Israel has told US officials that it was behind the assassination of Iranian Colonel Sayad Khodaei, according to an intelligence official briefed on the communications.
Khodaei was killed on Sunday by two motorcyclists who fired five bullets at him near his house, according to Iranian media reports.
According to the intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to the New York Times, the Israelis informed Washington that the aim of the operation was to warn Tehran to suspend the activity of Unit 840, a secret group within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’-Quds Force(IRGC-QF).
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“Unit 840 is tasked with abductions and assassinations of foreigners around the world, including Israeli civilians and officials, according to Israeli government, military and intelligence officials,” the NYT reported, adding that Iran has never acknowledged the existence of Unit 840.
In the aftermath of the assassination, Iran vowed to avenge the murder, with Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami saying Tehran will harshly respond to threats.
“Iran’s response to any threat or action will be harsh. But we will determine when and how it will be and in what circumstances. We will definitely take revenge on our enemies,” Salami said on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, Majid Mir-Ahmadi, a member of Iran’s National Security Council, blamed Israel for the assassination, adding that the culprits will regret their deeds.
“The assassination of [Khodaei] was unquestionably carried out by the Zionist regime, and the culprits must brace themselves for a heavy slap in the face from Iran,” he said, according to state news agency IRNA.
Iran called on the UN to condemn the “cowardly” killing of Khodaei.
Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, urged the UN in a letter to denounce the assassination on the basis of “its responsibilities to genuinely fight terrorism and in a non-discriminatory manner,” IRNA reported on Thursday.
Describing him as a “martyr,” Ravanchi said Khodaei who was “cowardly” murdered was a member of the country’s armed forces who significantly contributed to combating terrorism and ISIS in the region.
Meanwhile, Israeli media reports said Israeli officials were surprised by the leak, with The Times of Israel saying Israeli officials were “infuriated.”
MK Ram Ben Barak, who heads the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, denied the NYT’s report, noting that such leaks “mainly harm trust,” and voiced hope that the US investigates the leak to figure out why it happened.
“As far as I know, we did not inform anyone or take responsibility, and that is for the best,” Ben Barak said.
Israel informed US officials it killed Iranian colonel: Report