Pictured: Slain Iranian general Hassan Shateri (photo credit: mashreghnews.ir)
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Iran was quick last week to blame "mercenaries and supporters" of Israel for Shateri's death, although it made no indication that he had been killed in the January airstrike. Tehran "will take revenge on Israel for the killing of a Quds Force general in Syria," said Ali Shirazi, liaison for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force.
Shateri was a high-ranking member of the Quds Force, which is tasked with international operations, and was instrumental in Iran-Hezbollah relations, overseeing the reconstruction of Hezbollah's armaments in the wake of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Sunday's report said.
For Israel, he was long a "prime target," according to an Israeli security figure quoted by The Times.
The report described how, despite the tight security surrounding Shateri, Israeli agents spotted him in Damascus and trailed him as he boarded the convoy headed for Lebanon, after which the airstrike option was utilized.
According to Israeli and Western defense officials quoted by the foreign press at the time, the convoy was delivering Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles that, in Hezbollah's hands, would be considered game-changing in that they would disrupt Israel's ability to carry out reconnaissance flights over Lebanon.
But according to Sunday's report, even the specter of advanced surface-to-air weaponry in the hands of Israel's sworn enemy would not be sufficient, without further cause, to merit a risky strike deep in Syrian territory.
A senior Israeli source was quoted as saying that Shateri was the real target of the strike and that "a weapons convoy to Lebanon is not on its own a good enough reason for Israel to risk its pilots in an attack through a heavily protected air defense zone."
SOURCE: GABE FISHER
The Times of Israel
The Times of Israel