An Iranian Revolutionary Guard general was among those killed in an air strike attributed by the foreign press to an Israel Air Force attack on Hezbollah and Iranian operatives on the Syrian Golan Heights on Sunday.
The official website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard confirmed Monday that Gen. Muhammad Ali Allah-Dadi was killed in the strike, while Hezbollah’s satellite television station and news website al-Manar also carried news of Allah-Dadi’s demise.
In the aftermath of the attack, Sky News reported that an Iron Dome anti-rocket battery had been deployed to northern Israel in case of further escalation on the border with Syria and Lebanon.
“The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard announced the martyrdom of great commander, Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Ali Allah-Dadi in the brutal Israeli attack in Syria’s Quneitra region,” al-Manar stated.
The Hezbollah-affiliated news outlet described Allah-Dadi as a “loyal defender and supporter of resistance against the Zionist entity,” who was on an advisory mission for the Assad government in its ongoing civil war and was in the Syrian Golan for a reconnaissance tour.
A source close to Hezbollah said six Iranians were killed in the attack, AFP reported, but the IRG website does not mention anyone other than Allah-Dadi.
The al-Manar website also acknowledged that six Hezbollah operatives were killed in Sunday’s air strike, among whom was senior Hezbollah commander Muhammad Issa and Jihad Mughniyeh, son of former Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.
The Hezbollah personnel had been carrying out a reconnaissance mission in the village of Mazra’at Amal, close to the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, the TV station said.
Dr. Ely Carmon, a senior researcher at the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, said that the presence of the Iranian general in the region was very significant and suggested that Hezbollah, with the help of its Iranian sponsor, is trying to set up an operations center in the northern Syrian Golan region as a base for attacks against Israel.
The southern Golan, including the city of Quneitra, has been taken over by Syrian rebel forces, including the Nusra Sunni Islamist group, and Carmon said that the Syrian regime had outsourced responsibility for blocking further rebel advances toward Damascus to Hezbollah.
“The Iranian general and the Hezbollah operatives were in the region, not to organize an IED attack or rocket fire against Israel, but likely as part of a delegation sent to set up a headquarters and infrastructure for future military activity against Israel,” Carmon told The Jerusalem Post.
“Without Iranian support Syria would not survive,” he continued, suggesting that Hezbollah had been given leeway to set up such a base because of its efforts in fighting the Syrian rebels.
“The attack on this group was a message to Hezbollah, Iran, and the Syrian regime as well, that Israel will not allow such a platform,” Carmon observed.
Hezbollah officials vowed on Monday to avenge the latest attack on its high-level officials, sources close to the Lebanese Shi’ite organization were quoted as saying in various Arab-language media outlets north of the border.
One pro-Hezbollah source told the Lebanese daily A-Safir that the group “will not rush to decide what steps should be taken” in retaliation for the assassination of Mughniyeh, but that retaliation was “inevitable.”
“The attack on the six members of Hezbollah will be answered with a painful and unexpected response, but we can assume it will be handled so as not to drag us into all-out war,” Hezbollah sources told A-Safir, as reported by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot.
Western intelligence sources said Mughniyeh headed a large-scale terrorist cell that enjoyed direct Iranian sponsorship and a direct link to Hezbollah. The cell had already targeted Israel in the past, launching attacks on the Golan Heights.
While Israel has maintained tactical anonymity concerning its involvement in the most recent operation against Hezbollah, intelligence sources have asserted that the younger Mughniyeh had been planning significant attacks against Israeli targets, which included the use of rockets and anti-tank missiles.
According to the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, along with the Lebanese Army, increased their activity along the Blue Line Monday after tensions on the border with Israel escalated following an air strike against Hezbollah terrorists operating on the Golan.
Lebanese security sources told the paper that UN and Lebanese forces have been monitoring the border region intently, employing night vision apparatus to keep track of every maneuver at all hours in order to gauge the activity of the actors involved.
The Syrian Golan has become a battleground between Hezbollah and its Syrian army allies against rebel and Islamist factions in Syria, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, a local al-Qaida affiliate.
On Monday, UN peacekeepers stationed along the Syrian-Israeli border observed drones coming from the Israeli side before and after the air strike that killed top several Hezbollah figures, the UN said.
The flight of the drones in the airspace over the Golan Heights was a violation of the 1974 cease-fire agreement between Syria and Israel, UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.
Haq said UNDOF had “observed two unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] flying from the Alpha [Israeli] side and crossing the cease-fire line.”
“We criticize all violations,” he added, noting that the UN called on all sides to refrain from actions that could exacerbate already existing tensions.