Reports: Iranian General Wounded by Israel or Rebels During Syria Visit

Visit by Brig. Gen. Mohammad-Reza Naghdi was covered extensively by anti-Iran media in Arab world. No official - either Syrian, Iranian or Israeli - confirmed the attack.

A military post near the Syrian city of Quneitra, June 2015.
Gil Eliyahu

An Iranian general was wounded by Israeli forces or Syrian rebels during a highly publicized visit this weekend to southern Syria near the Israeli border, according to reports on several Arab websites.

No Syrian, Iranian or Israeli official has confirmed this.

Iranian websites and social media featured images of Brig. Gen. Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, the commander of the Basij paramilitary organization, near Quneitra.

The Basij is an arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Naghdi’s visit raised a number of questions regarding the presence of a senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the area.

The Basij News website published two pictures of Naghdi on Wednesday, one of which shows him surveying the scene with binoculars and the other has him inspecting destruction at sites that reports on the visit said were part of a situation assessment and inspection on the ground.

News of the incident was attributed to an item on the Basij website reporting that an Iranian officer had been wounded in the Quneitra area. It did not provide details as to his identity. It was then left to others who made a connection between the pictures of Naghdi in Quneitra and the report to conclude that it was Naghdi.

Al-Arabiya television and the London-based Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, both of which are financed by Saudi Arabia and are unsparing in their criticism of Iran and its involvement in Syria, reported extensively on Naghdi’s visit and raised questions about its timing and the message that Iran was trying to convey. The reports said the Iranian officer met with units of the Syrian army and from the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia that have been confronting anti-government rebels in Syria.

The reports said Naghdi is known as a fiery speaker who generally tries to boost morale or frighten adversaries through psychological warfare.

This still leaves open the question as to why he would have visited the Quneitra front and the extent to which it would have been coordinated with Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who commands the Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Brigade and is considered the most important Iranian military figure operating outside of Iran. Reports have it that he too visited the Syrian Golan front.

In other developments, on Friday, Iran’s Fars news agency reported that Majid Heymoud, the commander of the First Battalion of Golan Regiment in the Syrian military, was visiting al-Samdaniya, a town in southern Syria, when his convoy was attacked by two missiles fired from the Israeli side of the border. The news agency did not specify when the incident took place. 

Syrian websites, most of which are identified with the opposition to President Bashar Assad’s regime, reported over the weekend that Heymoud had survived an Israeli attempt to assassinate him.

Some of the reports said Heymoud suffered moderate injuries, while others said he was not injured in the attack.

There was also an Iranian Fars news agency report that members of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front) had also tried unsuccessfully to hit Heymoud following the purported missile strike.