Israel on Iran President’s Helicopter Crash Death: ‘It Wasn’t Us!’

Azin Haghighi/Anadolu via Getty Images
Azin Haghighi/Anadolu via Getty Images

An Israeli official has gone on the record to deny their country was behind the helicopter crash which claimed the lives of Iran’s president, foreign minister, and others Sunday.

President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, and the six other passengers on board the chopper that went down in poor weather conditions were all confirmed dead Monday by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. An anonymous Israeli official told Reuters that Israel was not responsible for the incident, simply saying: “It wasn’t us.”

Iran’s Hardline President Ebrahim Raisi Dies in Helicopter Crash

The wreckage of the crash was found early Monday in a mountainous area following a massive search and rescue operation that ran through the night. Reports had emerged a day earlier that the helicopter had suffered a “hard landing” as Raisi was traveling from the Iran-Azerbaijan border—where he’d been inaugurating a dam—on the way to the Iranian city of Tabriz.

A detailed explanation of how the chopper crashed has not yet been released. Iran’s official IRNA news agency has described the incident as being “due to a technical failure,” though details on the nature of the purported issue remain scant.

Ayatollah Khamenei paid tribute to Raisi and the others on Monday, announcing the “bitter news of the martyrdom of the people’s President… and his esteemed entourage.”

As well as declaring five days of mourning, Khamenei said First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber would act as an interim president. Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani was likewise made the acting foreign minister in the wake of Amirabdollahian’s death, IRNA reported.

A new presidential election will now take place within 50 days. A cabinet statement said the government’s work will continue “without the slightest disruption” in the meantime.

Although some analysts have expressed doubts that Iran’s political positions will significantly shift in the wake of Raisi’s death, the crash comes at an acutely sensitive time for the country.

Last month, its long-running “shadow war” with Israel erupted into outright, head-on the aggression with mutual drone and missile attacks. Attacks involving Iran-aligned groups have also raged across the Middle East ever since Hamas—the Palestinian Islamist group also allied with Tehran—launched its unprecedented assault on Israel on Oct. 7.

Hamas mourned Raisi’s death in a statement Monday, claiming he and others had “provided valued support to the Palestinian resistance” during the group’s war with Israel and “made tireless efforts in solidarity and support in all forums and fields for our people in the steadfast Gaza Strip,” according to Reuters.

International leaders and politicians also paid tribute to Raisi—the man dubbed the “Butcher of Tehran” owing to his role in one of Iran’s “death commissions” which killed thousands of political prisoners in extrajudicial executions in 1988.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warmly remembered Raisi as a “true friend of Russia” and said he would “always cherish the fond memories” he had of meeting “this wonderful man.” Chinese leader Xi Jinping, meanwhile, said the Chinese had “lost a good friend” through Raisi’s “tragic death,” according to China’s Xinhua state news agency.

Charles Michel, the former Belgian prime minister currently serving as the president of the European Council, also said the E.U. “expresses its sincere condolences” to Raisi and the others killed in the crash. “Our thoughts go to the families,” Michel wrote on X, prompting outraged responses from some other users on the platform.

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