Iranian officials threatened harsh retaliation against Israel Tuesday over a reported airstrike two days earlier, as the country’s supreme leader highlighted his personal connection with Jihad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah commander who was killed in the attack.
Revolutionary Guards chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said that Israel should anticipate “devastating lightning,” according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency, and that Iran would widen its support for Muslim fighters in the Middle East “until the final collapse of the Zionist regime.”
Several Hezbollah and Iranian operatives were killed in a strike on a convoy in Syria on Sunday near the border with Israel. Hezbollah said Mughniyeh was killed along with five others, and Iran confirmed Revolutionary Guards commander Mohamed Allahdadi died in the strike as well.
A source told AFP six Iranians were killed in the bombing.
Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani accused Israel of being behind “all acts of terror in the Middle East,” particularly Syria, according to a PressTV report, and said that “necessary measures should be taken in these cases.”
Israel refused to comment on the incident, but has ramped up alertness along the northern border, deploying Iron Dome anti-missile batteries and canceling leave for some soldiers in anticipation of a possible retaliatory strike by Hezbollah.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also joined the chorus of Iranian officials blaming Israel for the airstrike.
A Twitter feed associated with Khamenei shared photos of him and Mughniyeh.
The post by @khamenei_ir described the pictures as “unseen photos,” which appear to have been taken during a 2013 meeting of Mughniyeh and Khamenei.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 20, 2015
One of the photos shows Khamenei and Mughniyeh embracing and Mughniyeh kissing the supreme leader on the cheek.
Mughniyeh attended the funeral of the mother of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in Tehran on September 14, 2013.
According to a semi-official Iranian Fars news report, Soleimani and Mughniyeh, the son of senior Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, had a relationship “deeper than that of a young man with his father’s friend, and those who didn’t know, imagined that he was indeed his son.”
Imad Mughniyeh was killed in 2008 in an operation widely thought to have been ordered by Israel.
The supreme leader’s Instagram account also shared photos of Imad Mughniyeh embracing the ayatollah alongside an almost identical image of his son kissing Khamenei.
“In the war against #ISIS in Syria, he was martyred by #Israel,” the supreme leader’s Twitter account said.
IRGC Commander Ali Jafari says Zionists should await devastating lightning, adding that Zionists have witnessed Iran’s anger before
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) January 20, 2015
Jihad Mughniyeh was estimated to be 25 years old when he died earlier this week.
Khamenei’s photo shared on Tuesday included a quote from a 2008 speech eulogizing Imad Mughniyeh, saying, “The prominent martyrs of the Islamic world, including the one who was martyred some days ago by the Zionists considered themselves as the children of Imam (R.A.). Hajj Emad Mughniyed considered himself as Imam’s (R.A.) son.”