The death of Saleh al Aruri in Beirut – in an attack in which even the United States sees the hand of Israel, although the government does not officially confirm its responsibility – means for the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas the loss of a of its most competent executives. in exile: the one who had led negotiations with other Palestinian factions, with the Israeli authorities and with various international allies, as well as one of the main people responsible for its finances. It was also a vague verse on the part of the organization that had come to order armed actions itself, without consulting the rest of the leadership.
Instead of vertical leadership and a strict hierarchy, Hamas has various centers of power and decision-making given its dual nature – political movement and armed group – and the different geographic areas and circumstances in which its leaders operate: government of Gaza, clandestine opposition in the West Bank and more or less public activity in exile depending on the country in which they are and the timing of these countries’ relations with Israel. Thus, the statements of its leaders sometimes seem contradictory and, in many cases, the left hand of the organization does not know what the right hand is doing. Al Aruri was both.
Born in Ramallah in 1966, he became involved in the Islamic movement in the late 1980s while studying at Hebron University, characterizing himself as a skilled volunteer recruiter and fundraiser. He was also one of the Hamas leaders who helped establish the organization’s armed wing, the Ezedin al Qasam Brigades, in the West Bank, according to the map of Palestinian leaders and Hamas organizations. thinking group European Council on External Relations.
Al Aruri was arrested several times by Israeli authorities and spent long periods in prison, the longest between 1992 and 2007, when he became a spokesperson for Palestinian prisoners and interlocutor for Israeli prison authorities. Upon his release – during negotiations between Fatah and Hamas to share a government – Al Aruri said in a British newspaper interview The telegraph that his organization should stop attacking civilians and move from “a military-oriented party” to “a political movement.” This did not prevent Israel from imprisoning him again for almost three years, after which it deported him abroad.
The Islamist leader found himself in Damascus, where the political office was then located, that is to say the civilian leadership of Hamas – protected by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – and rose to occupy second place after the Palestinian political leader of the time. band. , Khaled Mashal. But in 2012, Hamas – a Sunni Islamist organization – distanced itself from the Syrian – Shiite – regime’s crackdown on protests that had begun the previous year and sided with the predominantly Sunni rebels. So he left Syria. Thus, one of the fundamental elements of the so-called Axis of Resistance, led by Iran and articulated by Syria, the Lebanese militia party Hezbollah and the Shiite militias of Iraq, as well as the groups Palestinian Islamists, was dismantled.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
Shelter in Türkiye
Some Hamas leaders have settled in Qatar; others, like Al Aruri, landed in Turkey, where the government of moderate Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered them refuge. The arrival of Hamas leaders occurred, according to local analysts, within the framework of a pact between the Turkish and Israeli authorities after mediation from Ankara, in the case of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Hamas in 2006 and released in 2011 in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (Al Aruri also participated in these negotiations).
In Istanbul, Al Aruri began to gain power. He led the Hamas delegation in successive Turkish-sponsored attempts to reconcile with Fatah and the Palestinian National Authority. It was also around this time that the foundations for Hamas investments in Turkey began to be laid (recently, the United States included on its sanctions list the Turkish construction company Trend GYO, accused of being a vehicle financing of the Palestinian organization. ). Even if the role of number two of Hamas in these negotiations, the US Treasury included him in its blacklist in 2015, considering him one of the main economic leaders of Hamas, responsible “for having sent hundreds of thousands of dollars” to the group’s cells in the West Bank “for the purchase of weapons. »
Around this time, Al Aruri also began acting on his own. In June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank. Israel claimed those responsible were Hamas members and disclosed to the press that Al Aruri had orchestrated the attack and launched a bombing campaign on Gaza that left more than 2,000 people dead, most of them civilians. Hamas leaders in Qatar denied their group’s involvement in the attack, but, to the surprise of many, Al Aruri called a press conference in Turkey where he admitted responsibility: “The popular will (…) resulted in the operation. “heroic action of the al-Qasam Brigades in imprisoning the three Hebron settlers.” A year later, the Turkish Foreign Ministry categorically declared: “Al Aruri is not in Turkey.”
Under pressure from the United States and Israel – a country with which Turkey was trying to restore diplomatic relations – Ankara decided to expel him. He number two Hamas, however, did not go to Doha, where the other heavyweights of the organization were located, but settled in Lebanon.
There, as head of the Hamas office in Beirut, he once again showcased his skills as a negotiator and, in 2017, after successive talks with Iranian and Lebanese representatives, he presented himself with Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah to announce the restoration of relations. broken due to differences due to the Syrian civil war. Thus, a fundamental piece of the puzzle of Iranian influence in the region has been put together.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits