Iran vows revenge on Israel after Damascus strike kills 5 Revolutionary Guard members

Pointing finger at Jerusalem, President Raisi says Tehran ‘will not leave the Zionist regime’s crimes unanswered’; Hamas condemns ‘heinous crime’

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

Iran on Saturday accused Israel of a strike in Damascus that killed five Revolutionary Guards members, the latest attack on the Islamic Republic’s personnel abroad, and vowed to avenge it.

Israel has been accused of intensifying strikes targeting senior Iranian and allied figures in Syria and Lebanon who are backers of the Hamas terror group, raising fears that the Gaza conflict could expand further throughout the region.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) confirmed it lost five members in the strike that it blamed on Israel, updating an earlier toll from four.

Hamas condemned what it called a “heinous crime.”

The strike was a “desperate attempt to spread instability in region,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani in remarks reported by state media. “Iran… reserves its right to respond to the organized terrorism of the fake Zionist regime at the appropriate time and place.”

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi vowed to punish Israel too.

“The Islamic Republic will not leave the Zionist regime’s crimes unanswered,” Raisi said in a statement, state broadcaster IRIB said.

This handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on January 5, 2024, shows Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi speaking in the southern city of Kerman (Iranian Presidency / AFP)

Quoting an informed source, Iran’s Mehr news agency said “the Revolutionary Guards’ Syria intel chief” and his deputy were among those “martyred in the attack on Syria by Israel.”

Mehr later quoted the IRGC as saying a fifth member wounded in the strike had died.

The Guards’ Sepah news agency blamed the attack on the “evil and criminal Zionist regime,” and named four of those killed as Hojatollah Omidvar, Ali Aghazadeh, Hossein Mohammadi and Saeed Karimi.

Nour News, which is believed to be close to Iran’s intelligence apparatus, identified the dead intelligence chief as Gen. Sadegh Omidzadeh,

The mid-morning strike, which sent a large plume of smoke skyward, was also reported by Syrian state media. Official news agency SANA said a residential building in Mazzeh had been targeted in what it called “an Israeli aggression.”

The defense ministry said the strike killed “a number of civilians.”

An AFP journalist said the building had been reduced to debris.

It was cordoned off, and ambulances, firefighters and Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams were on site as rescuers searched for survivors.

“I heard the explosion clearly in the western Mazzeh area, and I saw a large cloud of smoke,” one resident told AFP, requesting anonymity over security concerns. “The sound was similar to a missile explosion, and minutes later I heard the sound of ambulances.”

Asked about the strike, the Israeli military told AFP: “We do not comment on reports from the foreign media.”

Security and emergency personnel remove a damaged car from the vicinity of a building destroyed in a reported Israeli strike in Damascus on January 20, 2024 (Louai BESHARA / AFP)

During more than a decade of civil war in Syria, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes, primarily targeting Iran-backed forces as well as Syrian army positions.

But such attacks have intensified since the war between Israel and Hamas, which like Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror organization is an ally of Iran, began on October 7.

An official with an Iran-backed group in the Middle East told The Associated Press that the building was used by Revolutionary Guard officials, adding that the “Israeli missiles” destroyed the whole building.

A security source, part of a network of groups close to Syria’s government and its major ally Iran, said the multi-story building was used by Iranian advisers supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, and that it was entirely flattened by “precision-targeted Israeli missiles.”

A spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad said that no members of the terror group were wounded in the strike, following reports that some were at the bombed-out building. Unsourced Hebrew and Arabic media reports had initially said that PIJ deputy Akram al-Ajouri had also been killed in the strike.

A grocer near the scene of the strike said he heard five consecutive explosions at about 10:15 a.m., adding that he later witnessed the bodies of a man and a woman being taken away as well as three wounded people.

“The shop shook. I stayed inside for few seconds then went out and saw the smoke billowing from behind the mosque,” said the man, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons.

The alleged Israeli strike came days after Iran fired missiles at what it said were Israeli “spy headquarters” in an upscale neighborhood near the sprawling US Consulate compound in Erbil, the seat of Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Last month, 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 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.

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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