Conflicting reports on target of alleged Israeli airstrike

Reports on the attack conflicted on both the identity of the target and whether the target survived

An Israeli drone is seen flying over Gaza as seen from the northern Gaza Strip border, April 9, 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli drone is seen flying over Gaza as seen from the northern Gaza Strip border, April 9, 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Conflicting reports have emerged concerning the target of an alleged Israeli airstrike that targeted a Jeep traveling near the Syria-Lebanon border on Wednesday
The London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, reported on Thursday that the airstrike targeted a Hezbollah commander called Hajj Imad, but failed to hit him.
According to reports on Wednesday, the strike by an unmanned combat aircraft targeted a Jeep Cherokee traveling from Syria into Lebanon despite the border between the two countries being closed both ways since mid-March – except for trade – due to the continued spread of the deadly coronavirus. Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that the vehicle was traveling from Lebanon into Syria.
According to the daily, a missile was fired near the vehicle and the occupants were able to escape the car before a second missile hit the vehicle directly.
Hajj Imad had fought alongside the Syrian military against Syrian opposition forces in the Qalamoun area near the Syria-Lebanon border.
The Iranian Fars News Agency quoted the Al-Quds Al-Arabi report in its reporting on the airstrike.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news reported that the vehicle was carrying an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officer named Imad Karimi and Mustafa Mughniyah, the son of Imad Mughniyah, killed in a joint CIA-Mossad assassination, and brother of Jihad Mughniyah, who was killed in a helicopter strike near the Golan Heights.
Mughniyah heads the Hezbollah department in charge of transporting individuals from Syria to Lebanon, according to Al-Arabiya, but does not accompany those being transported personally unless they are officers or leaders.
Responding to reports claiming that two missiles were fired with the first serving as a warning, retired military analyst Brigadier-General Nizar Abdel Qader, who served in the Lebanese Armed Forces, told Al-Arabiya that "the Israelis do not resort to warning at all, and if they carry out an operation, then their goal is the assassination or the injury of the target. The aircraft may have fired two missiles to ensure the destruction of the target."
Qader compared the strike to the helicopter strike that killed Jihad Mughniyah and a number of other Hezbollah members, including commander Mohamad Issa, known as Abu Issa, in 2015 near the Golan Heights.
The strike came after Israeli reconnaissance planes were reported over the southern suburbs of Beirut without any confrontation or attempts to down them, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The Syrian state news agency SANA reported the incident as the targeting of a civilian vehicle causing material damage.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry condemned the airstrike and announced on Thursday that it would submit a complaint to the United Nations Security Council about the "clear and flagrant violation of Lebanon's sovereignty."
"This attack comes as part of Israel's ongoing aggressive policy towards Lebanon," said the foreign ministry, according to the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar news.
While Israel has not commented on the matter, several drone strikes blamed on the Jewish state have killed several Hezbollah operatives in southern Syria along the Golan Heights, where the group has been trying to establish a permanent military presence.
Last week, the IDF accused the Syrian army of helping Hezbollah, publishing video footage from the border showing a senior Syrian Arab Army officer along with a number of other military officers and the head of Hezbollah’s southern command walking along the border.
In September, the IDF said that Hezbollah had set up a production and conversion site for precision missiles near the town of Al-Nabi Chit in Lebanon’s Bekaa, an hour north from the alleged Israeli drone strike on Wednesday.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.