Iran says Israel bombs its embassy in Syria, kills commanders

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Emergency and security personnel gather at the site of a strike that hit a building next to the Iranian embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus on April 1, 2024. Syrian state media said an Israeli strike hit the Iranian embassy annex in the capital on April 1, while a war monitor reported eight people were killed, and Iranian state media said the dead included one of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, amid heightened regional tensions over the Gaza war. including senior commanders.

Maher Al Mounes | AFP | Getty Images

Suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Syria on Monday in what Iran said killed seven of its military advisers, including three senior commanders, in a major escalation in Israel’s war with its regional rivals.

Reuters reporters at the scene in the Mezeh district of Damascus saw emergency workers climbing over the rubble of a destroyed building inside a diplomatic compound, adjacent to the main building of the Iranian embassy. Emergency vehicles were parked outside. An Iranian flag hung from a pole through the rubble.

“We strongly condemn this heinous terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed scores of innocents,” said Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad, who was seen at the scene with Syria’s interior minister.

Iran’s ambassador to Syria said the strike hit a consular building in the embassy compound and his residence was on the top two floors.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement that seven Iranian military advisers died in the strike, including Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of its Quds Force, a top foreign intelligence and paramilitary arm.

Israel has long targeted Iranian military installations and its proxies in Syria, but Monday’s attack was the first time Israel struck the massive embassy compound.

He has accelerated those strikes in parallel with it campaign Against Iran-backed Palestinian group Hamas, which attacked Israel on Oct. The Gaza war ignited with an attack on the 7th that killed nearly 1,200 people and took 253 hostage, according to Israeli counts.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.

Israel’s military has stepped up airstrikes in Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, both of which support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel does not usually discuss attacks by its forces on Syria. Asked about the strike, an Israeli military spokesman said: “We do not comment on foreign media reports.”

The New York Times quoted four unnamed Israeli officials as admitting that Israel carried out the attack.

Iran’s UN mission described the strike as a “clear violation of the United Nations Charter, international law and the fundamental principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises”.

The Iranian mission urged the UN Security Council to condemn the attack, saying the strike was a “significant threat to regional peace and security” and said Tehran reserved the “right to take a decisive response”.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese group seen as Iran’s most powerful armed proxy in the region, vowed to retaliate. “This crime will not go unpunished and retaliated against the enemy,” the group said in a statement.

Like Russia, Muslim countries including Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also condemned the attack.

Earlier, Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, told Iranian state TV that five to seven people, including diplomats, had been killed and that Tehran’s response would be “harsh”.

Iranian state media said Tehran believed Zahedi was the target of the attack. His deputy and another senior commander were also killed along with four others.

Iran’s Arabic-language Al Alam television said Zahedi was a military adviser in Syria who served as head of the Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington was “concerned about anything that would escalate the conflict in the region” but the strike was not expected to affect negotiations over the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

Analysts were divided on whether the attack on the Iranian embassy compound would spark significantly more violence.

John Alterman of the CSIS think tank in Washington said the attack may reflect Israel’s belief that such attacks are deterrents and de-escalate rather than escalate a wider conflict.

“The Israelis are convinced that if they try to hold back, the threat will increase and not decrease,” he said. “They are made to understand that as long as they do something like this periodically, their opponents will be deterred.”

However, Steven Cook, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, saw potential for improvement.

“The IRGC could loosen restrictions on proxies in Iraq and Syria, again putting American forces at risk,” he said. “The Iranians may also direct Hezbollah to increase attacks on Israel, which are growing bolder and more numerous.”

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