saw him, I kept calling him but he didn’t answer. Then I called his wife, who told me she knew he was in Lebanon but didn't know exactly where. “I didn't have the slightest idea.” Until the news confirmed it and his prediction came true. Among the six deaths caused by the attack was Haniya's lieutenant, Hamas's number two. Saleh al Aruri.

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In his office in Ramallah, Hani al Masri, director general of Masarat, a Palestinian think tank specializing in the conflict, analyzes Al Aruri's murder. “The attack happened exactly at the time when a new ceasefire was being negotiated,” says the expert. “The message that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to convey with this action is clear. He must continue the war to avoid his responsibility for failing to prevent the October 7 attacks and believes that opening a new front in Lebanon will prolong it even further,” he says. “Neither Hezbollah, nor Syria, nor Iran want a conflict with Israel, but the Hamas attacks have shown that Israel is vulnerable,” he continues. “A small party like Hamas has defeated an entire state and put Palestine back on the international agenda. Now no one can ignore the rights of their people,” he added.

Achieve unity among Palestinian factions

Al Masri knew Al Aruri well. He met him twice in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, during conferences on Palestine in 2017 and 2021. “He was a respected person within the organization's political and military apparatus, but he was not just a politician and a soldier; “He was also an intellectual, a very educated and well-read person,” he says. “His greatest interest was to achieve unity between the various Palestinian factions.” [rota tras las elecciones de 2006 que ganó Hamás en Gaza, pero no aceptó Fatah, que todavía hoy gobierna en Cisjordania]. He wanted Hamas and Fatah to form a single electoral list and had drawn up a program on which he had worked at great expense. At one of our meetings he asked me to take part in this candidacy. I told him no.

But Al Aruri was also a loose man in the organization, ordering armed actions alone without consulting the rest of the leadership. He admitted that the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank was the work of the Ezedin al-Qassam Brigades after Hamas denied responsibility.

The military success that Israel is celebrating with his death will not bring a solution to the conflict, said the analyst. “Israel believes only in security solutions and has killed many leaders of various Palestinian factions,” he emphasizes. “But it was of no use, because every time one disappears, another appears.” “Many, many were murdered,” he adds, waving a multi-page list in which he has them written down. “The only solution is to recognize the rights of Palestinians and end the occupation once and for all, but Israel shows with every action that it does not want that,” he stressed.

Hani al Masri, director general of Masarat, a Palestinian think tank specializing in the conflict, said this Wednesday.Hani al Masri, director general of Masarat, a Palestinian think tank specializing in the conflict, said this Wednesday.Manuel Altozano

“Israel will not achieve its goal of destroying Hamas just because it eliminated Al Aruri,” Al Masri continued. “The only thing it has achieved for now is to freeze negotiations on the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu doesn't care about his kidnapped citizens. Nor to some of his ministers who have openly expressed this,” he adds, referring to the ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox members of the Israeli government who are calling for a military occupation of the Gaza Strip and the construction of new settler settlements there. “Now there is an additional risk of a violent reaction from Hezbollah from Lebanon,” he warns.

At Arura's house, the condolence procession continues and the leader's sister, Um Quteiba, appears surprised in her soft voice by the influx. “Saleh was a normal person and we didn’t know that he was so popular in Palestine and throughout the Arab world,” he continues. “We know that he worked discreetly and quietly for the Palestinians for many years, but we did not know that he was so famous.” At 12:00 p.m., after prayer, the men and children march in a march full of Hamas -Flags through the city calling for revenge. “Your blood was not shed in vain, dear Saleh!” they cry. “Tell the world that Hamas and its flag are here!” A general strike was called for this Wednesday in the West Bank in protest against his death and in solidarity with Gaza. Almost all shops, except bakeries and pharmacies, were closed.

The last news that Al Aruri's family had about him reached them exactly on October 7th. “We entered several cities in Israel with our weapons,” Um Quteiba recalls on the phone. “Our victory is at hand; ours and those of all Palestinians,” he added with great optimism. “Please be proud of us because we will achieve it,” he concluded. Just because Hamas' number two knew that sooner or later Israel would try to kill him doesn't mean he didn't take precautions to prevent it. From that day on, the leader of the Islamist militia broke off contact with his relatives to prevent them from locating him. He managed it for three months. Until Tuesday. Since then, the Koran recording has been played continuously from the loudspeakers of the Arura Mosque.

Demonstration calling for the death of Saleh al Aruri through the streets of his city of Arura on January 3rd.Demonstration calling for the death of Saleh al Aruri through the streets of his city of Arura on January 3rd. Manuel Altozano

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