Israeli Airstrike Kills Six Hezbollah Fighters, Iranian General in Syria
Published Monday, January 19, 2015
Updated at 6:08 pm (GMT+2): An Israeli airstrike on the Syrian city of Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights killed six fighters of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah, including a commander and the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, as well as an Iranian general.
“The Israeli enemy's helicopters fired missiles at a group of Hezbollah fighters who were inspecting the town of Mazraat al-Amal in the Syrian Quneitra region,” a Hezbollah statement, made public on TV channel Al-Manar’s website, read.
Hezbollah later announced the names of its fighters killed in the attack, among them a top military leader, and Jihad Mughniyeh also known as “Jawad,” the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah commander assassinated by Israel in a 2008 airstrike targeting his car in Syria.
A portrait of late Hezbollah member Jihad Imad Mughniyeh with a slogan reading in Arabic, "on the road to Jerusalem" hangs at the "Martyr's cemetery" in a southern Beirut suburb on January 19, 2015. AFP/Joseph Eid
An investigation by Al-Akhbar in 2013 revealed that on the evening of 12 February 2008, Mughniyeh had just finished a meeting with some of the most senior Palestinian leaders in the Syrian capital of Damascus. They had discussed ways to develop the capacities of the Palestinian resistance inside Palestine, and Gaza in particular.
Imad Mughniyeh was wanted for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a US Navy diver was killed and the 1992 bombing of Israel's embassy in Argentina that cost 29 lives.
Meanwhile, a source close to Hezbollah told AFP the killed military leader was Mohammed Issa also known as “Abu Issa,” a senior commander responsible for Hezbollah operations in Syria and Iraq.
The four other Hezbollah casualties were identified as: “Sayyed Abbas” Abbas Ibrahim Hijazi; “Kazem” Mohammed Ali Hassan Abu al-Hassan; “Daniel” Ghazi Ali Dawi; “Ihab” Ali Hassan Ibrahim.
Iran confirmed Monday that a general of its elite Revolutionary Guards died in the strike.
"General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a number of fighters and Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) forces were attacked by the Zionist regime's helicopters," a statement on the Guards' website said.
"This brave general and some members of Hezbollah were martyred."
Iran did not confirm or deny earlier reports that said six Iranians had been killed in the airstrike.
A source close to Hezbollah had told AFP that six Iranians had been killed in the attack. Hezbollah told AFP that it was not the source of that toll.
An Israeli source who talked to AFP did not identify the targets but claimed they were preparing for an attack on Israel, without providing more details.
Thousands of Hezbollah supporters gathered on Monday afternoon in Beirut's southern suburbs to attend the funeral of Jihad Mughniyeh, who was buried in Beirut alongside his father.
Though it was unclear what role Mughniyeh, who was in his mid-20s, played in Hezbollah, his death represented a symbolic blow to the resistance group that his father helped to found in the early 1980s.
It was the biggest Hezbollah funeral since Imad Mughniyeh's own burial, underscoring Jihad's significance to the movement.
Syrian Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubi said the Israeli airstrike “was not a single act, but a continuation of the Israeli support to armed terrorist groups that are listed internationally as terrorist organizations,” Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Monday.
On Monday, the Iranian foreign ministry strongly condemned the Israeli helicopter strike.
“The terrorist act indicates that the Syria war is part of the confrontation with the Zionist state and that Hezbollah has stood firmly on the path of resisting all forms of occupation and foreign interference in the affairs of other nations,” the ministry said in a statement made public by Iranian national news agency (IRNA).
Palestinian resistance faction Hamas also denounced the killing of Hezbollah fighters.
"Hamas denounces the killing of some of the leaders of Hezbollah in the [Israeli] strike," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.
He added that Israel was "messing" with the security of the region and trying to make up for the military "defeat" it sustained during its latest onslaught on the Gaza Strip.
Abu Zuhri noted that the airstrike in southwestern Syria was aimed to achieve Israeli internal goals related to its snap election that will be held in March of this year.
Damascus has repeatedly accused so-called “rebel groups” such Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, al-Nusra Front, who are active in the southern Quneitra countryside, of working hand in glove with Israel, from which they allegedly receive logistic support.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Quneitra is located in the “demilitarized” zone of the Golan Heights. The zone is supposedly monitored by UN peacekeepers since 1974, but has been a site of heavy clashes between the Syrian army and jihadist groups.
The attack came days after Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against any “stupid” moves in Lebanon and Syria, emphasizing the movement’s increased military capabilities and vowing to retaliate and make sure Israel pays the price for any aggression against the neighboring countries.
Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar channel, meanwhile, branded the strike "a costly adventure that threatens the security of the Middle East."
Missiles can hit Israel
Nasrallah on Thursday told Al-Mayadeen television channel that Hezbollah has had Iranian Fateh-110 missiles that target deep inside the occupied territories since 2006, adding that it is always ready to fight the Zionist state.
Israeli airstrikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis," Nasrallah said in reference to Syria, Iran and his government, who are sworn enemies of Israel.
"The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he said, adding the "axis is capable of responding" anytime.
He also boasted that Hezbollah was "stronger than we ever were as a resistance movement" and said the group known for its sophisticated arsenal has Fateh-110 missiles.
In the past year, Israel has reportedly carried out a number of raids allegedly targeting key Syrian targets and positions of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, an ally of both Syria and Iran.
In December, the Syrian government accused Israel of launching a series of airstrikes on the outskirts of Damascus saying the strikes caused material damage to institutions in the area.
The Syrian foreign ministry said at the time it had asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, describing the strikes as "a heinous crime against Syria's sovereignty."
Observers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) confirmed in a report published in December documenting cooperation and coordination between the Israeli army and militant groups in Syria.
The report revealed ongoing communication between armed groups’ leaders and Israeli army officers, saying that “59 meetings took place from March 2013 to May, and that during this same period 89 injured militants were transported to Israeli hospitals, and 19 of them were returned to Syria along with two bodies.”
The UNDOF report also said that observers witnessed several meetings between rebel leaders and Israeli army forces between December 2013 and March 2014, in addition to witnessing the transportation of injured militants to Israeli hospitals following confrontations between the militants and the Syrian army near the occupied Golan border.
On December 1, Israeli TV Channel 2 reported that “more than 449 wounded Syrian rebels” have received medical treatment at the Nahariya hospital, and in November Israeli website Walla reported that “Poriya Hospital has treated 124 wounded from Syria so far.”
In March, Israeli warplanes attacked Syrian army positions just hours after a bomb wounded four Israeli soldiers on the Golan.
Last February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a field hospital in the annexed Golan Heights for wounded Syrian rebels.
In October, an exposé by Israeli political commentator Ehud Yaari confirmed an existing relationship between the two sides.
The Israeli writer also spoke about an “undeclared truce” between Israel and Nusra Front, which so far have not engaged in any clashes with the Israeli army.
Last October, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for detonating a bomb that targeted an Israeli tank near the Sadan Israeli military post in the Israeli-occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms.
The group said in a statement at the time that the attack was carried out by the "martyr Ali Hassan Haidar unit," which is named for a Hezbollah member killed on September 5, when an Israeli spying device in Lebanon was detonated remotely as he tried to dismantle it.
The last Israeli war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.