BEIRUT // General Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations wing, has been injured in fighting against Syrian rebels near Aleppo.
Gen Suleimani “was injured a few days ago” in an offensive in the south-west of Aleppo province, a security source on the ground said on Wednesday.
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, also said the general had been hurt.
He was “lightly injured three days ago in the Al Eis area in the south of Aleppo province,” said Rami Abdel Rahman.
Reports claiming that the powerful commander had been wounded or even killed in Syria had been circulating on social media for several days.
In response, a spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards, Rameza Sharif, said on Tuesday that Gen Suleimani was “in perfect health and full of energy”.
“He helps the Islamic resistance in Syria and Iraq,” Mr Sharif added, according to SepahNews, the official site of the Revolutionary Guards.
Iran has not officially acknowledged sending troops to Syria, but says it has “advisers” on the ground assisting regime forces.
Tehran backs president Bashar Al Assad in the conflict.
The Observatory’s Mr Abdel Rahman said Gen Suleimani was wounded while “leading military operations on the outskirts of Al Eis, which is under the control of pro-regime forces”.
“Many Iranian fighters are present in the area,” he added.
Mr Abdel Rahman said rebel groups launched a counteroffensive on Sunday in a bid to push regime forces from several areas in south Aleppo. Regime forces had captured these areas with support from Iranian and Hizbollah ground forces and Russian air strikes, he added.
Russia, another key ally of Mr Al Assad, began air strikes in support of the government on September 30.
Last month, a US official said some 2,000 Iranian or Iranian-backed forces were participating in the regime’s Aleppo operations.
Iran-backed Hizbollah acknowledges its forces are fighting on the ground, while the presence of Iranian, Iraqi and Afghan “volunteer” fighters has been documented.
* Agence France-Presse