JERUSALEM: Israel has concluded that Hezbollah’s top military commander was killed in Syria last year by rivals within the Shiite militant group, Israel’s military chief said Tuesday.
The explosive announcement was the latest sign of an escalating feud between Israel and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Israel considers Hezbollah to be a potent enemy, with over 100,000 rockets and missiles aimed at the Jewish state. But it also believes the group has been weakened and demoralized after years of fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.
Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, told an academic conference on Tuesday that the death of Mustafa Badreddine last May illustrated “the depth of the internal crisis within Hezbollah.”
He also said it reflected “the extent of the cruelty, complexity and tension between Hezbollah and its patron Iran.”
An Israeli military official said Israel believes the

order to kill Badreddine was given by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
Israeli intelligence believes Badreddine had been feuding with Iranian military commanders in Syria over the heavy losses his group had suffered on the battlefield. Both Iran and Hezbollah are backing Syrian government forces.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a confidential intelligence assessment.
Hezbollah had no immediate comment.
At the time of his death last year, Hezbollah said Badreddine had been killed by insurgent shelling in Syria.
He was considered Hezbollah’s top military official and was among five members on trial in absentia at a court in the Netherlands over the bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in Beirut in 2005.
Badreddine was a student of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s previous military chief, who was considered one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists by Israel and the US.

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