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Iranian Commander Killed in Consulate Air Strike in Syria

By Nigar Bayramli April 2, 2024

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The photo shows a view of the Consular Section of the Iranian Embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus which came under a missile attack on April 1, 2024. / Tasnim News Agency

The Iranian consulate building in Damascus, Syria, was destroyed in a suspected Israeli air strike, which killed seven people including a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander.

The strikes, carried out by the Israeli forces, targeted the consular section of the Iranian Embassy in Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus on the evening of April 1, Syria's official news agency SANA reported.

Commander of IRGC’s Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon Brig-Gen Mohammad Reza Zahedi, his deputy Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, and five other IRGC officials were killed in the attack.

Iran's Ambassador to Damascus Hossein Akbari confirmed the reports, saying that Israeli fighter jets fired six missiles from the Golan Heights that hit the consulate building.

Meanwhile, Israel rejected the Iranian claims, saying: “The building does not belong to the Iranian embassy in Damascus. It was a military building that was used by the Quds Force”.

The Quds Force, an external arm of the IRGC, is primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and covert operations. Zahedi is the most senior IRGC officer who has been killed since the assassination of the commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani by the US in a drone attack in Baghdad in January 2020.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon, condemned the Israeli attack, saying: "This new crime of the Zionist enemy will not go unanswered, retaliation awaits Israel."

In a statement on April 2, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi described the Israeli missile attack “as a terrorist crime and a gross violation of international regulations”.

“The Zionists' crime will not go unanswered,” the president said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanani termed the attack as a "blatant violation" of international conventions. “The international community and the UN must condemn it in the strongest terms and take a necessary measure in response to the aggressor," he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a post on X that “an important message has been sent to the US government as the sponsor of the Zionist regime. The US must be answerable”.

An official of the Embassy of Switzerland, which represents the interests of the US in Iran, was summoned by the Iranian foreign ministry following the attack.

Meanwhile, a National Security Council spokesperson said that the US "had no involvement in the (Israeli) strike and we did not know about it ahead of time."

In the hours after the strike, several drone attacks were launched from Syria into Israel and were intercepted by Israeli Defense Forces’ air defense systems.

A US defense official said a one-way attack drone was detected and destroyed by US forces at Al-Tanf Garrison in Syria several hours after the strike in Damascus. In addition, Israeli media reported on April 1 that a drone launch caused minor damage to a navy base in the southern port city of Eilat.

Iranian military forces deployed in Syria since the beginning of the country's civil war have frequently been hit by Israel. Iran also reportedly tries to integrate their proxies into the Syrian army to establish a long-term influence in Syria’s military and security sectors.

However, Tehran denies maintaining a military presence in Syria and refers to its troops as "military advisers". In addition, in July 2020, Iran and Syria signed a comprehensive agreement to enhance their cooperation in the military and defense sectors.