Jerusalem (AFP) – The Israeli army has said it is “prepared for any scenario” after a strike in Beirut that killed Hamas’s deputy chief, stoking fears that it could boil over into wider regional conflict.

A high-level security official in Lebanon told AFP that Saleh al-Aruri was killed along with his bodyguards in a strike by Israel.

A second security official confirmed the information, while Hamas TV also reported Israel had killed Aruri in Lebanon.

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Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari did not directly comment on the killing, but said afterwards that the military was in “very high state of readiness in all arenas, in defence and offence. We are highly prepared for any scenario.”

Israel has previously announced the deaths in Gaza of Hamas commanders and officials during the war, but Aruri is the most high-profile figure to be killed, and his death came in the first strike on the Lebanese capital since hostilities began.

The strike adds to widespread fears that it could lead to a wider regional conflagration.

Hamas said Aruri’s death would not lead to its defeat, while its Lebanon-based ally Hezbollah vowed the killing would not go unpunished, calling it “a serious assault on Lebanon… and a dangerous development”.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the killing and said it “aims to draw Lebanon” further into the war.

Aruri, who lived in exile, is accused by Israel of masterminding numerous attacks.

Following his death, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said that a movement “whose leaders fall as martyrs for the dignity of our people and our nation will never be defeated”.