BEIRUT: Delegations of mourners visited the Iranian Embassy in Lebanon Thursday to offer condolences for an Iranian official who was killed en route from Damascus to Beirut in an incident whose details remain sketchy.
The embassy said Hussam Khoshnevis, an engineer who headed the Iranian Committee for Reconstruction in Lebanon, was killed by “armed terrorist groups” while making his way from Damascus to Beirut.
Among visitors to the embassy were Hezbollah MP Walid Sukkarieh, Amal MP Qassem Hashem, Hezbollah official Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, former security chief Jamil Sayyed, a group of Druze sheikhs as well as delegations of Palestinian and military officials and religious figures.
The vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, issued a statement denouncing the “terrorist act” that targeted the Iranian diplomat.
“Khoshnevis was a loyal man who worked on healing the wounds of the Lebanese and reconstructing what the Zionist terror machine destroyed,” said the sheikh.
Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said that Khoshnevis’ death proves that Israel was trying to intimidate all those who support the resistance in Lebanon.
“Engineer Hussam Khoshnevis was assassinated because he played a major role in Lebanon’s reconstruction following the Israeli aggression against the country in July 2006,” Roknabadi said.
“The martyr served the oppressed and supported the resistance and his assassination is a clear sign that the Zionist enemy does not accept his successful work,” he said.
“However, this will never stop us from keeping up our support to the resistance,” he added.
The Gathering of Muslim Scholars of Jabal Amel, which is close to Hezbollah, slammed the killing of Khoshnevis and described it as part of an Israeli-American plot.
“The gathering denounces this deadly assassination on Syrian soil that reflects the obvious Zio-American plots that Syria faces through severing all the help to the people and resistance that render Syria strong,” the scholars said in a statement.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard referred to Khoshnevis by the name Hasan Shateri while accusing Israel of the crime.
“Commander Hasan Shateri was martyred en route from Damascus to Beirut at the hands of Zionist [Israeli] regime mercenaries and backers,” Gen. Ramezan Sherif, a Revolutionary Guard spokesman, said in a statement, reported Agence France Presse. Both Iran and Syria claim the revolt against Assad is backed by regional and foreign powers.
Khoshnevis’ funeral was held in Tehran Thursday morning, and was attended by Revolutionary Guard chief Ali Jaafari, head of the foreign operations Quds Force unit Qassem Soleimani and Ali Saidi, the representative of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to AFP.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi condemned the attack, describing it as a “terrorist act.” Salehi was quoted by Iranian media as saying he “valued the selfless services of this commander of Islam and his tireless efforts in the reconstruction of the damaged areas in the southern Lebanon,” AFP said.
The reason for the differing names and details of the killing remain unclear.
According to Iran’s Fars news agency, Khoshnevis was killed Tuesday, although it did not elaborate on the circumstances of his death, AFP reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Khoshnevis had been shot dead by rebels while en route from the Syrian capital to Lebanon.
“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,” Britain-based Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman told AFP.
A Syrian opposition commander, according to Reuters, said the attack had been carried out by rebel fighters near the Syrian town of Zabadani close to the Lebanese border.
Lebanese security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no indication that the Iranian official had been killed on Lebanese soil.
Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper reported Thursday that information indicated that Khoshnevis had been in the city of Aleppo, on a reconstruction project.
Khoshnevis was involved in numerous construction projects in south Lebanon, including the building of churches and mosques, the establishment public gardens, including one at the Fatima Gate along the frontier with Israel. He also supervised the construction and repair of bridges and roads across south Lebanon.