On Thursday, Israel state radio's military correspondent, Carmella
Menashe, termed Mughniyeh's assassination "a significant achievement for any
intelligence service." Ms. Menashe reported an Israeli military alert along
the border with Lebanon.
Hours after the assassination, U.S. President George Bush ordered new
sanctions against Syria. The sanctions cited unidentified senior Syrian
officials deemed corrupt.
On Thursday, an Iranian source told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat
that Mughniyeh left Lebanon for Syria in January 2008 under a false name.
The Iranian source said Mughniyeh had been under constant intelligence
surveillance when he arrived in Damascus for talks with Hamas political
bureau chief Khaled Masha'al on the situation in the Gaza Strip. The source
termed Mughniyeh's death catastrophic for Hizbullah.
For about 15 years, Mughniyeh, believed to have undergone plastic
surgery, was not seen by any Western intelligence service, the sources said.
He reappeared during a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to
Damascus in 2006.
Since then, the sources said, Israeli and U.S. intelligence coordinated
efforts to find Mughniyeh. The two countries, along with France, were said
to have cooperated in the assassination of other Islamic insurgency figures
in Lebanon and Syria over the last four years.
"Mughniyeh was considered untouchable and to most unrecognizable," a
senior intelligence source said. "This is a monumental intelligence
"Israel is looking into the reports from Lebanon and Syria regarding the
death of a senior Hizbullah figure and is studying the details arising from
this, as they have been reported in the media in recent hours," a statement
by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday. "Israel rejects the
attempt by terrorist elements to ascribe to it any involvement whatsoever in
Mughniyeh was sought by Israel and the United States for a series
of mass-casualty strikes on several continents since 1983. They included the
suicide bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut
in 1983 as well as the destruction of the Israeli embassy and Jewish
community center in Argentina about a decade later.
"The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department
spokesman Sean McCormack said. "One way or the other, he was brought to
A friend of Mughniyeh and a former IRGC operative, Mohammed Khatami,
said he was not surprised by the assassination. Khatami, also known as Abu
Wafa, told A-Sharq Al Awsat that Syrian intelligence had been concerned over
Mughniyeh's safety as he traveled to such countries as Iran, Iraq and
Over the last decade, the sources said, Mughniyeh spent most of his time
in Teheran where he served as liasion of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps and Hizbullah. The sources said Mughniyeh's reappearance in
Damascus nearly two years ago was meant to signal his return to prominence
The sources said Iran has groomed several candidates to succeed
Mughniyeh. But they said IRGC would lose one of its top Middle East
operatives, a man who combined lethal skills with iron determination to
attack Israel and the West.
"The effect would be continuous," former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister
Ephraim Sneh said. "The damage to this terrorist organization is hard and