December 21, 2021 9:58am
Updated: December 21, 2021 11:07am
Israel's former military intelligence chief has for the first time acknowledged his country's involvement in the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in early 2020.
Soleimani, who headed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force, was killed by a drone strike at the Baghdad airport in January 2020.
Following the assassination, NBC News reported that Israeli intelligence had helped confirm the details of Soleimani's whereabouts, details which it shared with the U.S.
Major General Tamir Heyman, the recently retired head of military intelligence, has now become the first official to confirm Israel's involvement in the strike.
In a recently published interview in a Hebrew-language magazine that closely affiliates with the Israel intelligence services, Heyman said, "Assassinating Soleimani was an an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians."
He said that there were "two significant and important assassinations during my term" as chief 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, noting that Soleimani was one of the main drivers of "Iranian entrenchment" in Syria.
Israel frequently carries out airstrikes in Syria, though rarely acknowledges them publicly. The military has been more open about its targeting of Iranian-backed Hezbollah bases and arms shipments.
Forces from across the globe remain locked in discussion about a new agreement aimed at preventing Iran from further developing its nuclear program. Later this week, Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem to discuss "a range of issues of strategic importance to the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship, including the threat posed by Iran," said a spokesperson for the National Security Council.
Israel has repeatedly said it will take any steps it deems necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.