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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Israel not involved in Iranian president’s death

Ebrahim Raisi and others were killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran

The Israeli government had nothing to do with the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Reuters has reported, citing an unnamed official.

Raisi and several other Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, were killed when the helicopter they were traveling in went down in the mountainous East Azerbaijan province in northwest Iran. After more than ten hours of searching – hampered by fog and rain – the president and his entourage were confirmed dead.

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The head of state had traveled to the border region after joining Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Saturday to inaugurate a dam. Raisi had pledged to visit each of Iran’s 30 provinces at least once a year, and so was regularly traveling around the country.

His death has prompted speculation that Iran’s long-time foe Israel could be behind the accident.

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On Monday, an Israeli official, who requested anonymity, denied the nation’s involvement in the crash, telling Reuters: “It wasn’t us.”

The latest round of tensions between Israel and Iran began on April 1, after an alleged Israeli airstrike hit the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus. The strike killed seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, including two high-ranking generals.

In response, Tehran launched scores of drones and missiles at Israel, which later retaliated with a handful of drones and air-launched missiles.

The Islamic Republic has vowed on multiple occasions to wipe out, destroy or annihilate the “Zionist regime,” as it calls Israel.

Israel’s Minister of Heritage, Amichay Eliyahu, reacted to the news of Raisi’s death by posting an image of a wine glass on X (formerly Twitter), accompanied by a “Cheers” in the caption.

Avigdor Lieberman, former defense minister and leader of the opposition right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, told the Ynet news site that Israel “will not shed a tear for the death of the Iranian president.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has declared five days of mourning in the country for the victims of the crash. Raisi’s deputy, Mohammad Mokhber, has taken over the presidency after Khamenei’s approval on Monday. Mokhber will hold the post for 50 days until an election is held.