Who was behind the assassination of Mustafa Badreddine and why did Hezbollah lie about the perpetrators of the hit

On Thursday night last week, Hezbollah’s top military commander was killed in Syria. The Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group is heavily involved in the Syrian war and has more than 5,000 fighters in the battlefield at any given time to help the Assad regime.

Mustafa Badreddine (Badr a-Din in Arabic), the slain terror chief, was the successor of Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated by the Mossad and the CIA in Damascus in 2008. Both men were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Israelis.

Badreddine, nicknamed “the Ghost,” was reportedly behind the Beirut barracks bombings, which killed 241 U.S. and 58 French servicemen in 1983. He helped establish and coordinated the Hezbollah Unit 1800, which facilitated terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank and Gaza.

He was instrumental in the founding of the Hezbollah Unit 3800, which launched attacks against American, British, and Sunni forces in Iraq. Badreddine also was the mastermind of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who was killed with 21 others in a massive bomb attack on his motorcade that rocked Beirut on February 14, 2005.

He was reportedly also behind the terror attack on a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on July 18, 2012. Seven people died in that attack. In 2012, he was labeled “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” by the U.S. Treasury.

Hezbollah confirmed the death of its terror chief and said in their first statement he had been killed in an “explosion”.

A short time later, Hezbollah’s mouthpiece, Al-Manar, reported the commander had been killed “by Takfiri groups stationed in the region.”

The Lebanese Shiite terror group released a statement announcing an investigation into the death of Badreddine:

“The outcome of the investigation will only increase our determination and will to continue the fight against these criminal gangs and deal them a mighty blow so that we fulfil the martyr’s wishes and advices to his Mujahideen brothers,” Hezbollah said, while suggesting the Sunni Islamist group who allegedly killed Badreddine was acting on behalf of Israel.

“In all cases it is a single battle against the American-Zionist project in the region, which terrorist Takfiris represent its spearhead thus practicing its aggression over the Ummah (nation) and its resistance, Mujahideen, sanctuaries and its free, honest peoples,” the Hezbollah statement read.

On Friday, the Syrian watchdog organization SOHR refuted Hezbollah’s claim that opposition groups were responsible for Badreddine’s death.

“There was no shelling in recent days. The Syrian opposition has no connection to the death,”said Rami Abed a-Rahman, director SOHR.

Experts began to doubt Hezbollah’s version of the event and some of them based their skepticism on tweetsfrom Islamist groups in the Aleppo area in Syria who claimed the Hezbollah commander had been killed in the battle for Khan Touman in southern Aleppo.

Then there was Lebanon and Syria expert Tony Badran, who wrote on his Twitter account that the assassination was identical to the one of Samir Kuntar, the Hezbollah terrorist who murdered an Israeli father in front of his young daughter before smashing her head with the butt of his rifle on April 22, 1979. Kuntar was assassinated by Israel in December 2015 before he could carry out a new terror attack against Israeli citizens on the Golan Heights.

Badran later wrote that Badreddine was killed by a Spice missile, an Israeli missile produced by Rafael, andcited Lee Smith who noted that if Israel is responsible for the liquidation of the Hezbollah terror chief “it will have killed three senior Hezbollah leaders who were involved in the murder of 241 Americans in Beirut on October 23, 1983.”

So who was right?

Hezbollah, who claimed Badreddine was killed by an artillery bombardment by Sunni Islamist rebel groups in Syria?; or the Islamist groups in the Aleppo province and Tony Badran who suggests Israel was behind the assassination?

The news site Al-Akhbar that is affiliated with Hezbollah answered this question in an Arabic language report that gave a detailed account of what happened when the Hezbollah commander in chief left a meeting in the local headquarter of Hezbollah near Damascus International Airport on Thursday evening.

Badreddine had just attended a field meeting and left his comrades. He went to the courtyard of the building when an explosion occurred, al-Akhbar reported. The projectile didn’t hit him but exploded two meters from “the martyr,” according to al-Akhbar.

The Lebanese news site wrote that the device that exploded was probably a “vacuum weapon” which can cause an “internal explosion” in the body of the target and that almost no shrapnel hit Badreddine.

He was submitted to a medical center where doctors found only small pieces of shrapnel in his stomach and his head but “blood was coming out of his nose and his eyes,” al-Akhbar reported, adding that this indicated Badreddine likely died of internal pressure caused by the explosion of the vacuum weapon.

This description of Badreddine’s injuries by al-Akhbar proves Tony Badran wrong. A Spice missile causes a huge blast that can even destroy bunkers as can be seen in this video made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The results of an exploding Hellfire missile, however, fit the al-Akhbar account of what happened to Badreddine. The AGM-114N variant of the “Helicopter Launched, Fire, and Forget Missile” (Hellfire) missile is a thermobaric weapon that uses oxygen from the air to cause a blast wave.

Israel used this type of Hellfire missile to assassinate Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, and the U.S. air force used it to kill ISIS executioner Jihadi John.

We can, therefore, conclude that the assassination of Mustafa Badreddine was the work of an army of a developed country, not a rebel group.

Considering the fact that the Hezbollah terror chief was on the hit list of both Israel and the United States, the liquidation could have been again a joint Israeli-American operation similar to the 2008 hit on Badreddine’s predecessor, Imad Mughniyeh.

As for Hezbollah’s denial of any direct involvement by Israel or the U.S. in the hit on its commander in chief, this could be related to embarrassment about the fact that Israeli and U.S. intelligence services apparently have exact information on the whereabouts of Hezbollah leaders and succeed to liquidate them time after time.

Another explanation for Hezbollah’s behavior is the realization that any direct accusation about Israel’s involvement in the hit could easily lead to a new war with the Jewish state. A war with Israel at this point in time could lead to the demise of the Lebanese terror group. As noticed above, Hezbollah is heavily embroiled in the Syrian war and has lost more than 1,400 fighters, while 5,000 others were injured during the fighting. That’s a significant number for an organization that has a standing army of 21,000 fighters.

So immediately after Lebanese media began to report on possibly Israeli involvement in the hit on Badreddine senior Hezbollah officials begged journalists and editors to refrain from any mentioning of Israel in their reporting on the assassination. It showed once again that Hezbollah despite its 150,000 missiles and other advanced weapons has learned the lesson of the Second Lebanon War and is very careful not to provoke Israel.

This article was first published by Western in the United States

About the Author
Yochanan Visser is a freelance journalist and director of Missing Peace Information, an independent news agency. He wrote a book about the cognitive war against Israel in the Dutch language. In December 2014 he became the Middle East Correspondent of Western Arizona USA