"Hizbullah lost its most important operative in the organization in recent years," a reservist Military Intelligence officer told Ynet on Wednesday in reference to the killing of senior Hizbullah military commander Imad Mugniyah in an explosion in Damascus.
"He was an expert in carrying out terrorist attacks and at the same time, he was an expert in maintaining a low profile and knowing, for 20 years, how to evade the many that tried to get him," the reservist officer added.
Senior IDF officers that served in Military Intelligence had a hard time hiding their satisfaction about the news that came in from Damascus – Mugniyah is not longer walking this earth. All were quick to point out that they were not familiar with the incident itself and that they were not inferring that Israel was responsible.
"He was wanted in many countries for many years so many people were trying to kill him," one of the officers said. "After every significant incident with Hizbullah, his name came up as the person that planned it or the creative head (behind the incident).
"There is no doubt that he was a significant force behind actions against Israel and his name was mentioned many times – also during the Second Lebanon War – primarily connected to the kidnapping of the two reservist soldiers," the officer added.
Scene of blast in Damascus (Photo: AFP)
Military Intelligence and other national security organizations do not hide the fact that various attempts were made to track Mugniyah's path. However, it appears that the arch-terrorist was well aware of his "popularity" in Israel and succeeded in using the strict compartmentalization of information among his associates to maintain a low profile.
'As important as Nasrallah'
Yoram Schweitzer, a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), believes that Mugniyah's significance within Hizbullah was close to that of Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's.
"Although Nasrallah is the leadership figure, political and very capable, and even though Mugniyah was an operational figure, he led tens of special missions and we shouldn't underestimate his position," Schweitzer said in a conversation with Ynet.
According to Schweitzer, Mugniyah appointed successors to take his pace in the future and thus his disappearance from the world won't leave his spot open for long. However, Schweitzer was quick to point out that the terrorist mastermind was a central Hizbullah figure responsible for a long list of terrorist attacks and his elimination was a major accomplishment.
MK Danny Yatom (Labor), who served as Mossad chief in the 90s, said that "Mugniyah was one of the most dangerous terrorist ever. He operated in complete secrecy and concealed his every action. He made sure that there was a high degree of compartmentalization around him.
"This was also the reason that it was hard to locate him…Mugniyah operated with full cooperation with Iranian intelligence. He was a very clever man," Yatom said.
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report