Israel Asks US to 'Explain' Leak of Info That It Assassinated IRGC Quds Force Officer
On Wednesday, an unnamed intelligence source told the New York Times that Israel had informed American officials that it was behind the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei. The 50-year-old commander was gunned down in his car on Sunday afternoon in a broad daylight attack in Tehran.
US officials must answer for the New York Times report alleging that Israel had confirmed its involvement in the Khodaei assassination, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general Alon Ushpiz has indicated.
"I leave the explanations for our talks with the Americans," Ushpiz said, speaking to the Kan broadcaster on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee chairman and former deputy director of Mossad Ram Ben-Barak slammed the New York Times reporting, saying it "harms trust" between Tel Aviv and Washington.
"We have very many close relationships and a lot of cooperation between us, which all depend on trust, and when it is violated in some way then it damages future cooperation," Ben-Barak said, speaking to Israel's 103FM radio. "I hope the Americans investigate the leak and figure out where it came from and why it occurred," he added.
The lawmaker denied the information contained in the report, saying that as far as he knew, "we did not inform anyone or take responsibility, and that is for the best."
Ushpiz and Ben-Barak's remarks are the closest Israeli officials have come to confirming Israel's culpability in the killing of an Iranian official or nuclear scientist in years, with Tel Aviv typically keeping mum on such allegations.
Iran asked the international community to condemn the IRGC commander's murder on Wednesday, with Iranian Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi calling it a "terrorist and criminal act" and warning that "inaction and silence" would "only encourage and embolden its perpetrators."
Takht-Ravanchi and other Iranian officials have skirted from directly accusing Israel of Khodaei's killing, although President Ebrahim Raisi blamed "Global Arrogance," (a phrase typically referring to the US and Israel) for the assassination and vowed "definite revenge" in comments on Monday.
The NYT's source said the assassination of the senior IRGC commander was meant to serve as a "message" to Iran to stop the operations of "Unit 840," an alleged secretive formation within the Quds Force responsible for kidnappings and assassinations of Israeli, American and European nationals outside Iran.
Tehran has made no mention of "Unit 840" while discussing Khodaei, characterizing him as a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, and a commander of IRGC operations in Iraq and Syria, where the Quds Force has spent years battling Daesh (ISIS)*, al-Qaeda* and other jihadists.
* Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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