Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah said on Saturday to its Lebanese television channel Al-Manar that its top military commander Mustafa Badreddine was killed by artillery shells fired by insurgents near Syria's Damascus airport.
"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," Hezbollah's statement said.
"Takfiri" is a word used by the group to refer to hard-line, armed, Sunni Muslim Islamist groups. No group has yet taken responsibility for the commander's death.
Al-Manar reported that the statement continued, "In all cases, it is a single battle against the American-Zionist project in the region—terrorist Takfiris representing its spearhead—thus practicing its aggression over the Ummah (nation) and its resistance, its Jihadi fighters, holy places and its free, honest peoples."
"The outcome of the investigation (into Badreddine's death) will increase our determination ... to continue the fight against these criminal gangs and defeat them," Hezbollah said.
The statement did not say when the attack took place or when Badreddine died. Hezbollah had announced Badreddine's death on Friday and held a military funeral for him on the same day in its stronghold in southern Beirut.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have disputed Hezbollah's claim and have asserted that no insurgents were responsible for the shelling. It has cited sources in the armed factions along the area south of Damascus and also sources from President Bashar Al-Assad's forces, all who claim that no rocket has been fired towards the Damascus airport in recent days.
Saturday morning, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is identified with Hezbollah, announced that a highly advanced guided missile caused the death of Badreddine. According to the report, he had finished a field meeting in a Hezbollah building near to the Damascus airport, and an explosion was heard after his colleagues left the meeting. According to the newspaper, this was the outcome of high-level technology that only advanced countries possess.
Another Lebanese newspaper that is very close to Hezbollah, As-Safir, said that the building was mere kilometers from the "criminal gangs'" position, and the area is exposed to aircraft. According to eyewitnesses, the area suffered an artillery bombardment from criminal gangs in the past.
Badreddine's body, according to As-Safir, was transferred to a Damascus hospital, where it was tested and examined. The hospital concluded that he was struck by non-lethal shrapnel in his upper body which did not mutilate him in any way.