CATF Reports May 25, 2016, 9:46am

The death of the legendary Hezbollah military leader Mustafa Amine Badreddine was publicly announced by a Lebanon-based militia on May 13th, yet details of his death remain shrouded in mystery amid speculations over the identity of the true emissary behind the explosion that killed him near to the Damascus airport. A prominent operative, Badreddine, who was “one of the first to join the resistance in its beginnings” in 1982, is accused of orchestrating some of the bloodiest terrorist operations in the Middle East over the past three decades. Badreddine recently led Hezbollah’s contingent in Syria in support of Bashar al Assad’s regime alongside Iran but was also believed to be behind Hezbollah’s military presence in Syria since 2011.

Several weeks ago,  Badreddine was assassinated on Syrian army-controlled territory, about seven kilometers away from the Eastern Ghouta area, the closest rebel base. Yet Hezbollah accused takfiris – Sunni militants – to be behind the assassination after initially blaming an Israeli airstrike for Badreddine’s “martyrdom”, a version accusation the group eventually withdrew. Jabhat al-Nusra tried to take credit for the attack, which the al-Qaeda affiliated group unrealistically maintained had taken place during a battle south of Aleppo. Moreover, rumors that Hezbollah had been infiltrated by spies started to circulate at Badreddine’s funeral, especially given the questionable ability of the Syrian rebels to “carry out a surgical strike which takes out one person but causes little collateral damage.”

Last week Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah stated that the group will expand its presence in Syria as revenge for the death of his deputy, the main architect of Hezbollah’s Syrian campaign. It is unclear, however, how Badreddine’s death will affect the scale of Hezbollah’s commitment in Syria in the long run, given the group’s internal fragmentation and the growing dissent among its ranks.

From The Independent:

Hezbollah had sent sizeable forces into Syria and has a paid a heavy price, with around 2,000 killed and 5,000 wounded. There has been dissent among some of the bereaved families and questioning in the rank and file over the continuing losses.

The death of Badreddine, the militia’s main proponent of the Syrian mission, is likely to be a factor in decisions it makes over the scale of its commitment in the conflict. And, considering his pivotal role in Hezbollah’s military history, the loss will be felt in operational level in other arenas.

More details, meanwhile, will emerge about the killing, with every possibility of a surprise or two in store.”

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