Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vowed revenge against the United States and Israel on Friday after Qassem Soleimani, one of its top commanders, was killed by an American strike in Baghdad.
“We remind enemies of the Islamic Ummah, especially [the] terrorist government of America and the fake Zionist regime, that General Soleimani was not one individual but a never-ending school and belief,” the IRGC said in a statement quoted by the Mehr news agency.
It also threatened the US strike would “open a new chapter in the path of anti-Zionism resistance and fighting occupying American terrorists in the region.”
A spokesman for the IRGC also warned US “joy” over Soleimani’s death would turn into mourning.
“Our determination to take revenge against the US and Zionism will be strengthened,” Gen. Ramezan Sharif said, according to the Tasnim news agency.
Soleimani headed the Quds Force, which is responsible for the IRGC’s operations overseas.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said it had reached a decision on how to respond, but wasn’t saying what the decision is.
The council’s brief statement after a special session Friday says it investigated “the different aspects of this incident and it is announcing that the United States of America is responsible for all consequences of this criminal adventure.”
“America should know that its criminal attack on General Soleimani has been the country’s biggest mistake in west Asia, and America will not avoid the consequences of this wrong calculation easily,” the Supreme National Security Council said in a statement.
“These criminals will face severe vengeance… in the right place and time,” it added
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council formulates the country’s military and nuclear program strategy. However, any matter of state is finally decided by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Lebanon and Gaza
His death was mourned by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers, terror groups opposed to Israel and which were heavily supported by Iran.
Hezbollah has more than 100,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel, while Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza have thousands more.
Iran’s state television reported 10 people were killed in the US airstrike Friday morning and five of them were members of the Revolutionary Guard.
In addition to Soleimani, the report named another general, a colonel, a major and a captain with the guard.
The IRGC said five members of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force with close ties to Iran, were also killed, including its deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The US said the airstrike was carried out to disrupt an “imminent” attack orchestrated by Soleimani.
Following Soleimani’s killing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to Greece and returned to Israel amid concerns Iran could exact revenge on the Jewish state for the US strike on the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. He had been visiting the country to sign a major deal for a gas pipeline.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called a situation assessment with the heads of the defense establishment at military headquarters in Tel Aviv. There were no immediate details from that meeting.
An Israeli ski resort near the Syrian border that was the site of a previous missile attack was closed to visitors due to concerns of a possible attack. The Israel Defense Forces said it had ordered the Mount Hermon Ski resort in the Golan Heights shuttered for the day “in light of a situational assessment.”
Hebrew media reported that the Foreign Ministry decided to up security at Israeli embassies and missions around the world. And the body responsible for the Chabad Jewish outreach movement’s emissaries asked representatives all around the world to upgrade their security alertness for fear of Iranian revenge attacks.
Netanyahu had earlier instructed ministers not to give interviews on Soleimani’s assassination. But lawmakers from across the political spectrum praised the US strike, including the prime minister.
Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the US after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the “international face of resistance.” Khamenei declared three days of public mourning and appointed Maj. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani’s deputy, to replace him as head of the Quds Force.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the killing a “heinous crime” and vowed his country would “take revenge.”
The targeted strike, and any retaliation by Iran, could ignite a conflict that engulfs the whole region, endangering U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria and beyond. Over the last two decades, Soleimani had assembled a network of heavily armed allies stretching all the way to southern Lebanon, on Israel’s doorstep.
The Defense Department said it killed the 62-year-old Soleimani because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It also accused Soleimani of approving the orchestrated violent protests at the US embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.