Israel Provided Critical Intelligence That Allowed The U.S. To Track The Movements Of Soliemani

Israel’s former military intelligence chief says the country was involved in the American airstrike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. It was the first public acknowledgment of Israel’s role in the operation.

Soleimani headed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force and helped orchestrate Iran’s involvement with paramilitary groups abroad, and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American servicemen and women. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike, shortly after arriving at the airport in Baghdad on January 3, 2020, after violence escalated between Iran’s proxy militias and the U.S. military. After Soleimani gave the green light for the militias to attack the U.S. Embassy, he was targeted and killed. 

Retired Major General G Tamir Hayman said in an interview with Malam magazine which is published by the Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center that “Soleimani’s assassination is an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians. 

“Two significant and important assassinations can be noted in my term,” he noted with Soleimani’s assassination being the first and the other was the assassination of Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata in the Gaza Strip in 2019 in Operation Black Belt. al-Ata was in the midst of planning attacks against Israeli civilians and the military when he was killed in an Israeli attack. 

Iranian MG Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a US drone attack in January 2020. Iranian government photo

Soleimani: “the engine of the train of Iranian entrenchment”

Hayman added that “we thwarted a lot of ways they tried to smuggle weapons and money, and the headline of all of this is stopping the Iranians from entrenching themselves in Syria.”

“Soleimani, it’s rare to locate someone so senior, who is the architect of the fighting force, the strategist and the operator… it’s rare,” he said. Heyman characterized Soleimani as “the engine of the train of Iranian entrenchment” in neighboring Syria.

In the Soleimani operation, Israeli intelligence operatives were able to track Soleimani’s cell phone and provided the cell phone numbers used by him. It was reported later that he switched phones three times in just six hours before boarding the flight to Baghdad.  

However, the Israelis were still able to trace Soleimani’s phone and location and shared the data with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the U.S. had three drones shadowing his aircraft. Kurdish intelligence operatives posing as ordinary airport staff members confirmed Soleimani’s identity. Signals intelligence tracking his cell phone was also used to pinpoint Soleimani’s position for the attack.

Soleimani’s SUV is destroyed by a Hellfire missile outside the Baghdad airport. Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office photo

Several Delta Force snipers, a backup to the main attack observed his motorcade leaving the airport. Then a Hellfire missile fired from a drone destroyed his vehicle, killing Soleimani and four members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), including its commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The PMF is considered an Iranian proxy along with the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah. 

Just seconds later, another vehicle in the convoy was brought to a halt by sniper fire and destroyed with another Hellfire missile strike.

Since the Syrian Civil War began, Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes within the country, with the vast majority targeting Iranian bases, weapons depots, and warehouses as well as their proxy militias. They rarely acknowledge the airstrikes but have made it clear that Iranian troops based on their borders would not be tolerated.