Hezbollah’s top military commander in Syria, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, was killed in artillery fire by jihadists, the Lebanese group says.
Badreddine’s death near Damascus airport was announced on Friday and initially blamed on Israel, Hezbollah’s chief enemy.
Badreddine was believed to have run all Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria since 2011.
Thousands of Hezbollah troops are supporting President Bashar al-Assad.
This has pitted it against several groups of anti-Assad rebels – from so-called Islamic State (IS) to the al-Nusra Front.
Without naming any group, the Hezbollah statement said: “Investigations have showed that the explosion, which targeted one of our bases near Damascus International Airport, and which led to the martyrdom of commander Mustafa Badreddine, was the result of artillery bombardment carried out by takfiri groups in the area.”
Takfiri is used to describe militants who believe Muslim society has reverted to a state of non-belief.
However, the BBC’s Arab Affairs Editor Sebastian Usher says questions still remain over Badreddine’s death.
A monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been no recorded shelling or firing in the area for more than a week, although Hezbollah has not said when Badreddine died.
Many political assassinations involving Lebanese and Syrian political figures have remained unsolved, our correspondent says.
One member of the monitoring group was quoted as saying: “Russia is monitoring all the activity in Syria and is capable of pinpointing exactly where he was killed , if Hezbollah’s claim is correct”, adding “it is well known that Badreddine was on bad terms with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is trying to take over the control of Syria war effort.
The deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Salami Hossein Salami did confirm 2 days ago that the Guard forces are fully supervising the situation in Syria , stressing that the Assad regime is part of the resistance front. Salami’s statements which came hours after the announcement of Badredddine’s death came in response to the loss of control over the town of Khan Tuman, vowing to restore it from Al-Nusra front and the opposition factions within days.
Salami confirmed that the regime and its allies loss of control over Khan Tuman will not have a strategic impact on the overall situation on the ground.
One opposition group believes Hezbollah is trying to justify its Syria role by blaming the jihadists for his death but the group believes the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is behind Badredddine’s death.