Israel shared three cell phone numbers used by Qasem Soleimani with US intelligence services in the hours leading up to the launch of Hellfire missiles by US drones at the Iranian general last year, Yahoo News reported on Saturday.
The revelation sheds new light on the role Israel played in the murder of Soleimani, who the State Department said was responsible for hundreds of U.S. troop deaths as leader of the elite Quds Force of the Guardians of the Revolution.
The drone strike took place shortly after midnight on January 2, 2020, as Soleimani and his entourage left Baghdad International Airport.
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As three Delta Force sniper teams kept watch on Soleimani on the ground and three US drones kept a bird’s eye view of him, Israel shared intelligence with the US military.
“In the six hours preceding Soleimani’s embarkation in Damascus, the Iranian general changed his cell phone three times, according to a US military official,” the Yahoo report said.
“In Tel Aviv, US Joint Special Operations Command liaison officers worked with their Israeli counterparts to help follow Soleimani’s cell phone models. The Israelis, who had access to Soleimani’s numbers, passed them on to the Americans, who traced Soleimani and his current phone to Baghdad. “
Shortly after Soleimani’s car left Baghdad airport, two Hellfire missiles rained down, killing him, the deputy commander of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and five others.
Yahoo also reported on Saturday that prior to Soleimani’s death, Israeli intelligence had shared intelligence with the CIA about an Iranian leaving the country to pick up cell phones or Iranian officials. U.S. intelligence services were then able to set up bugged cell phones for the courier to buy, according to the report.
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Soleimani’s assassination was one of the most important actions the United States has taken in the Middle East in years. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a tape leaked to the New York Times last month that Soleimani’s death caused more damage to the country than if the United States destroyed an entire city.
Meanwhile, President Biden has taken a different approach from Trump, offering to resume talks with Iran on reinstating the nuclear deal Trump withdrew in 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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