Israel is being blamed for the death of a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon on Wednesday.
An Iranian independent news website reported early Thursday morning that Gen. Hassan Shateri was killed by “mercenaries of the Zionist regime,” but provided no details about his death. The semi-official FARS news agency confirmed the report a few hours later.
Guards spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif was quoted by Fars as saying “mercenaries and supporters” of Israel were responsible.
Shateri led Guard forces in Lebanon and oversaw Iranian-financed reconstruction projects there, aiding Hezbollah both financially and by training its members.
A second senior Iranian official was reported killed Wednesday in an attack on his car after he crossed from Syria into Lebanon.
The man, Hossam Khosh Newes, was killed by “armed terrorist groups” — a blanket term that Syria and Iran use to designate opposition forces — the Iranian Embassy was quoted in The New York Times as saying.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Newes was traveling with Shateri at the time of the attack, and whether the two incidents were related.
Iran is a close ally of Syria and Hezbollah, a powerful player in Lebanon that Israel and the US consider a terror organization. Tehran provides political and military support to both.
Several high-ranking Iranian figures attended the funeral for Shateri, including Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Guard chief Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari and the head of the Guard’s Quds Force, Gen. Ghasem Soleimani. Senior clerics, such as Ayatollah Ali Saeedi, the representative of Iran’s supreme leader to the Guards, also took part.
Footage of the service broadcast on state TV showed footage of mourners carrying aloft a coffin.
Fars said Shateri was a veteran of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, and served in Afghanistan before going to Lebanon. He is to be buried Friday in his hometown of Semnan, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of Tehran.
Lebanese news reports provided a similar account of the killing but a different name.
Al-Manar TV, which is owned by Hezbollah, identified the dead man as Houssam Khosh Nweis. It said he was the director of the Iranian Council for Reconstruction in Lebanon, and that he had lived in the country since the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
The station gave no further details.
The difference in the name could not immediately be reconciled, but Iranian military officials in Lebanon often work under an assumed name because their presence in the country is not publicized by Hezbollah.
Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press there was no indication that the Iranian official was killed on Lebanese soil. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, the head of the Guard’s Quds Force, which oversees external operations of the Guard throughout the world, visited Shateri’s family to express his condolences.
Iran has pointed a blaming finger at Israel for a number of incidents in which scientists and generals were either killed or disappeared. In August Iranian families filed a lawsuit against Israel, the UK and US, charging them with murder in a number of alleged assassinations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.