Israel responsible for assassination of IRGC officer, claims NYT

The Israeli defense establishment said it was surprised by the publication of the report.

 Family members of Colonel Sayad Khodai, a member of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, weep over his body in his car after he was reportedly shot by two assailants in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2022. (photo credit: IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS)
Family members of Colonel Sayad Khodai, a member of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, weep over his body in his car after he was reportedly shot by two assailants in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2022.
(photo credit: IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS)

Israel informed the United States it was responsible for assassinating an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force officer in Tehran on Sunday, The New York Times reported.

In a briefing with American officials, Israel confirmed reports that Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodayari, who was shot dead in a vehicle, was deputy commander of the Quds Force's Unit 840, a secretive unit responsible for terrorist operations against Israeli and Western targets outside of Iran.

Israel, according to the report, intended to send a warning to the Islamic Republic to halt the operations of the IRGC’s terrorist unit whose existence has never been confirmed by Iran.

Israeli anger

Israel’s defense establishment was surprised by the leak. Israel and the US have a close intelligence relationship. Something like this should never have been publicized, Israeli media noted.

Iranians burn Israeli and US flags during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022 (credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)Iranians burn Israeli and US flags during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022 (credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)

The report says Israeli officials are awaiting an explanation from their American counterparts, as the leak caught Israel by surprise and was expected to have come from a source in the US.

Security officials in Israel reportedly fear the leak might lead to a more “substantial” targeting of Israelis abroad as revenge for the killing.

According to the Saudi-sponsored Iran International TV, Khodayari was tasked with planning and executing strikes on Israeli citizens in Europe, Africa and mainly in eastern Asia, including the 2012 Bangkok bombing.

He was also in charge of recruiting civilians in several countries to commit attacks against Israelis.

As per NYT, Israeli officials claimed the officer was head of Unit 840's Middle East operations, as well as in nations bordering Iran. The report also noted that Khodayari was involved in attacks against Israelis, Europeans and Americans in South America, Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.

The assassination, IRGC and the United States

Assailants on a motorcycle shot and killed Khodayari in front of his home on Mojahedin Eslam Street in the capital city of Tehran, according to Iranian reports. Iranian authorities are searching for assailants.

The IRGC called the assassination a “criminal terrorist act of the counter-revolution and elements related to global arrogance,” a term often used to refer to the US and Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed on Wednesday reports that US President Joe Biden has informed him he will definitively not remove the IRGC from the US' list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).

Biden reportedly told Bennett of his decision during a phone conversation between the two in April. 

According to the report, Biden decided to pull the plug on the idea to remove the IRGC's Quds Force from the US' terrorist blacklist after it was clear it would not be enough to force Iran to compromise in talks to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.