West News Wire: Israel was involved in the American attack that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, according to a former military intelligence head.

It was foe the first time Israel publicly admitted its participation in the attack.

Soleimani led the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and oversaw Iran’s international cooperation with paramilitary organizations.

In January 2020, he was murdered in a US drone attack at the Baghdad airport, an episode that threatened to plunge the two countries into full-fledged confrontation.

A week after the airstrike, NBC News reported that Israeli intelligence assisted in confirming the facts of Soleimani’s trip from Damascus to Baghdad.

Israel “had access to Soleimani’s numbers” and relayed the data to the US, according to a Yahoo News article earlier this year.

But Maj. Gen. Tamir Heyman, the now-retired general who headed military intelligence until October, appears to be the first official to confirm Israel’s involvement.

Heyman’s comments were published in the November issue of a Hebrew-language magazine closely affiliated with Israel’s intelligence services. The interview was held in late September, a couple weeks before his retirement from the military. The authors wrote that Heyman opened the interview by talking about the American airstrike that killed Soleimani, but in which Israeli intelligence played a part.

“Assassinating Soleimani was an an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians,” Heyman told the magazine. He said there were “two significant and important assassinations during my term” as head of army intelligence.

“The first, as I’ve already recalled, is that of Qassem Soleimani, it’s rare to locate someone so senior, who is the architect of the fighting force, the strategist and the operator, it’s rare,” he said. Heyman called Soleimani “the engine of the train of Iranian entrenchment” in neighboring Syria.

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Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in the past decade, but rarely publicly comments on them.

Heyman said that Israeli strikes had succeeded in “preventing the attempt by Iran to put down roots in Syria.”

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Heyman’s remarks.

The interview was released at a time when international powers and Iran were negotiating a new accord to rein down Iran’s nuclear program. The last agreement, reached in 2015, fell apart after the US withdrew unilaterally in 2018 and re-imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett this week in Jerusalem, according to National Security Council Spokesperson Emily Horne, to discuss “a range of issues of strategic importance to the US-Israel bilateral relationship, including the threat posed by Iran.”

Iran is considered Israel’s regional arch-foe, and the Israeli government has stated that it will take all necessary measures to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is only for peaceful reasons.

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