Iran: Death of Top Hezbollah Commander Will 'Reignite Fighting Spirit Against Israel'

Mustafa Badreddine spent seven years in Kuwaiti prison and masterminded operations against Israel, Western nations before being killed in Syria.

Photograph of late Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine in a handout issued in May 2016.
Uncredited, AP

Iran's foreign minister praised the Hezbollah's top military commander Friday, following confirmation of his death in Syria.

"Mustafa Badreddine dedicated his whole life to the fight against injustice and terrorism," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in comments carried by Iranian state news agency ISNA.

In a letter of condolence to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Zarif said the death of the commander will reignite the group's fighting spirit against Israel and the Islamic State extremist militia.

Hezbollah announced Badreddine's death earlier on Friday and there was no claim of responsibility for the explosion in which he was killed, though at least one Hezbollah figure blamed Israel. Israel declined to comment, but a former Israeli official said the government would be glad Badreddine was dead.

Hezbollah said he would be buried in the southern suburbs of Beirut. His death sparked wide condemnation from Lebanese political allies.

"His martyrdom is a big loss for the Lebanese in their fight against Israeli-Zionist aggression and Takfiri terrorism," Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Hezbollah's al-Manar TV in reference to Israel and Sunni miliant groups.
"His loss will leave a vacuum but the lesson is to continue on the path that he chose - resistance and jihad until victory is achieved."

Badreddine was sentenced to death in Kuwait for his role in bomb attacks there in 1983. He escaped from prison in Kuwait after Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded the country in 1990.

His release from jail in Kuwait was one of the demands made by the hijackers of a TWA flight in 1985, and of the hijackers of a Kuwait Airways flight in 1988.

For years, Badreddine masterminded military operations against Israel from Lebanon and overseas and managed to escape capture by Arab and Western governments.

Badreddine was also one of four Hezbollah members indicted by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the 2005 killing of statesman Rafik Hariri, one of Lebanon's most prominent Sunni Muslim figures. Hezbollah denied any involvement and said the charges were politically motivated.

The U.S. Treasury statement said he had led Hezbollah ground offensives in the Syrian town of al-Qusair in 2013, a critical battle in the war when Hezbollah fighters defeated Syrian rebels in an area near the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Around 1,200 Hezbollah fighters are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian conflict. These include prominent fighters Samir Quntar and Jihad Moughniyah, the son of Imad Moughniyah, who were killed in separate Israeli attacks last year.

Hezbollah responded in both cases, though the incidents were contained, with the sides seeking to avoid any repeat of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Hezbollah accuses Israel of carrying out the 2008 killing of Moughniyah, who was on the U.S. most wanted list of attacks on Israeli and Western targets.