Fakhrizadeh is thought to have headed what the U.N. nuclear watchdog and U.S. intelligence services believe was a coordinated nuclear weapons programme in Iran, shelved in 2003.
He was the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear programme.
The IAEA’s report said that he oversaw activities “in support of a possible military dimension to (Iran’s) nuclear programme” within the so-called AMAD Plan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu said in a 2018 presentation accusing Iran of continuing to seek nuclear weapons that Fakhrizadeh was still working within Iran’s Defence Ministry on “special projects”.
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu said at the time.
On Friday before the news of the attack on Fakhrizadeh emerged, an Israeli official said Israel was discussing with and Gulf Arab states how to tackle Iran.
“The story is not Trump, nor even Israel. The story is Iran – the growing dread that a new U.S. administration will go back to the nuclear deal which threatens the very existence of the Gulf countries,” Tzachi Hanegbi, who sits in Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM. “We will know how to handle the issue of the Iranian threat, even if through our own means.”