Top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine was killed in an Israeli strike in Syria this week, the Lebanese Shia group has said. “He took part in most of the operations of the Islamic resistance since 1982,” Hezbollah said in a statement announcing his death on Friday, describing Badreddine as a “great jihadi leader”.
Badreddine, 55, was one of the highest ranking officials in the group, and assessed by the US government to be responsible for Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria, where it is fighting alongside the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He was killed on Tuesday night, the Hezbollah statement said, adding that the attack targeted one of its bases near Damascus airport.
The group said it was working to “define the nature of the explosion and its cause, and whether it was the result of an air strike, or missile [attack] or artillery”. Ali Rizk, a political analyst and an expert on Hezbollah, told Al Jazeera that the attack targeted Hezbollah’s operations centre in Damascus.
“It was a big explosion which targeted Hezbollah’s operations centre in Damascus. Israel is most likely behind the attack, however it has not yet been confirmed,” Rizk said. “Mustafa Badreddine replaced Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in 2008 in an Israeli raid. This will not change Hezbollah’s role in Syria at all, on the contrary it will make Hezbollah more determined to stay involved in Syria until the end”.
The Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen earlier reported that he had been killed in an Israeli attack. There was no immediate response from Israel which has attacked Hezbollah targets in Syria several times during the country’s five-year conflict. “We decline to comment,” an Israeli military spokeswoman said.