Fears of widening conflict grow after Hamas leader killed in Lebanon

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Protests erupted in the occupied West Bank after a senior Hamas leader, Saleh al-Arouri, was killed in an explosion in Beirut on Tuesday along with six other Hamas militants.

Al-Arouri was one of the founders of Hamas' military wing and was wanted by both the Israeli and American governments.

Israel offered no official comment on the attack, but Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has previously vowed retaliation for any Israeli attacks on Hamas officials in Lebanon, stoking fears of a possible widening of the conflict in Gaza.

"We affirm that this crime will never pass without response and punishment," Nasrallah said on Lebanese television.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces, Daniel Hagari, said Israel was in a "very high state of readiness in all arenas" and "highly prepared for any scenario."

The militant group Hezbollah is an Iran-backed ally of Hamas and one of the world's most heavily armed non-state military forces. The explosion that killed al-Arouri took place in Musharafieh, one of the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs and a Hezbollah stronghold.

Sima Shine, head of the Iran program at the Institute for National Security Studies, said a war between Israel and Hezbollah, though unlikely, would be a massive escalation in the conflict.

Hezbollah's capabilities are "ten times more," than Hamas', Shine told CBS News. "It's an army that is equipped much better than the Lebanese army, and they have a lot of experience after they participated in the war in Syria."

Maha Yahya, from the Carnegie Middle East Center, also said a full-scale conflict with the Lebanese militant group was unlikely.

"I don't think Hezbollah will be willing to drag Lebanon into a major conflict at this particular moment and time given the situation regionally," Yahya told the AFP news agency.

Since Hamas' attack on October 7, Israel has been fighting on multiple fronts. In Lebanon, the fighting has mainly been concentrated a few miles from the border. In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have fired missiles and drones toward Israel and are attacking commercial ships around its waters, threatening to disrupt the world economy and send oil prices soaring.

Shipping giant Mersk is among numerous companies now diverting their ships around the Horn of Africa, avoiding the Red Sea and adding thousands of miles to journeys.

The Houthis say they'll stop their attacks if Israel stops the war in Gaza, but Israeli leaders, vowing to continue until Hamas is destroyed, say the fight could last for the rest of 2024.

Hamas told CBS News on Wednesday that they've informed mediators that they're freezing all talks with Israel surrounding a ceasefire and the release of hostages.

For many people in Gaza, that means more misery spent seeking whatever shelter can be found in tent cities as heavy fighting rages on.

"I wish I died with them. I wish I had arrived five home minutes earlier. That would've been better than living like this," says one man sheltering in a crowded tent city, whose family was killed.

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