The head of the Iranian Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, was killed Friday morning by an airstrike authorized by President Trump.
By Ron Kampeas and Cnaan Liphshiz
Featured photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Tasnim News Agency
WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. airstrike authorized by President Trump killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force, which operates a number of regional militias and is allied with terrorist groups targeting Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas.
The strike early Friday morning hit a vehicle near Baghdad International Airport. The Quds Force arms and funds a number of militias in Iraq.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” a Pentagon statement said. “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
The Trump administration blamed Iran for recent escalations in the region, including the recent besieging of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by sympathizers with Iran and its proxies. President Donald Trump tweeted an image of the U.S. flag after reports of Soleimani’s death first emerged.
The strike is likely to escalate U.S.-Iran tensions and could implicate Israel. Soleimani has for years been behind Iranian actions in Israel. Just three months ago he said in a lengthy interview on Iranian television that he helped direct Hezbollah’s war on Israel in 2006.
Hezbollah is a terrorist militia in Lebanon. Hamas is the terrorist organization governing the Gaza Strip.
Soleimani, 62, supervised Iran’s operations in Syria during the civil war that has raged in that country since 2011. Iran helped prop up the Assad regime, which is emerging triumphant in the war. Israel is seeking the ouster of Iran from Syria as part of permanent post-civil war status.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed support for the U.S. slaying of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
“Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right,” Netanyahu told reporters at the end of a work visit to Greece, which he cut short, possibly because of the strike.
“We have demonstrated restraint, we have shown patience in the face of hostile moves by America, the Zionist regime and Saudi Arabia, but we will obliterate them if they cross our red lines,” he said in a speech.
“Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks,” Netanyahu said. “President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense.”
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, in a statement vowed a “forceful revenge” for the airstrike.