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Israel says Hezbollah commander killed by his own militia

One of Hezbollah's top commanders, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed by rivals inside his own faction, said Israeli military chief Gadi Eisenkot. The Shiite group claims Badreddine was killed by an artillery shell in Syria.

Israel's Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot rejected Hezbollah's account of Badreddine's death at a security conference on Tuesday.

"According to reports, [Badreddine] was killed by his superiors, which points to the extent of the cruelty, complexity and tension between Hezbollah and its patron Iran," he said in a speech in central Israel.

"These reports corresponded with the information we have and with our assessment," Eisenkot added.

The 55-year-old Badreddine was allegedly in charge of Hezbollah's military operations in Syria. He was killed on a Hezbollah base near Damascus airport last May, and the militia said he died in the shelling by a Sunni rebel group. However, a war monitoring group said that there had been no shelling at that time.

Israeli security sources claim that Badreddine had a disagreement with Iran about "how to wage the Syrian campaign," and that the order to kill him came from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Order from the top

Responding to Eisenkot's statement, the Hezbollah spokesman said the claims were "lies that do not deserve comment."

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The charismatic militant leader was indicted over the 2005 bombing attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in Beirut. A special UN-backed court also indicted five other Hezbollah members. The militia denied involvement.

The Lebanese-based Hezbollah is a sworn enemy of Israel, and has fought the state in a month-long war in 2006. Badreddine has long organized actions against Israel from Lebanon and other countries in the region.

Commenting on his death, Israeli officials had described it as "good news" for Israel.

dj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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