Israel’s elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13 was behind the assassination of Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman in 2008, The Intercept reports, citing classified NSA documents. According to the report, the American intelligence agency learned of the operation by monitoring communications signals of the Israel Defense Forces.
The files are among those revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, The Intercept reports, and provide the first official confirmation that the IDF was behind Suleiman’s assassination. After shooting the Syrian general in the head and neck while he was hosting a dinner party at his seaside weekend home near Tartus, Syria, the report says, the Israeli naval commandos escaped via the sea.
A top-secret entry in the NSA’s internal version of Wikipedia, called Intellipedia, says the assassination, is the “first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official,” the report says.
Suleiman was involved in Syria’s nuclear project and was appointed by Syrian President Bashar Assad to lead contacts with Iran and Hezbollah.
The Intercept report details how the NSA learned of Suleiman’s assassination. According to the three former U.S. intelligence officers cited in the report, the classified document is labeled “SI,” which means the information was collected by monitoring communications signals. “We’ve had access to Israeli military communications for some time,” one of the former officers was quoted as saying.
Europeans have in the past doubted Israel’s involvement in Suleiman’s assassination. Correspondence in cables published by WikiLeaks say France believed Suleiman was assassinated by a rival within the Syrian leadership over an internal rift.