Senior Iranian Killed in Convoy Attack, Says Syrian Website

Gen. Hassan Shateri, was allegedly killed two weeks ago when, according to media reports, Israeli aircraft bombed a Lebanon-bound convoy in Syria.

A Syrian news website identified with the opposition in the country contended that a senior Iranian official, Gen. Hassan Shateri, was killed two weeks ago when, according to media reports, Israeli aircraft bombed a convoy in Syria that had been on its way to Lebanon.

According to the website, which based its report on "special sources," Shateri had been one of the officials overseeing dealing with the passage of the convoy and the delay in announcing his death was the result of the fact that his death is further proof of Iran's involvement in events in Syria and Lebanon. The website does not attribute its information to any Lebanese, Syrian or Iranian source, and the absence of any official reaction casts some doubt on the reliability of the report.

Shateri's funeral was held in Tehran on Thursday, attended by a number of senior Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Ali Jafari. Over the past two days, there have been conflicting reports from Iran and Lebanon on the identity of the senior official who was killed. The Iranian embassy in Beirut and Al-Manar, the Lebanese television station of the Hezbollah Shiiite militia, identified him as Houssam Khosh Nweis. They reported that he had been involved in "development," heading the Iranian entity involved in rehabilitation work in Lebanon and had been killed near the border en route from Damascus to Beirut. The Iranian embassy statement even claimed he had been killed by Syrian opposition forces.

On the other hand, an independent Iranian website that had previously reported the incident identified him as Shateri, and said that he was commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon. And Iran's Fars news agency, which is frequently described as semi-official, reported that the dead man was indeed Shateri and said he had been "murdered by mercenaries and supporters of the Zionist entity [Israel] while on his way from Damascus to Beirut."

A Revolutionary Guard spokesman, Ramadan Sherif, confirmed this report, acknowledging that Shateri had been the senior official killed. Prior to Sherif's statement, observers in Lebanon and in the West had assumed that the man killed had maintained a double identity, and like other Iranian security officials working in Lebanon, had maintained a cover as an official helping Hezbollah deal with reconstruction from damage caused during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

All of the reports, however, described the Iranian killed as someone responsible for carrying out plans to rebuild areas of Lebanon that had been hard hit during the 2006 war. The Iranian embassy in Beirut stated that he had been working in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, and in villages in southern Lebanon. He was reportedly involved in reconstruction projects including public buildings such as schools, hospitals and places of worship. The reports reinforced the view that the Iran official who had been killed had indeed maintained a dual identity.