Hassan Nasrallah, head of Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah on Friday morning mourned Iran’s Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani as a “master of resistance” after he was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq.
“To continue on General Soleimani’s path, we’ll raise his flag in all battlefields,” the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar website quoted Nasrallah as saying.
“Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins… will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide,” he said.
Soleimani had close ties with Hezbollah and was heavily involved in its operations. In a rare interview late last year, Soleimani claimed he and Nasrallah escaped an Israeli assassination attempt when Israeli aircraft targeted them in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The Hamas terror group offered its “sincere condolences” to Iran’s leadership and people following the killing of Soleimani in Baghdad overnight.
The organization that rules the Gaza Strip called Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ extraterritorial Quds Force, “one of the most prominent Iranian military leaders who had a major role in supporting the Palestinian resistance in different fields.”
It condemned the US’s “belligerent action and the ongoing American crimes in sowing and spreading discord in the region in service of the criminal Zionist enemy.”
It said Washington “bears full responsibility for the blood that is being spilled in the Arab region, especially since its hostile behavior is igniting conflicts without taking into consideration the interests, freedoms and stability of the peoples.”
In a separate statement the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, expressed its condolences and said Suleimani “focused much of his efforts and fight to working towards the demise of the Zionist entity and removing it from Palestine’s land.”
Hamas’s leader Yahya Sinwar had in the past lauded the “strong, powerful and warm” ties Hamas enjoys with Soleimani.
The Syrian government also condemned the US killing and accused Washington of trying to fuel conflict in the Middle East.
Syria is “certain that this cowardly US aggression… will only strengthen determination to follow in the path of the resistance’s martyred leaders,” a foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by the state news agency SANA.
Leaders of Syrian opposition groups for their part hailed the death of a man they blame for thousands of deaths in the nearly nine-year-old civil war.
“The murder of Qasem Soleimani, the number one perpetrator of Revolutionary Guards’ crimes against the people of Syria and Iraq, is a blow that confirms that the world is able to stop Iran and protect Syrian civilians if it wants to,” Nasr Hariri, a senior political opposition leader, said.
Ahmed Ramadan, another senior opposition figure, also praised the US strike. “The killer of Syria’s children has been killed, the killer of Iraq’s free people has been killed,” he said in a post on social media.
Early Friday, a volley of missiles hit Baghdad’s international airport, striking a convoy belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran.
Just a few hours later, the Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Soleimani “was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning.”
The PMF confirmed both Soleimani and its deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in what it said was a “US strike that targeted their car on the Baghdad International Airport road.”
Soleimani has for years been seen as the architect of much of Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East, including attempts to place a foothold in Syria and rocket attacks on Israel, making him one of Israel and the US’s most sought-after targets.
Soleimani had long stayed in the shadows while directing the Quds Force. But he rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of embattled dictator Bashar Assad.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.