The man believed to be Hezbollah’s most senior military commander in Syria’s war has been killed in Damascus.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in a large explosion near Damascus airport, the Lebanon-based militant group said in a statement on its al-Manar website.

An initial report by Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV said that Badreddine, 55, died in an Israeli air strike, but a later statement by Hezbollah on al-Manar’s website did not mention Israel.

The Israeli government has made no comment on whether it was involved or not.

In 2015, the US said that Badreddine was behind all Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria since 2011.

The US treasury, which imposed sanctions on Badreddine last July, said at the time he was behind the movement of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon to Syria, and was in charge of the key battle for the town of al-Qusair in 2013.

Hezbollah operates terrorist cells in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America and it has a long record of attacking Israeli and Jewish targets around the world. It is a Shia Islamist militant group and political party also known as the “Party of God”; it doesn’t recognise the State of Israel and aims to establish an Islamic government across the Arab world that will “liberate” Jerusalem.

Announcing Badreddine’s death, Hezbollah said: “He said months ago that he would not return from Syria except as a martyr or carrying the flag of victory. He is the great jihadi leader Mustafa Badreddine, and he has returned today a martyr.”

The statement added: “The information gleaned from the initial investigation is that a major explosion targeted one of our centres near Damascus International airport, which led to the martyrdom of Sayyid Zul Fikar [his nom de guerre] and the injuries of others.

“The investigation will work to determine the nature of the explosion and its causes, whether it was due to an air or missile or artillery strike, and we will announce the results of the investigation soon.”

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