Saleh al-Arouri

Saleh al-Arouri is a U.S.-designated Hamas military leader and financier who was reportedly expelled from Qatar in June 2017.Sue Surkes and agencies, “Hamas commander involved in kidnap of Israeli teens expelled from Qatar,” Times of Israel, June 5, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-chief-said-involved-in-kidnap-of-israeli-teens-faces-expulsion-from-qatar/;
“Press release issued by Hamas concerning the claims of media outlets regarding the Qatari list,” Hamas website, June 5, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/771/press-release-issued-by-hamas-concerning-the-claims-of-media-outlets-regarding-the-qatari-list.
Hamas elected Arouri as deputy leader of its political bureau in October 2017.Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams, “Hamas picks new deputy chief whom Israel blames for helping spark Gaza war,” Reuters, October 5, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-israel-hamas/hamas-picks-new-deputy-chief-whom-israel-blames-for-helping-spark-gaza-war-idUSKBN1CA1NM. Arouri has facilitated money and weapons transfers for Hamas since the 1980s and helped found the West Bank branch of Hamas’s military wing.Ali Waked, “Hamas: Prisoner release unrelated to Shalit deal,” YNet, March 18, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3864782,00.html;
Matthew Levitt, “Hamas’ Not-So-Secret Weapon,” Foreign Affairs, July 9, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2014-07-09/hamas-not-so-secret-weapon.
Arouri allegedly coordinated the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, which sparked that summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas.“In First, Hamas Official Takes Credit for Kidnap and Murder of Israeli Teens,” Jerusalem Post, August 20, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/In-first-Hamas-official-takes-credit-for-kidnap-and-murder-of-Israeli-teens-371703. He also reportedly created and ran Hamas’s bureau in Turkey until his expulsion from the country in 2015.Elhanan Miller, “Hamas official denies directing attacks from Turkey,” Times of Israel, December 22, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-official-denies-directing-attacks-from-turkey/;
Smadar Perry and Itamar Eichner, “Hamas leader expelled from Turkey,” YNet, December 22, 2015, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4742831,00.html.
The U.S. Treasury accuses Arouri of serving as “a key financier and financial facilitator for Hamas military cells planning attacks and fomenting unrest.”“Treasury Sanctions Major Hamas Leaders, Financial Facilitators and a Front Company,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0159.aspx. In November 2018, the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Arouri’s arrest.“Rewards for Justice - Reward Offer for Information on Hamas and Hizballah Key Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, November 13, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/11/287330.htm. Arouri also serves as Hamas’s leader in the West Bank.Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff, “Haniyeh reelected to lead Hamas in internal elections – report,” Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/haniyeh-reelected-to-lead-hamas-in-internal-elections-report-675521.

Arouri became active with Hamas during the first Palestinian intifada (“uprising”) against Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He became a founding member of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in 1991 and helped establish it in the West Bank.Anna Ahronheim and Khaled Abu Toameh, “U.S. offers $5m. reward for the capture of Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri,” Jerusalem Post, November 14, 2018, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/us-department-of-state-offers-rewards-for-info-on-hamas-and-hezbollah-571882; “Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades,” Australian National Security, accessed August 5, 2021, https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/HamassIzzal-Dinal-QassamBrigades.aspx; Ali Waked, “Hamas: Prisoner release unrelated to Shalit deal,” YNet, March 18, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3864782,00.html. Arouri became involved with Islamist groups while a student at Hebron University in the West Bank in 1985. He joined Hamas after its 1988 founding and began recruiting other university students. Israeli authorities first arrested Arouri in 1990. He was released five months later and returned to work for Hamas raising money.Matthew Levitt, “Hamas’ Not-So-Secret Weapon,” Foreign Affairs, July 9, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2014-07-09/hamas-not-so-secret-weapon. In 1992, he admittedly received $96,000 from a Hamas member and provided $45,000 to Hamas operative Musa Dudin for the purchase of weapons.Matthew Levitt, “Hamas’ Not-So-Secret Weapon,” Foreign Affairs, July 9, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2014-07-09/hamas-not-so-secret-weapon. Israeli authorities arrested him later that year, and an Israeli military court convicted Arouri for his “leadership role” in Hamas.“Treasury Sanctions Major Hamas Leaders, Financial Facilitators and a Front Company,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0159.aspx;
“Starved of Justice,” Amnesty International, June 2012, 35-36, https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/israelopt_starved_of_justice_060612-final.pdf.

Arouri would spend the next 15 years in an Israeli prison. In 1997, authorities issued two six-month extensions of Arouri’s sentence after accusing him of “conducting unlawful activities” from inside the prison, including maintaining “illegal contact” with Hamas operatives.Matthew Levitt, “Hamas’ Not-So-Secret Weapon,” Foreign Affairs, July 9, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2014-07-09/hamas-not-so-secret-weapon. In 1998, Arouri was convicted of a new charge of membership in Hamas.“Treasury Sanctions Major Hamas Leaders, Financial Facilitators and a Front Company,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0159.aspx;
“Starved of Justice,” Amnesty International, June 2012, 35-36, https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/israelopt_starved_of_justice_060612-final.pdf.
In August 2004, a U.S. federal grand jury in Chicago indicted Arouri as a co-conspirator in a U.S. racketeering conspiracy to providing funding to Hamas.“Chicago and Washington, D.C., Area Men Among Three Indicted in Racketeering Conspiracy in U.S. to Finance Hamas Terror Abroad,” U.S. Department of Justice, https://www.justice.gov/archive/opa/pr/2004/August/04_crm_571.htm.

Upon Arouri’s release in March 2007, he renounced terrorism in an interview with the London-based Telegraph newspaper. He professed that there could be only a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Joshua Mitnick, “Freed Hamas leader shuns terror tactics,” Telegraph (London), March 18, 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1545919/Freed-Hamas-leader-shuns-terror-tactics.html. Israeli authorities rearrested Arouri three months later, reportedly on an administrative detention order.Matthew Levitt, “Hamas’ Not-So-Secret Weapon,” Foreign Affairs, July 9, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2014-07-09/hamas-not-so-secret-weapon;
Terrence McCoy, “The enigmatic Hamas leader allegedly behind the Israeli kidnappings that ignited war,” Washington Post, July 10, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/10/the-enigmatic-hamas-leader-allegedly-behind-the-israeli-kidnappings-that-ignited-war/?utm_term=.1dc8ec71533b.
While in prison, Arouri was elected to Hamas’s prison shura (leadership) council.Matthew Levitt and Stephanie Papa, “Reality Contradicts New Hamas Spin,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, August 7, 2009, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/reality-contradicts-new-hamas-spin. Arouri was released in March 2010 on the condition that he leave Israel and the Palestinian territories. His wife and child had reportedly been stopped at the Jordanian border while trying to leave the West Bank, and Arouri accepted the terms in order to reunite with his family. He joined other Hamas leaders in Syria, which was then hosting Hamas’s political bureau.“Treasury Sanctions Major Hamas Leaders, Financial Facilitators and a Front Company,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0159.aspx;
“Starved of Justice,” Amnesty International, June 2012, 35-36, https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/israelopt_starved_of_justice_060612-final.pdf.
Hamas has denied that Arouri’s release was related to negotiations over the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas had captured in 2006.Ali Waked, “Hamas: Prisoner release unrelated to Shalit deal,” YNet, March 18, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3864782,00.html.

In 2012, Hamas’s leadership fled Syria after the outbreak of that country’s civil war. Arouri first relocated to Turkey.Smadar Perry and Itamar Eichner, “Hamas leader expelled from Turkey,” YNet, December 22, 2015, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4742831,00.html. Arouri is suspected of building a Hamas bureau in Istanbul, from which he directed and financed Hamas military cells in the West Bank and Jordan, according to the U.S. Treasury. The Treasury accuses Arouri of facilitating the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas’s militant activities.“Treasury Sanctions Major Hamas Leaders, Financial Facilitators and a Front Company,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0159.aspx. Arouri denied he was coordinating Hamas military operations from Turkey, but nonetheless stands accused of planning attacks against Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank.Elhanan Miller, “Hamas official denies directing attacks from Turkey,” Times of Israel, December 22, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-official-denies-directing-attacks-from-turkey/.

In June 2014, a Hamas cell in the West Bank kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel and Israeli authorities suspected Arouri of coordinating the abductions from Turkey.Avi Issacharoff, “Israeli official names Hamas leader abroad as suspect behind kidnappings,” Times of Israel, June 19, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/security-official-hamas-leader-abroad-likely-behind-abduction/. Hamas initially denied responsibility. That August, Arouri publicly praised the kidnappings as a “heroic operation” and claimed responsibility for them on behalf of Hamas.“In First, Hamas Official Takes Credit for Kidnap and Murder of Israeli Teens,” Jerusalem Post, August 20, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/In-first-Hamas-official-takes-credit-for-kidnap-and-murder-of-Israeli-teens-371703. Israeli NGO Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center has made several unanswered requests to U.S. officials to extradite Arouri for his role in the murder of Fraenkel, who held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.Gil Hoffman, “Lawyers Ask Clinton, Trump to Back Extraditing Terrorist Leader,” Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Lawyers-ask-Clinton-Trump-to-back-extraditing-terrorist-leader-449379.

Arouri has also directed Hamas cells in the West Bank to attack the PA, Hamas’s political rival. In August 2014, Israeli security services alerted PA officials that Arouri was allegedly planning a Hamas coup against the government.Mitch Ginsburg and Associated Press, “Abbas orders probe into Hamas coup plot revealed by Israel,” Times of Israel, August 19, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-orders-investigation-into-hamas-coup-plot-revealed-by-israel/. In July 2015, PA security forces broke up several Hamas cells in the West Bank and arrested 250 people. Arouri was purportedly coordinating the cells to attack Israeli and PA targets.Avi Issacharoff, “Hamas plot to attack Israel, PA in West Bank foiled by mass arrests,” Times of Israel, July 19, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-plot-to-attack-israel-pa-in-west-bank-foiled-by-mass-arrests/.

In September 2015, the U.S. government designated Arouri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) for his role in directing Hamas financial support and military operations.“Treasury Sanctions Major Hamas Leaders, Financial Facilitators and a Front Company,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0159.aspx. That December, the Turkish government expelled Arouri, reportedly at Israel’s request as part of a reconciliation agreement between the two countries.Smadar Perry and Itamar Eichner, “Hamas leader expelled from Turkey,” YNet, December 22, 2015, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4742831,00.html. Arouri moved to Qatar, which was hosting Hamas’s political delegation, including then-leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal.Avi Issacharoff, “PA security raids Hamas cell planning attacks against Israelis,” March 8, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/pa-security-raids-hamas-cell-planning-attacks-against-israelis/.

In early June 2017, international media reported that the Qatari government had expelled Arouri and other high-level Hamas leaders.Sue Surkes and agencies, “Hamas commander involved in kidnap of Israeli teens expelled from Qatar,” Times of Israel, June 5, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-chief-said-involved-in-kidnap-of-israeli-teens-faces-expulsion-from-qatar/. Hamas denied the reports, claiming that Arouri and other Hamas leaders voluntarily left the country.“Press release issued by Hamas concerning the claims of media outlets regarding the Qatari list,” Hamas website, June 5, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/771/press-release-issued-by-hamas-concerning-the-claims-of-media-outlets-regarding-the-qatari-list. Arouri reportedly relocated to Malaysia, but Malaysian Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said that there is no evidence that Arouri is in the country. He added that Hamas leaders would be welcome in Malaysia if they “come in peace.”Timothy Achariam, “IGP: Nothing wrong with Hamas leaders visiting if they come in peace,” The Sun (Selangor Darul Ehsan), June 8, 2017, http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2017/06/08/igp-nothing-wrong-hamas-leaders-visiting-if-they-come-peace.

Less than a week after Arouri left Qatar, Israeli officials said he had relocated to Lebanon and was working with Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Israeli Defense Ministry accused Arouri of trying to strengthen ties between Hezbollah and Hamas while planning attacks on Israel from Lebanon.“Liberman: Top Hamas operative is now in Lebanon, plotting attacks,” Times of Israel, June 9, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/liberman-top-hamas-operative-in-lebanon-plotting-attacks/. Hamas elected Arouri as its deputy political leader on October 5, 2017. Despite his ascension, Hamas has not revealed Arouri’s location.Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams, “Hamas picks new deputy chief whom Israel blames for helping spark Gaza war,” Reuters, October 5, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-israel-hamas/hamas-picks-new-deputy-chief-whom-israel-blames-for-helping-spark-gaza-war-idUSKBN1CA1NM. According to the U.S. government in November 2018, Arouri continued to live freely in Lebanon as of 2018.Amir Tibon, Jack Khoury, and Reuters, “Hamas Says Deputy Leader Will Remain in Position After U.S. Offers Up to $5m for Info,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), November 14, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/u-s-offers-up-to-5-million-for-information-leading-to-hamas-and-hezbollah-leaders-1.6654544.

In September 2020, Arouri was part of a delegation that met with members of several militant factions in Beirut, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Ziad al-Nakhalah and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.Joe Truzman, “Hamas Admits Senior Official Salah al-Arouri has Contracted COVID-19,” Long War Journal, October 3, 2020, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/10/hamas-admits-senior-official-salah-al-arouri-has-contracted-covid-19.php. Later that month, he reportedly traveled to Turkey to meet with officials from Hamas’s political rival, Fatah.Joanne Serrieh, “Coronavirus: Hamas’ Deputy Chief Saleh al-Arouri Tests Positive for COVID-19,” Al-Arabiya, October 3, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/coronavirus/2020/10/03/Coronavirus-Hamas-deputy-chief-Saleh-al-Arouri-tests-positive-for-COVID-19. On October 1, 2020, Hamas announced that Arouri tested positive for COVID-19, and that he “has taken all necessary health measures, and shall remain isolated until his recovery.”Joanne Serrieh, “Coronavirus: Hamas’ Deputy Chief Saleh al-Arouri Tests Positive for COVID-19,” Al-Arabiya, October 3, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/coronavirus/2020/10/03/Coronavirus-Hamas-deputy-chief-Saleh-al-Arouri-tests-positive-for-COVID-19.

In February 2021, Arouri led the Hamas faction at a meeting of several Palestinian factions Cairo, Egypt, on achieving “national dialogue” on the upcoming Palestinian general elections.Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas Urges Abbas to Lift Gaza Sanctions to Facilitate Elections,” Jerusalem Post, February 3, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/hamas-urges-abbas-to-lift-gaza-sanctions-to-facilitate-elections-657667; “Palestinian factions begin election talks in Cairo,” Times of Israel, February 8, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-factions-begin-election-talks-in-cairo/. The meeting concluded with a commitment by Palestinian factions to hold the first Palestinian legislative elections since Hamas swept to power in 2006.“Palestinian elections on track after factions meet in Cairo,” Associated Press, February 9, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/israel-cairo-elections-mahmoud-abbas-west-bank-d73be39b2a1220a1cf8042e3183e027c/. Elections were scheduled for May 22, but Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas indefinitely posted the elections on April 29. Abbas cited Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian in east Jerusalem to vote, but local analysts suspected the delay was because Abbas feared a Hamas political victory.Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas rallies opposition to Abbas after elections pushed back,” Al-Monitor, April 29, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/05/hamas-rallies-opposition-abbas-after-elections-pushed-back; “Fatah intensifies efforts to postpone elections fearing a Hamas win,” Middle East Monitor, April 20, 2021, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210420-fatah-intensifies-efforts-to-postpone-elections-fearing-a-hamas-win/; “Hamas: Delaying election will affect future of Palestine reconciliation,” April 28, 2021, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210428-hamas-delaying-election-will-affect-future-of-palestine-reconciliation/.

In 2021, Hamas elected Arouri to serve as its leader in the West Bank during secretive internal elections. The appointment is for four years.Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff, “Haniyeh reelected to lead Hamas in internal elections – report,” Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/haniyeh-reelected-to-lead-hamas-in-internal-elections-report-675521. It is unclear when exactly Arouri’s election took place. Hamas began announcing its election results that March.Nidal Al-mughrabi, “Sinwar re-elected as Hamas chief in Gaza,” Reuters, March 10, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/sinwar-re-elected-hamas-chief-gaza-2021-03-10/. Former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was elected to lead Hamas’s foreign office and serve as Hamas’s deputy leader that April.Nidal Al-mughrabi, “Hamas elects former chief Meshaal to head diaspora office,” Reuters, April 12, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/hamas-elects-former-chief-meshaal-head-diaspora-office-2021-04-12/; Aaron Boxerman, “Khaled Mashaal tapped as Hamas’s diaspora director,” Times of Israel, April 12, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/khaled-mashaal-tapped-as-hamass-international-director/.

United States

The U.S. government designated Salih al-Aruri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on September 10, 2015.“Treasury Sanctions Major Hamas Leaders, Financial Facilitators and a Front Company,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0159.aspx.

On November 13, 2018, the Rewards for Justice program within the Department of State offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Salih al-Aruri.“Rewards for Justice - Reward Offer for Information on Hamas and Hizballah Key Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, November 13, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/11/287330.htm.

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