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Iran's consulate in Syria destroyed by suspected Israeli airstrike, several killed

Iranian and Syrian media reported that several people, including diplomats and Iranian commander, were killed in the strike. Israel has repeatedly attacked Iranian targets in Syria in the course of its nearly six-month-long war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Damascus Updated on: April 01, 2024 22:32 IST
Syria, Iranian consulate, Israeli airstrike
Image Source : REUTERS Smoke rises from the consulate of Iran's embassy in Syria.

Damascus: Iran's consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus was destroyed in a suspected Israeli airstrike, as claimed by Syrian and Iranian media, in an apparent escalation of the conflict in the Middle East that is likely to pit Israel against Iran and its allies. Iranian media claimed several diplomats from Tehran were killed, while Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was confirmed dead by a Lebanese security source.

Zahedi previously led the Iranian elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016. Meanwhile, smoke was seen coming from the rubble of a building that had been flattened, and emergency vehicles parked outside, according to Reuters. An Iranian flag hung from a pole in front of the debris. Israel, which has repeatedly hit Iranian targets during the six-month war in Gaza, declined to comment on the incident, following its usual practice. However, Israeli media said that instead of the Iranian embassy, a nearby building serving as IRGC military headquarters was bombed in Damascus, without claiming responsibility.

The Syrian defence ministry said Israeli aircraft targeted the consulate building from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights, BBC reported. Syrian air defences shot down some of the missiles they launched, but other missiles made it through and "destroyed the entire building, killing and injuring everyone inside", the ministry said.

According to the state-run SANA news agency, the building in the tightly guarded neighbourhood of Mazzeh was levelled. First responders were searching for bodies under the rubble. There have been various reports on the number of people killed. The Britain-based opposition war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike killed at least eight people.

Iran's Tasnim news agency said five people were killed in the Israeli strike. Syria's SANA state news agency reported an unspecified number of deaths and injuries. Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the media after meeting Iran's ambassador, Hossein Akbari, that “several” people were killed, without further information.

Such airstrikes have escalated in recent months against the backdrop of Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and ongoing clashes between Israel's military and Hezbollah on the Lebanon-Israel border. Though it rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria, Israel has said it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.


Previous attacks by Israel on Syria

Earlier in January, an Israeli missile strike on Syria's capital Damascus killed four members of Iran's IRGC, including the head of the force's information unit in Syria, according to a security source in the region's pro-Syria alliance. Syrian state media said an alleged Israeli attack had targeted a building in the Mazzeh neighbourhood of Damascus, without giving further details. 

Other local media in Syria reported explosions heard across the Syrian capital. The security source said the multi-storey building was used by Iranian advisers supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and was entirely flattened by "precision-targeted Israeli missiles".

Earlier that month, Iran raised tensions after attacking an "Israeli spy headquarters" in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region as well as targeting the bases of Islamic State in Syria. "In response to the recent atrocities of the Zionist regime, causing the killing of commanders of the Guards and the Axis of Resistance ... one of the main Mossad espionage headquarters in Iraq's Kurdistan region was destroyed with ballistic missiles," the Guards said in a statement, in retaliation for Mousavi's death.

Iran's involvement has threatened a spillover of the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East, with attacks from Hezbollah on Israel and Yemen-based Houthis on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Both groups are financially backed by Iran, drawing strong condemnation from the United States, Iran's staunch rival and Israel's closest ally. Iran and its proxies share the goal of halting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, and driving US troops out of the region once and for all. Beyond that, they have their own local interests.

(with inputs from agencies)

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