Assailants shoot dead Iranian Guards' commander in Syria
BEIRUT - Assailants shot dead an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander in Syria while he was travelling by road from Damascus towards the Lebanese capital, the Iranian authorities said on Thursday.
Iran's elite fighting force named the slain man as Commander Hassan Shateri, in a statement on its website that said he was killed while travelling from Damascus to Beirut.
"Commander Hassan Shateri was martyred en route from Damascus to Beirut at the hands of Zionist regime mercenaries and backers," the force's spokesman Ramezan Sherif said in the statement.
Sherif identified Shateri as a Revolutionary Guards commander who was also head of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon.
A strong ally of the Damascus regime, Tehran often refers to Syrian rebels fighting troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad as "terrorists" with ties to Israel.
According to Iran's Fars news agency, Shateri was killed on Tuesday, although it did not elaborate on the circumstances of his death.
His funeral was held in Tehran on Thursday morning, and was attended by Revolutionary Guards chief Ali Jaafari, head of the foreign operations Quds Force unit Qassem Soleimani and Ali Saidi, representative of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Shateri was shot dead by rebels while he was en route from the Syrian capital to Lebanon.
"We do not know exactly where he was shot, but we do know that a rebel group ambushed his vehicle while en route from Damascus to Beirut," Britain-based Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The Iranian embassy in Beirut said "armed terrorists" killed a man it identified as Hessam Khoshnevis, adding that he had been involved in reconstruction work in Lebanon.
The embassy named him as "Hassan Shateri also known as Hessam Khoshnevis".
It said he was in charge of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon set up after the devastating war in 2006 between Israel and Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah militia, which is supported by Iran.
The embassy statement did not elaborate on the circumstances or the exact location of his death.
According to Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, "Khoshnevis was in Syria, specifically in the (northern city of) Aleppo, to study projects to reconstruct the city".