Iran’s Qassem Soleimani killed in US air raid at Baghdad airport
Pre-dawn raid also killed Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a major escalation of regional tensions.
Khamenei warns of harsh revenge
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for three days of mourning, saying Major General Soleimani’s killing will double the motivation of the resistance against the US and Israel.
According to Iranian state television, Khamenei said harsh revenge awaits “criminals” who killed Soleimani.
General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran‘s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC’s) Quds Force, and architect of its regional security apparatus has been killed following a US air raid at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday.
The White House and the Pentagon confirmed the killing of Soleimani in Iraq, saying the attack was carried out at the direction of US President Donald Trump and was aimed at deterring future attacks allegedly being planned by Iran.
A three-day national mourning period has been declared in Iran in honor of Soleimani.
Soleimani and al-Muhandis’s deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and are expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and the forces it backs in the region against Israel and US interests.
Soleimani’s body to be transferred to Iran
Responding to the US’ killing of Soleimani, Iran’s National Security Council spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said “the legal, political, security, and military consequences of this crime is on the US government”.
“The costs that Washington has to pay will be much more severe than the mirage-like achievements of this sort of blind moves,” he added.
The flags at Iranian embassies abroad were ordered to fly at half-mast and preparations were being made for Soleimani’s body to be transferred to Iran. The date for the funeral has yet to be announced.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Iran to protest against US “crimes”, after the US strikes killed Soleimani.
Chanting “Death to America” and holding up posters of the slain commander, the demonstrators filled streets for several blocks in central Tehran after Friday prayers.
“The axis of any evil is America, the motto of religion and the Quran is death to America,” they said in unison. “O leader of our revolution, condolences, condolences.”
State news agency IRNA reported similar demonstrations in the cities of Arak, Bojnourd, Hamedan, Hormozgan, Sanandaj, Semnan, Shiraz, and Yazd.
US urges citizens to leave Iraq ‘immediately’
The United States is urging US citizens to leave Iraq “immediately”, citing “heightened tensions in Iraq and the region”.
A State Department statement added that “due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy.”
That comes after a crowd attempted to storm the embassy in Baghdad earlier this week to protest US air strikes against a militia supported by Iran.
Hezbollah to continue the path of Soleimani after US strike – TV
Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said his group would continue the path of Soleimani after his death, broadcaster Al Manar reported.
Nasrallah said the US would not be able to achieve its goals with this “big crime” and just punishment was the responsibility of all fighters, Al Manar reported.
Israel’s military on high alert
Israel’s military had gone on heightened alert amid fears that Iran could strike through its regional allies such as Hezbollah to the north, or through Palestinian group Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
Israel’s foreign ministry and defence officials announced a high-security alert at Israel’s oversea delegations, fearing retaliation by Iran following the death of Soleimani.
Israel’s defence minister summoned the country’s military and security chiefs to Tel Aviv in the wake of the killing. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly cut short his trip to Greece.
Syria condemns killing of Soleimani – state news agency
Syria strongly condemns the “treacherous, criminal American aggression” that led to the killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, state news agency SANA cited a foreign ministry source as saying.
The source said the attack constituted a “serious escalation” and reaffirmed U.S. responsibility for instability in Iraq, according to SANA.
Iraq’s Sadr mourns Soleimani, reactivates Mahdi army!
Iraq’s prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said the killing of Soleimani was targeting Iraq’s opposition and Jihad, adding that it will not weaken its resolve.
In a statement, Al-Sadr called on his militias (Army of Imam Mahdi) and “other national and disciplined” armed groups to be prepared to protect Iraq. He also sent his condolences to Iran.
Qays al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq armed faction, said “all fighters should be on high alert for upcoming battle and great victory”.
“The end of Israel and removal of the US from the region will be the result of the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis,” he said in a statement published by Iraqi media.
Pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar: ‘It is war’!
Lebanese pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar is leading with a comment by its contributor Hassan Alaiq on the killing of Soleimani.
The Arabic article has a simple headline: The martyrdom of Soleimani: It is war