Senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, who is in charge of the organization's military wing in the West Bank, was officially appointed deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. The appointment makes al-Arouri Hamas' second-in-command in the terrorist group turned political party, after Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh, who serves as head of its political bureau.
Al-Arouri's appointment was decided upon during a meeting of the Hamas political bureau in Cairo three weeks prior. Al-Arouri arrived in Cairo to attend the meeting with other members the Hamas leadership abroad, as well as members of the Hamas leadership in Gaza, headed by Haniyeh.
Despite living abroad for the past several years, al-Arouri has nevertheless been hard at work to establish Hamas military cells in the West Bank, aimed at carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. Among these was the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers in Gush Etzion in June 2014, which al-Arouri is believed to have orchestrated. Their murder led Israel to launch Operation Brother's Keeper, which escalated and was followed by Operation Protective Edge in July of that same year.
Al-Arouri has previously been ousted from two Muslim-Majority countries and is now residing in Lebanon. In December '15, he was expelled from Turkey as a goodwill gesture toward Israel, as the two countries continued to work toward a reconciliation following the Marmara flotilla affair. Last June, he was ousted from Qatar, after several Arab Gulf countries accused Qatar of aiding terrorist organizations. The US then exerted pressure on Qatar to remove Hamas leadership from within its borders, in exchange for US intervention to end the crisis, which led to al-Arouri's ejection.
Now in Lebanon, al-Arouri was photographed two months ago during a meeting he had held with an Iranian official in Beirut.
A strong supporter of Iran, al-Arouri advocates restoring relations with Tehran—which also relations with Hamas over their support of the rebels in the Syrian civil war—in order to bolster Hamas' military wing.
In recent years, al-Arouri has become a very dominant figure in Hamas and, unlike most members of the organization's leadership, he always moves between the organization's political activity and its military activity.
Al-Arouri, 51, was born in the village of Aroura near Ramallah in 1966. He acquired his basic and higher education in the West Bank and holds a BA in Islamic Sharia law from the University of Hebron. Al-Arouri was religious orientated from an early age and served as head of the Islamic faction at the university.
After the establishment of Hamas, al-Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas's military wing in the West Bank and participated in its activities during the first intifada.
He was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1990, 1992 and 2007, spending six months, 15 years and 3 years respectively for his leadership role in Hamas and various terrorism activities. After his last stint in prison, al-Arouri was deported from Gaza as his presence was reputed to pose a threat to Israel.
He moved to Syria and stayed there for three years. The severing of relations between Hamas and the Assad regime against due to Hamas' support for the rebels in the Syrian civil war forced al-Arouri to leave Damascus and move to Turkey in 2012.
Following the new appointment, Hamas' top echelon will be comprised of Haniyeh, Al-Arouri, and the organization's third-in-command Yihya Sinwar, a military leader in Gaza and who was appointed by Hamas to be the strip's prime minister. Rabidly anti-Israel, Sinwar is also the most senior Hamas leader released in the Shalit deal.