Israel is behind the assassination of Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, according to an announcement made by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief commander Hossein Salami on 30 May.
“Khodaei was killed by the most vicious people, the Zionists, and God willing, we will take revenge for [his assassination],” Salami said.
The IRGC top commander further added that the White House and Tel Aviv had Khodaei on their radar for years before deciding to finally assassinate him.
Meanwhile, on 30 May Israeli media reported that the Israeli National Security Council has advised its citizens against traveling to Turkey.
“For several weeks now, and even more so since Iran blamed Israel for the death of the Revolutionary Guards officer last week, there has been growing concern in the defense establishment about Iranian attempts to harm Israeli targets around the world,” the National Security Council statement read.
The council further warned that “a real threat to Israelis is posed in the Turkish arena and countries which share a border with Iran.”
Khodaei was in his car near his home in downtown Tehran when armed assailants on two motorcycles shot him five times on 22 May.
The New York Times (NYT) reported that Israel informed the US it was behind the assassination.
The NYT report claims the assassination was aimed at derailing sanctions-removal talks that seek to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which had given Iran significant sanctions relief in exchange for limiting their nuclear energy program.
Analysts believe that, by killing Khodaei, Israel sought to undermine any possibility for Tehran and Washington to reach a consensus over the issue of the IRGC’s blacklisting as a terrorist organization.
On 25 May, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took to Twitter to hail a decision by the US president to keep the IRGC’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
In the wake of the assassination Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi vowed “definite revenge” for the IRGC colonel, who reportedly was the R&D deputy of Industrial Defense Organization, a key sub-department of the Iranian Defense Ministry, and one of the key minds behind Iran’s drone production line.
Khodaei was one of the IRGC Quds Force officers who went to Syria to fight against ISIS militants and defend the Islamic holy shrine of Lady Zainab, the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad.