Khamenei: 'The evil Zionist regime will be punished'

Iran and Hezbollah vow ‘punishment and revenge’ for strike that killed IRGC generals

Tehran and its Lebanon-based proxy blame Israel for attack in Damascus that killed Quds force leaders; US reportedly tells Iran it had ‘no involvement’ or prior knowledge

Iranians burn Israeli and US flags during a protest in Tehran, April 1, 2024. (Mostafa Dadkhah/AFPTV/AFP)

Iran and Hezbollah vowed Tuesday to respond to a strike widely attributed to Israel that demolished Tehran’s consulate in Damascus and killed seven people, including two generals from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated terrorist organization.

Iran’s state TV reported Tuesday that the country’s Supreme National Security Council, a key decision-making body, met late Monday and decided on a “required” response to the strike. The report said the meeting was chaired by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, but provided no further details.

In an online statement, Raisi blamed Israel for the attack, saying the “cowardly crime will not go unanswered.”

“After repeated defeats and failures against the faith and will of the Resistance Front fighters, the Zionist regime has put blind assassinations on its agenda in the struggle to save itself,” his statement added.

“The evil Zionist regime will be punished at the hands of our brave men. We will make them regret this crime and the other ones,” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a message published on his official website.

It was not clear if Iran would respond itself, risking a dangerous confrontation with Israel and its ally the United States, or if it would continue to rely on proxies, including the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

While Israel does not, as a rule, comment on specific strikes in Syria, it has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed terror groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country over the last decade. The Israel Defense Forces says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Emergency and security personnel search the rubble at the site of strikes which hit a building annexed to the Iranian embassy in Syria’s capital Damascus, on April 1, 2024. (LOUAI BESHARA/ AFP)

The airstrike in Syria killed Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who led the Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Lebanon and Syria. It also killed Zahedi’s deputy, Gen. Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi, and five other officers.

Zahedi was reportedly responsible for the IRGC’s operations in Syria and Lebanon, for Iranian militias there, and for ties with Hezbollah, and thus the most senior commander of Iranian forces in the two countries.

IRGC official Mohammad Reza Zahedi, in July 2, 2017. (Ali Khara/Fars Media Corporation, via Wikimedia CC BY 4.0)

Hezbollah said Tuesday that Zahedi played a crucial role in helping “develop and advance the work” of the group in Lebanon. “This crime will certainly not pass without the enemy receiving punishment and revenge,” the terror group said in a statement.

Israel said it had no comment on the attack in Syria, although a military spokesman blamed Iran for a drone attack early Monday against a naval base in Eilat in southern Israel.

Faced with ongoing attacks by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Shiite militias throughout the Middle East in the wake of Hamas’s brutal October 7 massacre, which sparked the war in Gaza, Israel has escalated its strikes on Iran-linked terror targets in Syria, killing numerous IRGC operatives, as well as members of Hezbollah and other Iranian proxy groups.

Israel has grown increasingly impatient with the daily exchanges of fire with Hezbollah, which have escalated in recent days, and warned of the possibility of a full-fledged war. Houthi rebels have also been launching long-range missiles toward Israel, including on Monday.

Iranian protesters chant slogans as they hold up posters of the late Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone attack in 2020, during an anti-Israeli gathering to condemn killing members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Syria, at the Felestin (Palestine) Sq. in downtown Tehran, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s official news agency IRNA said Tuesday that Iran relayed an important message to the United States late Monday and that it called for a meeting of the UN Security Council. The message to Washington was delivered through a Swiss envoy in Tehran; Switzerland looks after US interests in Iran.

IRNA said Iran holds the United States responsible for the strike, though Axios reported Tuesday that the US had told Tehran that it “had no involvement” in or prior knowledge of the attack on the consulate in Syria. A senior US official quoted in the report said the message had been “communicated directly” to Iran.

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