Hezbollah’s top commander in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed in a purported Israeli airstrike in the country earlier this week, according to Lebanese media reports.
A statement from the organization early Friday confirmed Badreddine’s death, but did not blame Israel for the airstrike that killed him, which reportedly took place near Damascus’s airport on May 10.
Several Lebanese television outlets, including the al-Mayadeen channel thought to be close to Hezbollah, said early Friday that Israel carried out the attack.
Badreddine, 55, is said to have inherited the leadership of Hezbollah’s military operations from former commander and cousin Imad Mughniyeh, who is also believed to have been assassinated by Israel in 2008. Badreddine’s sister, Saada, was reportedly married to Mughniyeh.
Badreddine has had a long career leading terror attacks and military operations for Hezbollah. He is being tried in absentia in The Hague for his alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
His latest role in the organization was as its chief operational commander in Syria, where the Iran-backed group has sent thousands of fighters to prop up the regime of dictator Bashar Assad.
Hezbollah confirmed Badreddine’s killing, noting in a statement that he “took part in most of the operations of the Islamic resistance since 1982.”
Lebanese-based terrorist organization Hezbollah said it was investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of its top commander in Syria, as media reports in Lebanon claimed he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Damascus on Tuesday.
“According to preliminary information, a large explosion targeted one of our positions near Damascus international airport, killing our brother, commander Mustafa Badreddine, and wounding others,” said the group, which is battling rebels in Syria alongside the troops of President Bashar Assad.
“We will continue the investigation to determine the nature and causes of the explosion and whether it was due to an air raid, a missile or artillery fire,” the group said in a statement.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, said Friday morning that Badreddine’s death was good news for Israel, whether or not the Jewish state was behind the killing.
“It is good for the State of Israel, [but ] the State of Israel is not always responsible,” Amidror said, according to Army Radio.
Nawar al-Saheli, a Hezbollah member ofLebanon's parliament, accused Israel on Friday of being responsible for the death of their top commander, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, and called the attack part of an "open war."
"We do not want to get ahead of the investigation, but there is no doubt that Israel was behind his death," the MP told Hezbollah-controlled TV station Al-Manar.
"The resistance will carry out its duties at the appropriate time," he added.
Israel considers Hezbollah its most potent enemy and worries that it is becoming entrenched on its Syrian front and is acquiring more advanced weaponry. Israel has struck Hezbollah targets in Syria several times since the conflict began in 2011.
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