JERUSALEM, July 16 (UPI) -- Israeli special forces assassinated a Syrian military official in 2008, according to U.S. intelligence files leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Suleiman was shot in the head and neck while having dinner at a beachfront resort near the Mediterranean port city of Tartus, Syria, by a sniper aboard a yacht in August 2008.
NSA monitoring of Israeli communications led to the discovery that Israeli naval commandos were behind the assassination, according to The Intercept.
The NSA wrote within its internal version of Wikipedia, called Intellipedia, that it was the "first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official." Suleiman's death happened less than six months after the supposed Mossad Israeli intelligence and CIA joint assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah's military chief, in Damascus.
Suleiman was reportedly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's top security aide who had "special status and proximity to Bashar" and may have served as the country's liaison with Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant Shia Islam movement.
Suleiman is reported to have facilitated Iran's "provision of arms and military training to Hezbollah" and to "have been in charge of the security and construction of Syria's Al Kibar nuclear facility," which was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2007.
"The Israelis may have had many good reasons to kill [Suleiman]," Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor of international law at Notre Dame, told the Intercept. "But under international law it's absolutely clear that in Syria in 2008, they had no rights under the laws of war because at the time there was no armed conflict. They had no right to kill General Suleiman."
Assad's government withheld news of Suleiman's death for four days.
About $80 million was found in Suleiman's home after his death. Al-Assad was "devastated by the discovery" and wanted to find out "how the general acquired so much money," fearing Suleiman "betrayed" him.