7 Iranians now said killed in attack attributed to Israel
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7 Iranians now said killed in attack attributed to Israel

Bodies of military officials killed in strike on Syria air base, among them a Revolutionary Guard colonel, arrive in Iran for burial

Illustrative. An Israeli F-15 fighter jet. (Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)
Illustrative. An Israeli F-15 fighter jet. (Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)

A media outlet affiliated with the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Tuesday raised the Iranian death toll in an airstrike in Syria blamed on Israel to seven, up from the four military officials previously reported.

One of those killed was named Monday as a colonel in the air force of the IRGC, an elite military force that answers directly to Iran’s supreme leader.

The Tasnim News Agency also reported that the bodies of those killed were returned to Iran on Tuesday from Syria.

Tehran on Monday accused Israel of “flagrant” aggression in Syria. It condemned “strongly the aggression and the airstrike by the Zionist regime” against the T-4 airbase in Homs, Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry called on “all free states… to not be indifferent to this flagrant Zionist aggression,” adding that the airstrike further complicated the situation in the war-torn country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the country’s conflict, said 14 were killed, among them both Syrian army officers and Iranian security personnel.

Tehran, along with Moscow, is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main ally, and has played an important role in his recent victories.

NBC News quoted two US officials as saying that Israel had carried out the strike, adding that Washington was informed in advance. The Syrian regime and Moscow also blamed Israel for Monday’s strike.

The Israeli army has refused to comment.

Israel is believed to have carried out numerous raids inside Syria since 2013, targeting the regime and its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.

Iran has deployed thousands of fighters to Syria, presented as “volunteers” from Afghanistan and Pakistan and trained locally by Iranian “military advisers.”

Iran does not recognize the existence of Israel, which views Tehran as an existential threat and regularly denounces Tehran’s support for Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group on Israel’s northern border.

Israel has also regularly expressed its concern about the Iranian presence in Syria, fearing the long-term establishment of hostile forces in the neighboring country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a security cabinet tour of the IDF’s installations on the Golan Heights, February 6, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel will hit anyone who intends to harm the country, appearing to indirectly refer to the predawn missile strike.

Israel conducted an airstrike against the T-4 base two months before Monday’s strike on it, after an Iranian operator working out of it flew an Iranian-made drone into Israeli territory, according to the army.

“Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement at the time.

Construction Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF major general and a member of Israel’s security cabinet, would not comment directly on the attack on Monday, but reiterated the “red lines” that Jerusalem considers grounds for launching strikes.

“In Syria, many forces, from various bodies and coalitions, are operating. Each one says what it says and denies what it denies,” he told Israel Radio. “We have clear interests in Syria and we set red lines. We will not allow weapons to pass from Syria to Lebanon, and we will not allow the establishment of an Iranian base.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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