Syria says several Iranian advisers killed in airstrike near Damascus

Iranian media describes site as an IRGC military advisory facility on outskirts of Syrian capital; war monitor puts toll at seven; no comment from IDF

An explosion seen on the outskirts of Damascus on January 29, 2024, after a strike blamed on Israel. (Social media/X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Syrian state media said on Monday that “a number of Iranian advisers” were killed in an alleged Israeli attack south of the capital, in a rare acknowledgment by Damascus of Iranian casualties in strikes on Syrian territory attributed to Israel.

It also said civilians were killed but did not give a figure for either set of fatalities. Iran’s ambassador to Syria had earlier said there were no Iranian casualties in the strike.

According to a war monitor, seven people were killed in the attack.

Syria’s official state media agency, SANA, citing security officials, blamed the “Zionist enemy” and said several strikes were launched from the Golan Heights toward the Syrian capital.

The Syrian military said in a statement that Israeli missiles were fired hitting “some points south of Damascus.” The statement added that “the aggression left several civilians martyrs and wounded.”

The pro-government Dama Post said the strike hit the area of Sayida Zeinab without providing further details.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition-linked war monitor, put the death toll at seven; however, its figures have sometimes proved unreliable.

“Israeli strikes targeted a base belonging to Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, killing seven people” including pro-Iran fighters, said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the SOHR, raising an earlier toll of six.

According to SOHR, among those killed were four Syrians, one of whom was the bodyguard of a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. It did not give the nationalities of the others and noted that it was unclear whether civilians were among the dead.

A source in Iran’s regional alliance also told Reuters that the strike hit a location used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The semi-official Tasnim news agency described the site as an Iranian military advisory center in Syria.

An official with one of the Iranian-backed groups, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss military activities, told the Associated Press that two Syrian citizens were killed in Monday’s strike. No Hezbollah members were hurt, the official said.

An Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment on the explosions. The IDF rarely comments on alleged strikes in Syria.

The strike is the third in two months blamed on Israel and targeting Iranian infrastructure and officers in Damascus.

On January 20 an alleged Israeli strike on Damascus killed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence chief for Syria and his deputy as well as two other Guards members.

People and rescuers gather in front of a building destroyed in a reported Israeli strike in Damascus on January 20, 2024 (Louai Beshara / AFP)

In December, senior IRGC officer Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Damascus, drawing Iranian threats of retaliatory action.

Recent weeks have also seen several alleged sorties carried out against sites in Syria as part of Israel’s ongoing efforts to prevent Iran from supplying arms to its proxy Hezbollah, which has stepped up attacks on northern Israel over the past several months amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

Since October 8, a day after the deadly Hamas attacks on southern Israel, the Hezbollah terror group has engaged in cross-border fire on a near-daily basis, launching rockets, drones and missiles at northern Israel in a campaign it says is in support of Hamas.

The attacks forced most residents with several kilometers of the border to evacuate. Israel has responded with its own regular strikes on Hezbollah targets, and has warned it will not be able to tolerate the terrorists’ continued presence on the border.

The Iran-backed terror group Hamas launched a massive onslaught on October 7, killing approximately 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapping 253, mostly civilians, amid horrendous acts of brutality and sexual assault.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas, launching a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza aimed at destroying the group’s military and governance capabilities.

Iran, which supports Hamas both financially and militarily, has hailed the devastating October 7 attacks as a “success” but denied any direct involvement.

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