Israel suspected of deadly airstrike on Iranian embassy in Syria

Click to play video: 'Iran vows revenge on Israel after Damascus embassy attack'
Iran vows revenge on Israel after Damascus embassy attack
WATCH: Iran said on Tuesday it would take revenge on Israel for an airstrike that killed two of its generals and five military advisers at its embassy compound in Damascus, raising the risk of further escalation in conflict in the Middle East. Other global authorities commented on the attack, with the U.S. denying involvement, and the United Nations and China condemning it – Apr 2, 2024

Suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Syria on Monday, a marked escalation in a war pitting Israel against its regional adversaries, and Tehran said the strike killed seven military advisers including three senior commanders.

Reuters reporters at the site in the Mezzeh district of Damascus saw emergency workers clambering atop rubble of a destroyed building inside the diplomatic compound, adjacent to the main embassy building. Emergency vehicles were parked outside. An Iranian flag hung from a pole by the debris.

Click to play video: 'Israeli strikes fuel fear conflict is expanding'
Israeli strikes fuel fear conflict is expanding

The Syrian foreign minister and interior minister were both spotted at the scene. “We strongly condemn this atrocious terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed a number of innocents,” Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.

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Israel has long targeted military installations of its arch enemy Iran and those of its proxies in Syria, and has ramped up those strikes in parallel with its campaign against Iran-backed Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Monday’s attack was the first time Israel hit the vast embassy compound itself.

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

Click to play video: 'Hezbollah launches rockets into northern Israel, as fighting escalates'
Hezbollah launches rockets into northern Israel, as fighting escalates

Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, who was not injured, told Iranian state TV that five to seven people, including some diplomats, were killed and that Tehran’s response would be “harsh.”

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a statement that seven military advisers died in the strike including Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in Iran’s elite Quds Force, an overseas arm of the corps.

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Iranian state media said that 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 that Zahedi was a military adviser in Syria who served as the head of the Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016.

Building partly used as ambassador's residence

Citing a military source, Syrian state media said Israel launched an attack from the occupied Golan Heights onto the Iranian embassy, and that Syria shot down some missiles with its air defense system.

The Iranian ambassador said the strike hit a consular building within the embassy compound and his residence was on the top two floors.

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. An Israeli airstrike has destroyed the consular section of Iran’s embassy in Damascus, killing or wounding everyone inside, Syrian state media said Monday. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki).

The White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters at a regular news briefing that the United States remained “concerned about anything that would be escalatory or cause an increase in conflict in the region.”

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Miller said he did not expect it to impact talks on freeing Israeli hostages held by Iran-backed Hamas.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which precipitated the war in Gaza, Israel has escalated airstrikes in Syria against both Iran’s Guards and the Tehran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, both of which support the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

On Friday, Israel carried out its deadliest strikes in months on northern Syria’s Aleppo province and killed a senior Hezbollah fighter in Lebanon. It has also regularly struck the airports in Aleppo and Damascus in an attempt to halt Iran’s weapons transfers to its proxies.

The Israeli military said on Monday it had stopped advanced weapons, including shrapnel charges and anti-tank mines, from being smuggled into the West Bank from Iran.

It said the weapons were uncovered during an operation against a Lebanese-based operative of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which it said was recruiting agents to smuggle weapons and carry out attacks in the West Bank.

The chief spokesman for Israel’s army, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said late Monday that a drone attack on a naval base in southern Israel early Monday was “directed by Iran.” There were no injuries and only minor damage to a building, the army said.

—With additional files from the Associated Press


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