Source: NOW. (Iran Colonel Killed in Zabadani Fighting)
An Iranian Revolutionary Guards colonel has been killed in the ongoing fighting in Syria’s Zabadani, as losses continue to mount in the ranks of Hezbollah and regime forces aiming to seize the strategic border town.
Iranian outlets on Sunday reported that Karim Ghawabesh had been killed in Syria, but did not specify where he lost his life, saying only that he had died “in defense of Sayyeda Zeinab,” one of the most important shrines for Shiite Muslims located south of Damascus.
Pro-Syrian opposition sites, meanwhile, said that Colonel Ghawabesh—who had served in the IRGC during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War—had been killed Saturday in Zabadani, where the Syrian regime’s 4th Mechanized Division and Hezbollah troops launched an offensive in the early hours of July 5.
Ghawabesh is the latest Iranian officer to be killed in fighting in Syria, where Iran has reportedly played an increasingly more direct role in coordinating the regime’s military efforts, especially in the Hama-Idlib-Latakia region south of rebel front lines as well as in the outskirts of Damascus.
Clashes continued Monday morning in Zabadani ... as regime forces kept up their heavy aerial bombardment of the town, which is located north of the vital Beirut-Damascus highway.
Pro-regime and Hezbollah outlets have claimed that the offensive on the town is steadily advancing, however contradictory reports say the rebels are holding out against their opponents, inflicting increasing losses.
The activist Qalamoun Media Office on Monday said that a Hezbollah field commander named Haidar Badran had also been killed in fighting in Zabadani.
The March 14 alliance’s online news outlet, in turn, cited security sources as confirming that Hezbollah had lost a field commander in the clashes, while the South Lebanon website close to the Shiite party on Monday published an obituary for Badran, who hails from the Beqaa town of Houmayn.
The exact number of Hezbollah casualties remains unknown, with the party’s Al-Manar television not providing a death toll, while the SOHR has recorded at least 8 and rebels claim an even higher figure in the dozens.
The Zabadani offensive comes as part of the wider Hezbollah campaign in Syria’s rugged Qalamoun region along Lebanon’s border, which Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah last Friday trumpeted as a fight with wider regional implications.
“The road to Jerusalem passes through Qalamoun, Daraa, Hasakeh and other [Syrian battlefields],”
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech delivered on the occasion of Quds Day, an event created by Iran in 1979 to celebrate opposition to Israel.
The line echoed then Palestine Liberation Organization deputy chief Salah Khalaf's famous statement during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War that “the road to Jerusalem passes through Jounieh,” in reference to the organization’s fight at the time with Christian militias.