DAMASCUS, Syria, May 13 (UPI) -- Hezbollah senior military commander Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in an explosion at the Damascus, Syria, airport earlier this week, the group confirmed.
The Shiite political party with a paramilitary wing, active in Syria's civil war in support of the Syrian government, said it was investigating whether a "missile or artillery strike" by Israeli forces was responsible for the explosion. Although Israel offered no comment on the explosion, it is believed to be targeting shipments of advanced weapons, notably anti-aircraft systems, from Iran to Hezbollah.
Badreddine, 55, was instrumental in Hezbollah military operations in Syria since 2011, the United States said in 2015. The U.S. government imposed financial sanctions on him in 2015.
Badreddine was also implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, for which he was tried in absentia by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague, Netherlands, and judged the "overall controller of the operation" to kill Hariri.
He is the highest-ranking Hezbollah leader killed since the death of his brother-in-law and predecessor, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a joint operation by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad in 2008.
Mughniyeh and Badreddine are alleged to have worked together in the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut which killed 241 people.
A 2011 policy analysis by the Washington Institute included an interrogation by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of a Hezbollah member, who referred to Badreddine as "more dangerous than Mughniyeh," his "teacher in terrorism."