Iran Says Official Killed on Way from Syria to Lebanon, FSA Says Died in Israeli Raid on Jamraya

An Iranian official was killed on Wednesday overnight while on his way from Damascus to Beirut, the Iranian embassy in Lebanon said in a statement.

According to the statement, engineer Houssam Khosh Newes, an Iranian development official working in Lebanon, was killed by “armed terrorist groups” while he was returning to Beirut from the Syrian capital.

Media outlets reported that Khosh Newes was in the Syrian province of Aleppo evaluating development projects to reconstruct the northern city that is witnessing deadly clashes between the anti-regime rebels and the troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi considered that the “assassination” of Khosh Newe a proof that “Israel wants to topple any process of development" in the region.

He pledged that Iran will continue its efforts in this regards, stressing that “nothing will obstruct the reform process.”

Khosh Newes was appointed by Iranian President Mahmound Ahmadinejad in Lebanon after July 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, to help rebuild the south.

The war had cost the lives of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

In another report, Iran’s Fars news agency reported that a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard was killed in Lebanon by “the Zionist regime,” without providing further details about the conditions of his death.

Gen. Hassan Shateri led Guard forces in Lebanon and oversaw Iranian-financed reconstruction projects there.

Several media reports said that Khosh Newes was also known as Shateri.

Iran, Syria and their ally Hizullah are considered as the “axis of resistance” in the region.

Media reports said that Iran and Hizbullah have played a role in supporting the Assad regime against the rebels since the outbreak of the revolt in March 2011.

Later on Thursday, Fahd al-Masri, spokesman for the Joint Command of the rebel Free Syrian Army, told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) that “Hassan Shateri and a number of his assistants were killed in the Israeli air raid on the Damascus suburb of Jamraya while he was overseeing the transfer of weapons and missiles to Lebanon."

The Syrian army said that an Israeli air strike targeted a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus, on January 30 amid several media reports saying Israeli warplanes bombed a weapons convoy near the border with Lebanon.

Later, Israel implicitly confirmed it had staged an air strike on Syria, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying it was "another proof that when we say something we mean it."

But Masri said: "After he (Shateri) arrived in Damascus from Beirut, he immediately held several meetings with Iranian and Syrian security and military advisers, before he headed to Jamraya where he was killed.”

“The so-called (Iranian) Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon is a cover under which a number of Revolutionary Guard leaders, officers and members are operating in Lebanon,” Masri added.

However, the opposition-affiliated Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Shateri was shot dead by rebels.

"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," the Britain-based Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he "strongly condemned this terrorist act."

Cited by Iranian media, Salehi said he "valued the selfless services of this commander of Islam and his tireless efforts in the reconstruction of the damaged areas in southern Lebanon."

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