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Iranian officials accuse Israel of a deadly attack on Iran's consulate in Syria

Emergency services work at a building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday.  Iran's consulate in Damascus was demolished and two Iranian generals were among those killed, Syrian and Iranian officials said.
Omar Sanadiki
/
AP
Emergency services work at a building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday. Iran's consulate in Damascus was demolished and two Iranian generals were among those killed, Syrian and Iranian officials said.

AMMAN, Jordan — Iran said Monday that Israel killed two of its generals and several others in an airstrike on the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus.

Iranian state media said at least seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite overseas wing, known as the Quds Force, were killed when Israeli F-35s struck the building with six rockets, almost entirely demolishing it. Syrian state media said the airstrike leveled the Iranian embassy annex.

Israel has not yet commented on the airstrike but Israeli media reported that Israel has placed several embassies around the world on heightened alert after Iran publicly blamed Israel and vowed retaliation.

Iranian media identified the top military advisor killed in Monday's airstrike as Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi. His deputy, also a general in the IRGC, and five others were killed in the blast.

Zahedi would be the most senior Iranian commander known to have been assassinated since the war in Gaza began. He was Iran's main go-between with the Lebanese-based armed group Hezbollah, which has been fighting Israel across the Lebanese-Israeli border, and which is also supported by Tehran.

Zahedi was in his 60s and was a commander of the elite Iranian force during the Iran-Iraq war that lasted through much of the 1980s. Iran said he later served as IRGC ground commander and air force commander.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said Monday's attack was a "gross violation of international conventions," which protect diplomatic missions. He vowed Iran would take "necessary action" against the attack.

Iran's state news agency IRNA reported Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdadin a phone callthat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "had completely lost his mental balance due to repeated defeats of the regime in Gaza."

Israel has been waging a military offensive in the Gaza Strip since an October attack on Israel led by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that receives some support from Iran. Israel says the Oct. 7 attack killed 1,200 people.

Israel launched an invasion of Gaza in response to that attack, which has killed more than 32,00 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Since the start of the Gaza war, Israel has escalated airstrikes on Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.

It's one of the developments that many countries have feared could escalate the war in Gaza into a wider conflict.

Iran said at the start of the Gaza war that it had not known in advance of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. It does run a network of armed groups in the region that it backs, arms and to some extent supervises.

While Iran is Shia Muslim and Hamas is a Sunni group, the two have forged ties and are believed to coordinate to some extent regarding Iranian proxy attacks on Israeli targets.

Iran's most powerful affiliated militia is Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has been engaged in fighting with Israel across the two countries' borders since the start of the war, to divert Israeli military resources from the war in Gaza.

So far Iran and Hezbollah have both appeared reluctant to start an all-out war with Israel across that border. But heightened Hezbollah attacks could be one means of retaliation.

Iran also supports a number of Iraqi militia groups that have attacked U.S. troops in the region since that start of the war in Gaza, and killed three U.S. service members in an attack on a small base in Jordan close to the Syrian border in January.

Jane Arraf reported from Amman, Jordan. James Hider reported from Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2024 NPR

James Hider
James Hider is NPR's Middle East editor.
Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.