Israel reportedly played an important role in helping the U.S. track down Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Yahoo News reported on Saturday.
Soleimani was killed in Iraq in a sophisticated U.S. operation on Jan. 3, 2020 that involved drones, Delta Force snipers and a “secretive Army unit known as Task Force Orange,” Yahoo News reports.
“In the six hours before Soleimani boarded his flight from Damascus, the Iranian general switched cellphones three times, according to a U.S. military official,” Yahoo News reported.
But U.S. Joint Special Operations Command liaisons were working with their Israeli counterparts in Tel Aviv “to help track Soleimani’s cellphone patterns.”
“The Israelis, who had access to Soleimani’s numbers, passed them off to the Americans, who traced Soleimani and his current phone to Baghdad,” the report says.
Israeli intelligence also helped the CIA identify a courier for Soleimani who picked up cell phones for him. The U.S. seeded the marketplaces used by the courier with bugged phones and got at least one close to the general, but that success was fleeting, Yahoo News says.
Soleimani and the IRGC were “premier at operational security and vicious about protecting it,” a former CIA official told Yahoo News.
Reports at the time said Israel assisted the Americans but offered no details.
The Kurds also helped the Americans, positioning themselves on-site. “Kurdish operatives, who played a key role in the killing, had already started infiltrating Baghdad International Airport by [December 2019], going undercover as baggage handlers and other staff members,” Yahoo News reports.
Soleimani’s death was viewed in Iran as a major blow to the IRGC. “It will take the Iranians some time at least to build a replacement for him,” said Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, who currently serves as a distinguished fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated then-President Donald Trump after the killing. “Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless innocent people. He destabilized many countries. For decades, he sowed fear and misery and anguish and he was planning much worse,” the prime minister said.
Killed alongside Soleimani was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
Originally published in World Israel News