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Source: NY Times

Apr 5, 2024

Iran Vows Revenge at Funeral for Commanders Killed in Israeli Airstrike

On Monday, Israel conducted an airstrike on a building that is part of the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, Syria, killing three generals and four other officers

By Farnaz Fassihi

Iran vowed to avenge Israel’s killing of senior commanders and other officers of its elite Quds Force, at a public funeral held on Friday for the dead men, but left open how it would retaliate and when.

“Our brave men will punish the Zionist regime,” General Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, told the crowd attending the funeral in Tehran. “We warn that no act by any enemy against our holy system will go unanswered and the art of the Iranian nation is to break the power of empires.”

On Monday, Israel conducted an airstrike on a building that is part of the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, Syria, killing three generals and four other officers of the Quds Force.

The force, an arm of the Revolutionary Guards, conducts military and intelligence operations outside Iran, often working closely with allies that are sworn enemies of Israel and the United States, including Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas.

Iran’s president, Ibrahim Raisi, and the commander in chief of the Quds Force, General Ismail Ghaani — who was dressed in civilian black clothes and not in uniform — marched with the crowd of mourners in Tehran on Friday, state media footage showed.

Also present were leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that took part in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault on Israel, and the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, one of the Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq.

The coffins of the slain men, draped with the flag of Iran and placed on the back of trucks adorned with flowers and green leaves, slowly snaked their way along a long road in downtown Tehran where thousands of people had gathered.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, delivered a video speech that was broadcast in Iran and in Lebanon during the funeral. He said that a response from Iran could come at any time — possibly in a day, or maybe in a month — because Iran was in no hurry.

“Be certain that the Iranian response to the targeting in Damascus is inevitably coming,” Mr. Nasrallah said.

The night before, the coffins were taken to the residential compound of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and laid in an open hall where he performed the Muslim prayer for the dead over the coffins.

Mr. Khamenei typically does such honors for very close associates and senior officials who have been declared “martyrs” because they were killed by Israel or the United States.

The funeral coincided with the annual rally for Quds Day, a day of solidarity with Palestinians that is held on the last Friday of Ramadan in many Muslim countries. The crowd chanted, “Death to Israel,” and “Death to America,” and waved the Palestinian flag. In one part, videos on state media showed, an angry crowd stomped on an effigy of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Quds Day rally, celebrated in many cities across Iran, draws families with children and usually has a carnival atmosphere. But this year the event appeared to be more somber, overshadowed by the funeral, the heightened tensions with Israel and fears that a response from Iran for the strike could spark a war between the two countries.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

Farnaz Fassihi is a reporter for The New York Times based in New York. Previously she was a senior writer and war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal for 17 years based in the Middle East. More about Farnaz Fassihi

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