Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force, the elite foreign operations wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, reportedly sustained light injuries during a mission in Syria’s Aleppo, where his unit is backing Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad against opposition forces.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Suleimani was hurt during an offensive days ago in the Aleppo governorate’s southwest.
Speaking to the Agence France Presse on Wednesday, SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman said the Iranian commander was at the time "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 said, adding that the opposition forces were in the process of launching a counteroffensive to regain territory lost to the regime, which has been advancing with the help of Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants from Lebanon and Russian air strikes.
Reports that Suleimani had been injured originally surfaced 12 days ago when Persian-language website AsrarIran reported that Suleimani was injured after being hit by a TOW anti-tank rocket.
The report stated that Suleimani was first treated in Syria before being sent back to Iran to receive further treatment at a hospital in Tehran.
This report was confirmed by Tehran-based Center for Strategic Studies and International Relations Director Amir Mousavi.
A number of reports stated that Suleimani had been killed during the campaign also began circulating on the social media, but these rumours were denied by Revolutionary Guards spokesman Rameza Sharif in a statement on Tuesday.
SepahNews, the official website of the Revolutionary Guards, quoted Rameza as saying that Suleimani was "in perfect health and full of energy.”
Iran has been supporting the Assad regime since the Syrian war began in March 2011, with an estimated 2,000 Iranian or Iranian-backed militants participating in the war on behalf of the regime.
Russia has also been supporting the embattled Assad regime with air strikes and long-range cruise missiles since Sept. 30 under the guise that it is targeting DAESH terrorists who took advantage of the power vacuum arising from the war to gain swathes of territory in Syria, setting up the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed “caliphate” in the city of Raqqa.
However, the US and its allies have raised concerns that most Russian air strikes are targeting moderate Syrian opposition groups fighting to topple the Assad regime, thus further destabilising a war that has claimed the lives of at least 250,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.