Iranian state media sources have reported the death of Asghar Bashpour on the front lines of fighting in Aleppo province, which renewed days ago as Turkish-backed Syrian jihadists poured into the countryside around the major northern city. The Syrian Army has also been on a major offensive against al-Qaeda’s Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to retake neighboring Idlib province.
Crucially, Bashpour was an elite commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force who is said to have been close to its slain leader Qassem Soleimani. The news was announced by Tehran Radio and then circulated among various Middle East sources, including The Times of Israel on Monday. His death occurred Sunday while reportedly supporting military operations of pro-Assad forces.
Israel has long claimed that Iranian entrenchment inside Syria is ultimately aimed at harming Israeli security and interests. Over the past years the Israeli Air Force has conducted hundreds of incursions and strikes inside Syria, against what Tel Aviv describes as Iranian proxies and troops.
The Times of Israel describes the newly slain Asghar Bashpour and friend of Soleimani as follows:
He is said to have been at the forefront of the Quds Force’s operations against anti-regime rebels in Syria, where Iran has been a key backer of President Bashar Assad since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
Regional sources say he was senior commander in the Quds Force responsible for overseeing all Iran-backed special operations in Syria. State-run IRIB news agency describes that Pashapour was “one of the first to go to Syria with Qassem Soleimani.”
بسم رب الشهداء و الصدیقین
استشهاد القائد اصغر پاشاپور من قوات الحرس الثوري الایراني فی ریف حلب
الرحمه لروحه الطاهره
لم يقوى على الفراق ؛ فإلتحق بالقاسم..🌒
أصغر باشابور شهيد 🖤 pic.twitter.com/UG09IqZ1Jk
— Moussawi (@am52918699) February 3, 2020
Beirut-based Syrian war monitor al-Masdar News, among few outlets to have sources within the Syrian Army, described that the IRGC elite commander likely died fighting the terrorist group Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP):
The location of Bashpour’s death in Aleppo was not reported; however, it is likely that he was either killed at the IRGC base in Nayrab (southern Aleppo), which has been targeted by militant missiles, or the Khan Touman front, where the jihadist rebels of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) launched a counter-offensive against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Local Defense Forces (LDF).
As we detailed earlier, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have in recent days and weeks mounted new insurgent attacks on the outskirts of the provincial capital city of Aleppo at a moment the Syrian Army has made huge gains into neighboring Idlib.
A key reason Damascus has vowed to retake every inch of Idlib is that for years al-Qaeda has launched terrorist attacks on suburbs of Aleppo from there as civilians and the government attempt to rebuild the largely destroyed urban center.
This latest renewed fighting in Aleppo appears a concerted effort by Turkey to use its proxy forces to repel and distract the brunt of the Syrian Army offensive on Idlib, considering on Friday President Erdogan warned he’s ready to use military force if Assad doesn’t halt Idlib operations.
On Monday rare direct clashes broke out between the Syrian and Turkish armies which killed an estimated 50 people, including Turkish troops, though the numbers on each side are currently in dispute.