Israel shared three cell phone numbers used by Qasem Soleimani with US intelligence services hours before US drones launched Hellfire missiles at the Iranian general last year, Yahoo News reported 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 deaths among US soldiers as head of the elite Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards.
The drone strike occurred 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 before Soleimani boarded his flight from Damascus, the Iranian general changed his cell phone three times, according to a US military official,” according to the Yahoo report.
“In Tel Aviv, the US Joint Special Operations Command Liaisons worked with their Israeli counterparts to help track 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 in 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 who was leaving the country to retrieve cellphones or Iranian officials. U.S. intelligence services were then able to plant bugged cell phones for the courier to purchase, according to the report.
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The murder of Soleimani was one of the most significant 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 wiped out 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.