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Source: BBC

Apr 1, 2024

Israel accused of deadly strike on Iranian consulate in Syria

By Jeremy Bowen, International Editor, and David Gritten, BBC News in northern Israel and London




At least five people have been killed in an Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate building in Syria's capital, Damascus, Iran's ambassador says.


Senior Revolutionary Guards commander Brig-Gen Mohammad Reza Zahedi was among the dead, according Iranian state TV.


Iran and Syria's foreign ministers condemned the attack, which destroyed the multi-storey building next to the Iranian embassy in the Mezzeh district.


The Israeli military said it did not comment on foreign media reports.


But this can only be seen as a serious escalation.


The Israelis appear to be testing the resolve of the Iranians, and also their allies, Hezbollah, who have already been fighting a war in northern Israel and in Lebanon.


This is a signal from the Israelis that they are serious about increasing the pressure on their enemies, and they are looking at the fact that both Iran and Hezbollah have not been pushing as hard as some might expect.


It is a challenge - they are seeing if Iran and Hezbollah are going to push back.


There will be a response, but it may not be the response people might be expecting. Rather than missiles, it may be some sort of cyber-attack.


Israeli aircraft targeted the consulate building from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights at about 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Monday, Syria's defence ministry said .


Photos and videos from the scene showed smoke and dust rising from the remains of the collapsed building, and emergency services at the scene. The Iranian embassy next door did not appear to have sustained any significant damage.


Iranian state TV reported the death of Brig-Gen Zahedi, whom it identified as a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards' overseas operations arm, the Quds Force.


Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that the 63-year-old served as the senior commander of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon.


Zahedi's aide, Mohammad Hadi Haji-Rahimi, was also killed in the strike, according to Tasnim.


The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria, reported that eight people were killed - a high-ranking leader of the Quds Force, two Iranian advisers and five members of the Revolutionary Guards.


A White House spokeswoman said US President Joe Biden was aware of the reports and that his "team is looking into it".


The Syrian defence ministry said air defences shot down some of the missiles they launched, but others made it through and "destroyed the entire building, killing and injuring everyone inside", the ministry added.


The ministry said work was under way to recover the bodies and rescue the wounded from beneath the rubble, without saying how many casualties there were or naming any of them.


Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said he strongly condemned what he called "this heinous terrorist attack", adding that it had killed "a number of innocent people".


In a telephone conversation with Mr Mekdad, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian described the strike as "a violation of all international obligations and conventions" and "blamed the consequences of this action on the Zionist regime", the Iranian foreign ministry said.


He also "stressed the need for a serious response by the international community".


This attack followed suspected Israeli strikes on Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo last week, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said killed 53 people, including 38 Syrian soldiers and seven members of the Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah.


Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of strikes in recent years on targets in Syria that it says are linked to Iran and allied armed groups which are armed, funded and trained by the Revolutionary Guards.


It has stepped up strikes since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip in October, in response to cross-border rocket, mortar and drone attacks on northern Israel by Iran-backed fighters in Lebanon and Syria.



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