Hezbollah's top military commander Mustafa Badreddine has been killed in a blast at a base near Damascus airport, the Lebanese Shi'ite group said on Friday, one of the biggest blows to its leadership the Iranian-backed organization has ever sustained.
deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said there were clear indications of
who was behind it, and the group would announce the outcome of its
investigation within hours. There was no immediate claim of
responsibility. At least one
Hezbollah figure blamed the group's age-old enemy Israel, which has
struck Hezbollah targets in Syria several times in the past. Israel declined to comment. Hezbollah
also has many other foes in Syria, where it fights in support of the
government of President Bashar al-Assad.
of Hezbollah fighters and leaders gathered at a mosque in Hezbollah's
stronghold in southern Beirut and gave Badreddine a military funeral,
waving Hezbollah flags. They chanted Shi'ite religious slogans, as well
as "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". Speaking at the funeral, Qassem also vowed that the group would continue on the "path" of Badreddine.
a letter, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif extended
condolences "for the martyrdom of this great jihadist.
Badreddine, 55, is believed to have been in charge of Hezbollah's military operations in Syria.
is the most senior Hezbollah official killed since 2008 when his
brother-in-law, long-serving military commander Imad Mughniyeh, was
blown up by a bomb planted in his car in Damascus that Hezbollah blamed
At least four
prominent figures in Hezbollah have been killed since January 2015. A
number of high-ranking Iranian officers have also been killed, either
fighting Syrian insurgents or in Israeli attacks.
Hezbollah said it was investigating whether
the explosion at the base was caused by an air strike, a
or artillery bombardment. It did not say when he was killed.