Rebel snipers killed a top-ranking general in Syrian military intelligence on Thursday, state television and opposition activists said.
State TV said General Jama'a Jama'a was shot dead in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, which is in a province largely held by opposition forces trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said Jama'a was a member of Assad's inner circle and one of Syria's most prominent military figures.
“General Jama'a Jama'a has been martyred while carrying out his national duty of defending Syria and its people and pursuing terrorists in Deir al-Zor,” a statement on Syria TV said.
The Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of activists across Syria, said snipers shot Jama'a in the midst of a battle with rebel units that it said included some forces linked to al-Qaida.
According to the Observatory, Jama'a was investigated for a suspected role in the assassination of the Lebanese statesman Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Many blamed the Beirut car bombing that killed Hariri on Assad's government and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is allied to Assad and is now fighting alongside him in Syria against the rebels.
Syria's conflict began two and a half years ago as protests against four decades of Assad family rule that degenerated into a bloody civil war. More than 100,000 people have died in the violence.