Iran Vows to Avenge the Death of 2 IRGC Members in Syria

Site after the Israeli strike in Damascus (Reuters)
Site after the Israeli strike in Damascus (Reuters)
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Iran Vows to Avenge the Death of 2 IRGC Members in Syria

Site after the Israeli strike in Damascus (Reuters)
Site after the Israeli strike in Damascus (Reuters)

Israel awaits with anticipation Iran's retaliation for the airstrike on Syria that killed four people on Monday, including two of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Syrian state media said that two civilians were killed during the attack, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said they were two Syrian militants fighting with pro-Iran militias.

The Observatory said the two dead Iranians killed were affiliated with al-Quds Force. Six militiamen were also wounded, it added.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said revenge for Monday's strike will be taken, adding that holding Israel accountable for such attacks "is one of the main goals of the resistance (forces) in the region."

The IRGC's Sepah News website said: "Guard colonels Ehsan Karbalaipour and Morteza Saidnejad were martyred, a crime committed by the Zionist regime, during a rocket attack on the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, yesterday morning."

The site stated that Israel would "pay for this crime."

The strike's target was an ammunition depot operated by Iran-backed militias near Damascus international airport.

SOHR said Israel has carried out raids in Syria at least seven times this year.

Iran is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's strongest ally in the conflict. The Syrian army and thousands of Iranian-backed militants are fighting the Syrian opposition, backed by the Russian air force.

According to Walla's military correspondent, Israel is aware of Iran's determination to respond to the killing of the two IRGC members.

The Israeli army raised the state of alert and readiness of its units operating the "Iron Dome" systems along the border with Syria and stated that it was preparing for a possible missile attack from Syria.

In April, Iran admitted to casualties among its forces during an Israeli attack on sites in Syria, including seven fighters killed in an attack on T4 airport east of Homs. A month later, Iran responded with a barrage of missiles fired by armed militia at Israeli sites.

The Quds Force unofficial Telegram channel reported that Iran retaliated for the death of its members at the Syrian T4 base after an Israeli raid that killed seven Iranian forces in 2018.

The channel reported that Tehran responded by bombing an Israeli base in the occupied Golan with fifty missiles, noting that Israelis did not report the attack and the damage incurred.

Several Israeli experts admitted that the firing of 50 missiles from Syria at Israeli bases was an unprecedented matter that surprised observers.



US Sanctions Iranians over Plots to Kill John Bolton, Others

FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
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US Sanctions Iranians over Plots to Kill John Bolton, Others

FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The US imposed sanctions Thursday on an Iranian Revolutionary Guard official and others it says took part in wide-ranging plots to kill former national security adviser John Bolton and others around the world, including at least one additional US government official.

The alleged 2021 plot against Bolton, one of the best-documented of the alleged assassination efforts, is part of what US prosecutors and former government officials describe as ongoing efforts by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to kill Trump-era officials behind a 2020 US airstrike that killed the head of the Iranian guard’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, The Associated Press reported.

In all, Thursday’s sanctions accuse three people, a company affiliated with Iran’s Quds Force and two senior officials of Iran’s Intelligence Organization in global plots to kill former US officials, journalists and Iranian dissidents abroad, according to the US Treasury Department.

Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement the US is focused on disrupting plots by the Iranian military, which has “engaged in numerous assassination attempts and other acts of violence and intimidation against those they deem enemies of the Iranian regime.”

Those sanctioned include Revolutionary Guard official Shahram Poursafi. US prosecutors charged Poursafi last year with seeking to carry out a murder-for-hire, saying he worked to find a US-based person willing to kill Bolton somewhere in the Washington area for $300,000.

Federal prosecutors say Poursafi also spoke of an “additional job” for which he was offering $1 million. Axios reported last year that the second target was former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing sources close to Pompeo. US officials have reported “serious and credible” threats against the lives of Pompeo and his top Iran aide.

Poursafi remains wanted by the FBI in the alleged plots.

Prosecutors say the scheme against Bolton unfolded more than a year after Soleimani was killed by a US airstrike as he traveled from Baghdad’s international airport in January 2020.

After the strike, Bolton, who by then had left his White House post, tweeted, “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

Pompeo and former top Iran envoy Brian Hook both played a role in the Trump administration’s decision to kill Soleimani and led the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2014 nuclear deal with Iran.


Raisi: Strengthening Deterrence is Top Policy Priority for Iran

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during the meeting (Iranian Presidency)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during the meeting (Iranian Presidency)
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Raisi: Strengthening Deterrence is Top Policy Priority for Iran

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during the meeting (Iranian Presidency)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during the meeting (Iranian Presidency)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi announced that strengthening deterrence is one of Iran’s priority policies, adding that Iran does not "wait for anyone's frown or smile" in determining the lines of its foreign policy.

The president spoke at the closing ceremony of the meeting of the heads of the missions of Iran abroad.

He indicated that the government's foreign policy calls for dealing with all countries based on justice.

Raisi implicitly criticized the previous government headed by Hassan Rouhani without mentioning his name, defying the old assumption that the fate of countries worldwide is determined by a small number of powers with whom foreign policy decisions have to be coordinated.

"In the past, some people thought that a few countries determined the future of countries in the world, and therefore, the lines of foreign policy should be aligned with them, but we believe that we should cooperate with countries according to their capacities and considerations."

Raisi urged Iranian diplomats to accurately understand the current and required situation as part of "necessary" steps to bring about a shift in foreign policy.

The president said the foreign policy apparatus is one of the crucial mechanisms for generating power for the country.

"If we do not have a precise knowledge of the current and desired situation, we cannot take steps towards transformation,” he noted.

Raisi warned against not joining "emerging" organizations such as the Shanghai Organization, BRICS, and the Eurasian Union, describing them as "future-building powers."

Raisi described foreign policy in African countries, Latin American countries, and other regions from East Asia to Central Asia and Europe as essential fields for the activity of the diplomatic apparatus of Iran.

The Iranian government's policy calls for cooperating with all countries interacting with Iran out of goodwill, but if "a country intends to be hostile to us, we will resist."

"We are sure that the way to the country's progress is resistance, not surrender and retreat, and therefore we will never back down from our principles. Of course, at the same time, strengthening deterrence power is also one of our main work policies".

Iran continues accumulating uranium enrichment by 60 percent, amid international fears that Tehran will change the course of its nuclear program towards developing nuclear weapons, which it denies.

Earlier, Iran announced the manufacture and successful test launch of a new ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers.

The commander of the Aerospace unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said that his country is preparing to unveil a hypersonic missile soon.

 


Republican Mike Pence Enters Presidential Race

Former Republican Vice President Mike Pence. (Reuters) 
Former Republican Vice President Mike Pence. (Reuters) 
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Republican Mike Pence Enters Presidential Race

Former Republican Vice President Mike Pence. (Reuters) 
Former Republican Vice President Mike Pence. (Reuters) 

Former Republican Vice President Mike Pence is set to enter the 2024 presidential race against his former boss Donald Trump on June 7, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Pence will launch his campaign with a video and a speech in the early nominating state of Iowa, the sources said.

Pence angered Trump when he refused to support the latter’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections.


US House of Representatives Passes Bill to Raise Debt Ceiling

The US Capitol. (AFP) 
The US Capitol. (AFP) 
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US House of Representatives Passes Bill to Raise Debt Ceiling

The US Capitol. (AFP) 
The US Capitol. (AFP) 

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed on Wednesday legislation negotiated by President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy to suspend the debt ceiling to avoid a default.

The House voted 314-117 to send the legislation to the Senate, which must enact the measure and get it to US President Joe Biden's desk. A total of 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats opposed it.

The clock is ticking for the Congress and the Administration. As the default date approaches on the fifth of June, according to the US Department of the Treasury, eyes are on the Senate which hasn’t started to look into the 99-page bill.

The bill requires the approval of all 100 members in order to directly vote on its content without adding amendments.

The Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has failed so far to convince his colleagues to let go of their reservations and abstain from suggesting amendments. If this happens, then the voting could fail to meet the deadline.

However, the main obstacle that faces the bill is the Democrats who objected to the Administration’s approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who helped kill off the pipeline’s progress late last year, told reporters “I’m insisting on an amendment.”

“I have had to defeat this already four or five times, and I have been able to do it. I never thought they’d put it on a debt ceiling bill,” he added.

Despite reservations, the debt ceiling will likely be raised. The question is: will this happen before June 5?


IAEA: Monitoring Devices Return to Some Iranian Sites

Headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (file photo: Reuters)
Headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (file photo: Reuters)
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IAEA: Monitoring Devices Return to Some Iranian Sites

Headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (file photo: Reuters)
Headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (file photo: Reuters)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran has reinstalled some monitoring equipment initially put under the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, which Iran removed last year.

The director of the UN agency, Rafael Grossi, said in two quarterly reports that the agency was "awaiting Iran's engagement to address" issues, including installing more monitoring equipment announced months ago.

The monitoring equipment included surveillance cameras at a site in Isfahan, where centrifuge parts are made, and monitoring equipment at two declared enrichment facilities, according to the two confidential reports addressed to IAEA member states.

- Undisclosed sites

Regarding the ongoing investigation of traces of uranium in three undisclosed sites, the agency said that Iran had provided a "satisfactory answer" on one of them to explain the presence of particles there.

The report stated that the agency has no further questions, and the issue is no longer pending.

Iranian media said Tuesday that it settled two disputed cases with the IAEA, one related to finding traces of uranium at the Marivan site in Abadah, in Fars province.

The Marivan site is the first of three locations to be addressed under a work plan Iran, and the IAEA agreed upon last March. It was not reported in the 2015 nuclear deal talks.

Iran also announced a settlement over the IAEA's discovery of traces of 83.7 percent enriched uranium at the Fordow facility earlier this year.

- Iran stockpile

The IAEA reports confirmed that Iran continues to violate the restrictions imposed on its nuclear activities, and its total stockpile of enriched uranium continues to grow and is now 23 times the 202.8-kg limit set by the 2015 deal, at 4.7 tons.

The permissible limit in the agreement is 202.8 kilograms.

Iran's stock of enriched uranium has enriched to up to 60 percent to 141.1 kilograms since February.

Last October, the IAEA estimated that Iran possessed 62.3 percent of uranium of the 60 percent uranium. Back then, experts said Iran's stockpile was enough to make one bomb if it decided to do so.

After relations between Iran and the West deteriorated, Tehran limited its cooperation with the agency and removed surveillance cameras from some facilities.

It also gradually reneged on most of its commitments within the framework of the agreement concluded in 2015 between Tehran and the US, France, the UK, Russia, China, and Germany after then-President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal.

The US State Department said it has "full confidence" in the IAEA and that President Joe "absolutely committed to never allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon," according to the Associated Press.

"We appreciate the IAEA's extensive efforts to engage Iran on longstanding questions related to Iran's safeguards obligations," the State Department said. "We have made clear that Iran must fully uphold its safeguards obligations."


North Korea Vows to Put Spy Satellite in Orbit Soon after Failed Launch

This picture taken on May 31, 2023 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 1, 2023 shows a new satellite-carrying rocket as it leaves the launch pad, at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)
This picture taken on May 31, 2023 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 1, 2023 shows a new satellite-carrying rocket as it leaves the launch pad, at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)
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North Korea Vows to Put Spy Satellite in Orbit Soon after Failed Launch

This picture taken on May 31, 2023 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 1, 2023 shows a new satellite-carrying rocket as it leaves the launch pad, at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)
This picture taken on May 31, 2023 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 1, 2023 shows a new satellite-carrying rocket as it leaves the launch pad, at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)

North Korea's Kim Yo Jong, leader Kim Jong Un's sister, said her country would soon put a military spy satellite into orbit and promised Pyongyang would increase its military surveillance capabilities, state media KCNA reported on Thursday.

The remarks by Kim, a powerful ruling party official, came a day after a failed attempt at launching the country's first spy satellite, which plunged into sea, Reuters said.

Kim rejected condemnation of the launch by Washington and other countries as an infringement of its sovereign right to space development.

"It is certain that (North Korea's) military reconnaissance satellite will be correctly put on space orbit in the near future and start its mission," Kim said in an English-language statement carried by KCNA.

Soon after the launch vehicle failed, South Korea detected debris that splashed down off its west coast and began a salvage operation in the hopes of studying the new rocket.

"The part we found appears to be the second stage of the rocket," South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup told parliament on Thursday. "We are continuing search operations to find more, including the third stage and the payload.

A large and heavy object remains submerged, and will require time and specialized equipment to raise it, Lee added.

It was not clear when the North might try another launch. It may take weeks or more to resolve the problems that caused the rocket's failure, a South Korean lawmaker said on Wednesday, citing the South's intelligence agency.

In a rare and swift admission of the setback, KCNA reported just hours after the launch that the Chollima-1 rocket, carrying a military reconnaissance satellite known as "Malligyong-1", crashed into the sea after the second stage engine failed.

KCNA also published on Thursday images of what it said was the new rocket lifting off from a coastal launch pad. The white-and-gray rocket had a bulbous nose, apparently for carrying a satellite or other cargo.

The photos confirmed that the rocket is a new design, said Ankit Panda of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"The launch used the new coastal launch pad they've built at Tongchang-ri, so we might see a larger space launch vehicle use the traditional gantry that has seen some work recently," he added.

US-based monitors, including 38 North and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reported that commercial satellite imagery showed significant activity at the main pad after Wednesday's launch.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it could be presumed from North Korea's state media photos that the rocket was launched from a new pad.

Wednesday's launch was widely criticized, including by South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Speaking in Tokyo, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, "North Korea's dangerous and destabilizing nuclear and missile programs threaten peace and stability in the region."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said any launch by Pyongyang using ballistic missile technology breaches Security Council resolutions, a spokesperson said.

In her statement, Kim Yo Jong said the criticisms of the launch were "self-contradiction" as the US and other countries have already launched "thousands of satellites."

"The US is a group of gangsters who would claim that even if the DPRK launches a satellite ... it is illegal and threatening," she said, using the initials of North Korea's official name.

South Korea's foreign ministry said Kim's claim is based on "distorted" views that defy the United Nations' hope for regional peace.

In a separate statement carried by KCNA, North Korea's vice foreign minister Kim Son Gyong criticized US-led military drills in the region including a multinational anti-proliferation naval drill.


Israel Launches ‘Firm Hand,’ Says Not Related to Iran

Halevi and Kurilla meet at the Israeli army’s Intelligence Directorate. Photo: Israeli military
Halevi and Kurilla meet at the Israeli army’s Intelligence Directorate. Photo: Israeli military
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Israel Launches ‘Firm Hand,’ Says Not Related to Iran

Halevi and Kurilla meet at the Israeli army’s Intelligence Directorate. Photo: Israeli military
Halevi and Kurilla meet at the Israeli army’s Intelligence Directorate. Photo: Israeli military

The Israeli army has launched ‘Firm Hand,’ a large-scale two-week drill across the country, simulating a potential multi-front war.

According to the military, the drill was pre-planned and did not stem from any recent security assessments or tension with Iran.

General Michael "Erik" Kurilla , Commander of US Central Command, arrived in Israel on Tuesday for a three-day visit as part of a wider tour of the region.

Kurilla arrived a day after the Israeli army kicked off the military exercises, which he was set to observe.

He started off his visit at Unit 504, the HUMINT (human intelligence) unit of the Israeli army’s Intelligence Directorate (J2), where he was briefed on the unit's latest operations, as well as plans for the future.

Israeli army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi led an operational panel during which the commanders discussed cooperation between the military and the US Armed Forces and the strengthening of joint operational capabilities.

The ‘Firm Hand’ exercise will simulate a multi-front conflict in the air, at sea, on land and in the fields of cybersecurity.

The exercise will test the Israeli military's ability to prepare for a prolonged campaign on multiple fronts.

A military source said the drill would include the Air Force conducting simulated “strategic” strikes deep in enemy territory in an all-out war scenario, and the Navy carrying out mock offensive and defensive actions.

The Israeli army said troops from the standing and reserve army, from nearly all units, would participate in the exercise.


Fresh Russian Bombardment of Ukraine’s Capital Kills at Least 3 People, Wounds Others

A local resident crosses the Siversky Donets River on a destroyed bridge in Bohorodychne village, Donetsk region, Ukraine, 30 May 2023 (issued 31 May 2023). EPA/OLEG PETRASYUK
A local resident crosses the Siversky Donets River on a destroyed bridge in Bohorodychne village, Donetsk region, Ukraine, 30 May 2023 (issued 31 May 2023). EPA/OLEG PETRASYUK
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Fresh Russian Bombardment of Ukraine’s Capital Kills at Least 3 People, Wounds Others

A local resident crosses the Siversky Donets River on a destroyed bridge in Bohorodychne village, Donetsk region, Ukraine, 30 May 2023 (issued 31 May 2023). EPA/OLEG PETRASYUK
A local resident crosses the Siversky Donets River on a destroyed bridge in Bohorodychne village, Donetsk region, Ukraine, 30 May 2023 (issued 31 May 2023). EPA/OLEG PETRASYUK

Russian forces began June with a fresh aerial bombardment of Kyiv on Thursday, killing at least three people and wounding others, authorities said.

Following up on a reported 17 attacks on the Ukrainian capital in May, mostly using drones, Russian forces hit the capital in the early morning with ground-launched missiles, damaging apartment buildings, a medical clinic, a water pipeline and a car, The Associated Press said.

Kyiv City Administration reported three people were killed, two children among them, and 10 people were wounded. The casualty toll was the most from one attack on Kyiv in the past month.

After a woman was killed watching an aerial attack from her balcony earlier this week, Kyiv authorities urged residents to heed warning sirens and stay in shelters or other safe locations.

Ukraine’s air defenses have become increasingly effective at intercepting Russian drones and missiles, but the resulting debris sometimes causes fires and injuries in buildings and on the ground. Preliminary indications were that Kyiv’s air defenses intercepted all incoming weapons early Thursday, and that the latest deaths and injuries were caused by falling debris.

In Desnianskyi district, the debris fell on a hospital and a nearby multistory building. In another district, Dniprovskyi, a residential building was damaged by debris, parked cars caught fire, and debris fell onto the roadway.

On Wednesday, Russian forces carried out three aerial attacks over the south of Kherson region, along with missile and heavy artillery strikes on other parts of the region.


Russia Says It Destroys Ukraine’s ‘Last Warship’ 

The Yuriy Olefirenko. (Russian media)
The Yuriy Olefirenko. (Russian media)
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Russia Says It Destroys Ukraine’s ‘Last Warship’ 

The Yuriy Olefirenko. (Russian media)
The Yuriy Olefirenko. (Russian media)

Russia's defense ministry said on Wednesday that its forces had destroyed what it described as Ukraine's "last warship" two days ago in the port of Odesa in a missile strike.

Ukraine's navy declined to comment.

"The last warship of the Ukrainian navy, the Yuriy Olefirenko, was destroyed at a warship mooring in the port of Odesa," Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a daily briefing on the war.

He said the vessel had been hit with "high-precision weapons" - a phrase he uses to mean missiles - on May 29, but gave no further details.

Oleh Chalyk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian navy, said he would not respond to any assertions made by Russia. The Ukrainian navy will not disclose any information about losses during the war, he added.

Ukrainian officials said on Monday that Russia had put five aircraft out of action in an attack on a military target in western Ukraine and caused a fire at the Black Sea port of Odesa in heavy air strikes early on Monday.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield accounts of either side.

The Russian defense ministry also said on Wednesday that its forces had pushed Ukrainian units out of positions around the settlements of Krasnohorivka and Yasynuvata in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, which Moscow claims to have annexed.

The ministry said "fierce fighting" was continuing around Avdiivka, a large town located between the two settlements, which has been largely razed to the ground during months of fighting.


Israel’s Mossad Confirms Ex-Agent Was One of 4 Who Died When Boat Sank in Italy 

Carabinieri and fire brigade officers take part in the search and rescue operation in Lake Maggiore after a tourist boat capsized near Lisanza (Varese), northern Italy, 29 May 2023. (EPA)
Carabinieri and fire brigade officers take part in the search and rescue operation in Lake Maggiore after a tourist boat capsized near Lisanza (Varese), northern Italy, 29 May 2023. (EPA)
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Israel’s Mossad Confirms Ex-Agent Was One of 4 Who Died When Boat Sank in Italy 

Carabinieri and fire brigade officers take part in the search and rescue operation in Lake Maggiore after a tourist boat capsized near Lisanza (Varese), northern Italy, 29 May 2023. (EPA)
Carabinieri and fire brigade officers take part in the search and rescue operation in Lake Maggiore after a tourist boat capsized near Lisanza (Varese), northern Italy, 29 May 2023. (EPA)

Israel's intelligence agency confirmed on Wednesday that a retired agent was among four people killed in Italy when a sudden storm sank a houseboat hired for a pleasure cruise over the weekend.

The former agent was on the houseboat, with 22 other people, on a northern Italian lake near the town of Lisanza.

Two Italian intelligence agents and a Russian woman — part of the two-person crew — of the boat also died in the incident.

The Israeli prime minister's office issued a statement on behalf of the Mossad saying the unnamed agent's remains had been returned to Israel for burial.

The Foreign Ministry had previously confirmed that a retiree from the Israeli security forces was killed but didn’t provide a name or age or give details on his professional background.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that because of the agent's work in the agency, further details could not be disclosed and extended condolences to his family.

Police said Tuesday they had no further information on the identities or professions of the 19 other people on board who survived. Some managed to swim to shore, while others were picked up by other boats.

Italian media reported that a private plane had picked up the other Israeli survivors and flown them out of Italy.