Head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards wounded in Syria fight
General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations wing, has been lightly injured in fighting against Syria rebels near Aleppo, a monitoring group and a security source said on Wednesday.
Soleimani "was injured a few days ago" in an offensive in the southwest of Aleppo province, a security source on the ground told AFP.
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Britain-based monitor of the war, also said the general had been hurt in Aleppo.
Reports had circulated on social media for several days claiming the powerful commander was wounded or even killed in Syria, where Iran is backing President Bashar al-Assad against an uprising that began in March 2011.
However, a spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards, Rameza Sharif, denied the reports, saying on Tuesday that Soleimani was "in perfect health and full of energy”.
"He helps the Islamic resistance in Syria and Iraq," Sharif added, according to SepahNews, the official site of the Revolutionary Guards.
Rami Abdel Rahman of SOHR said the commander was wounded while "leading military operations on the outskirts of al-Eis [in the south of Aleppo province], which is under the control of pro-regime forces”.
"Many Iranian fighters are present in the area," he added.
Abdel Rahman said rebel groups launched a counteroffensive on Sunday in a bid to push government forces from several areas in south Aleppo that they captured with support from Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah ground forces and Russian air strikes.
Russia, another key ally of Assad, began air strikes in support of the government on 30 September.
Last month, a US official said some 2,000 Iranian or Iranian-backed forces were participating in the government's Aleppo operations.
Iran has not officially acknowledged sending troops to Syria, but says it has "advisers" on the ground assisting government forces.
Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese armed movement, acknowledges that its forces are fighting on the ground.
The presence of Iranian and Iraqi "volunteers" has also been documented, and Iran has been accused of persuading Afghan refugees to fight in Syria by promising them a regular salary and permanent residence in Iran.
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