The unexpected death of a senior Hamas leader, Bassem Issa, in a car bomb explosion in a Beirut suburb on Monday has raised concerns of a wider regional conflict erupting.
Issa was one of Hamas’s top prominent leaders and had a long history of resisting Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. His death has been met with condemnation by leaders across the Arab world, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who called it a “tragic” and “cowardly” act.
The car bomb blast followed the recent assassination of a nuclear scientist in Iran, as well as renewed airstrikes targeting Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq alleged to be backed by Tehran.
The incident in Lebanon has further heightened tensions between the two regional powers, Israel and Iran, and their respective allies.
It is feared that these incidents could signal the start of a wider regional conflict, particularly given the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In the wake of Issa’s death, both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine have vowed to retaliate against Israel. The Israeli army, meanwhile, has been placed on high alert.
Hamas has accused Israel of being behind the assassination and have launched a series of rocket attacks on the country in response. In addition, Iran has vowed to exact revenge on Israel for its alleged role in the incident, though it is unclear how it will respond.
Given the hostility between the two countries, the potential for a wider conflict is real. As such, world leaders are urging both sides to exercise restraint and find a diplomatic solution to the situation.