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  • Hezbollah supporters hold posters of group

    Hezbollah supporters hold posters of group's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. | Photo: Reuters

The Lebanese militant group attributed the killing of Mustafa Badreddine to shelling from Syrian rebels. It was reported that Israel was responsible.

Hezbollah said Saturday that its top military commander, whose death it announced Friday, was killed in Syria by Sunni Islamist artillery fire and not by an Israeli air strike as one member of the Lebanese Shiite movement had said.

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"Investigations have shown that the explosion, which targeted one of our bases near Damascus International Airport, and which led to the martyrdom of commander Mustafa Badreddine, was the result of artillery bombardment carried out by takfiri (hardline Sunni) groups in the area," Hezbollah said in a statement.

The Shiite Muslim group is fighting in Syria, backing President Bashar Assad against a range of Sunni groups including Islamic State and the al Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front.

But a war monitoring group cast doubt on its version of Badreddine's death, saying there had been no shelling by rebels in that area for more than a week.

Damascus airport and its surroundings are controlled by the Syrian government and allied forces. Between it and government-held central Damascus, rebels control a portion of the Eastern Ghouta suburb, which has experienced fighting for most of the conflict now in its sixth year.

"There has been no recorded shelling or firing from the Eastern Ghouta area onto Damascus International Airport for more than a week,"Rami Abdulrahman, director of anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director told Reuters.

Hezbollah's statement did not say when the attack took place or when Badreddine died. Badreddine was given a military funeral in Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut on Friday.

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"The outcome of the investigation (into Badreddine's death) will increase our determination ... to continue the fight against these criminal gangs and defeat them," Hezbollah said.

Badreddine is the second high-level Hezbollah commander to die in the Syrian conflict. In January 2015, Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of famed Hezbollah tactician and commander Imad Mughniyeh, was killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Golan Heights, near the border between the Syrian and Israeli-occupied sections of the area.

Around 1,200 Hezbollah fighters are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian conflict.

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