According to the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Mr Hessam Khoshnevis was killed on the road between Damascus and Lebanon, where he was leading Tehran’s ‘reconstruction assistance’. He was killed by “armed terrorist groups” it said, a term which is used by the Syrian government to described the rebel fighters engaged in an armed uprising against the state.
A rebel commander has confirmed the death, saying that Mr Khoshnevis was killed in an attack by rebel fighters just outside the town of Zabadani near the border with Lebanon.
Syrian rebels have for a long time accused Iran of sending troops from the Revolutionary Guards to fight alongside their ally President Bashar al Assad in Syria. Iran has acknowledged the presence of its troops in Syria on aid and training related missions, but has always denied that they are engaged in the fighting. The commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards has said, however, that his troops would become involved militarily if there was a direct foreign intervention.
Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, seemed to suggest that Israel had been responsible for the killing while talking to reporters:
“He served the oppressed, supporting the resistance to Israel,” he said “Assassinating this dear martyr is a clear sign that the Zionist enemy does not accept his successful work”.