Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has vowed revenge for the deaths of two of its members in an alleged Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday, according to Iranian media reports.
“Guard colonels Ehsan Karbalaipour and Morteza Saidnejad were martyred — a crime committed by the Zionist regime during a rocket attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, yesterday morning,” said a statement issued on the IRGC website on Tuesday evening.
Israel, it said, “will pay for this crime.”
While casualties in strikes attributed to Israel are somewhat common, it is far rarer that those killed are Iranian operatives.
Initial reports by the Syrian Arab News Agency SANA indicated that the casualties were Syrian civilians.
However, IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency later identified the two IRGC fighters as the casualties in the Israeli offensive, confirming a previous report by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
#BREAKING: #Iran's media & pro IRGC Telegram accounts announced today that two defenders of the shrine were killed after strikes yesterday by #Israel on Damascus. https://t.co/fOWSWupE5h pic.twitter.com/cKuQPayiNu
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) March 8, 2022
The war monitor said the strikes killed two pro-Iran militiamen and wounded six others, adding that it could not confirm civilian fatalities.
The target of the strikes was “a weapons and ammunition depot operated by Iran-backed militias near Damascus international airport,” the report said, rejecting SANA’s report that stated that the airstrike had destroyed a marble factory.
According to the Observatory, Israel has carried out raids in Syria at least seven times so far this year.
Last month, Israeli raids near the capital killed two Syrian soldiers and four Iran-backed militiamen, the Observatory said.
Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside the country, targeting government positions as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters of Lebanon’s Shiite terror group Hezbollah.
While Israel rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria, it has acknowledged mounting hundreds of them since 2011.
The Israeli military has defended them as necessary to prevent foe Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.
Israel relies on coordination with Moscow to carry out airstrikes in Syria, which has placed Israel in a sensitive position in regard to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Jerusalem and Moscow have in recent years maintained a so-called deconfliction mechanism that works to prevent Israeli and Russian forces from clashing in Syria. Russia is a main player backing the Syrian government in a grinding civil war, while Israel has waged a years-long campaign of airstrikes aimed at pro-Iranian fighters located there and at preventing the transfer of Iranian-supplied weaponry.
Last week, the Russian embassy in Israel said that military coordination with Israel in Syria will continue, even as the two countries spar over the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.