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IRGC claims Erbil missiles targeted ‘Zionist strategic center’ in warning to Israel

Iran’s Guard Corps says Iraq base used by Israel for ‘conspiracy and mischiefs’; attack comes less than week after alleged Israeli airstrike killed 2 IRGC officers in Syria

A damaged building after an overnight attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, March 13, 2022. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP)
A damaged building after an overnight attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, March 13, 2022. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP)

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said Sunday it was responsible for a number of missiles fired overnight that targeted several locations in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil, including what it claimed was an Israeli “strategic center.”

A “strategic center for conspiracy and mischiefs of the Zionists was targeted by powerful precision missiles fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” said a statement on Sepah News, the Guard’s official website.

According to the Guard’s statement, the attack appeared to be in retaliation for the deaths of two IRGC commanders in an alleged Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital Damascus last week.

The Guards had already warned on Tuesday that Israel “will pay for this crime.”

On Sunday, the IRGC said that “once again, we warn the criminal Zionist regime that the repetition of any mischief will face harsh, decisive and destructive responses.”

“We also assure the great nation of Iran that the security and peace of the Islamic homeland is the red line of the Iranian armed forces and they will not allow anyone to threaten or attack it,” it added.

A picture taken on March 13, 2022, shows a view of the damaged studio at the Kurdistan 24 TV building, after an overnight attack in Irbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region (SAFIN HAMED / AFP)

While initial reports indicated that the US consulate in Erbil was damaged in Sunday’s attack, a US official later said there was no damage and no casualties at any US government facility. Iraqi security officials said there were no immediate reports of any casualties from the attack.

An unnamed Iraqi official said the ballistic missiles were fired from Iran, without elaborating. He said the projectiles were the Iranian-made Fateh-110s, likely fired in retaliation for the two Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria last week in an alleged Israeli strike.

A US official also said the missiles were launched from neighboring Iran.

According to the IRGC statement, the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of two IRGC officers in an alleged Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital Damascus last week.

That attack targeted “a weapons and ammunition depot operated by Iran-backed militias near Damascus international airport,” according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog of unclear funding.

The IRGC had vowed revenge for the deaths of officers Ehsan Karbalaipour and Morteza Saidnejad – “a crime committed by the Zionist regime,” the IRGC said at the time.

Israeli security officials were anticipating an Iranian response, considering the high rank of the casualties and their importance, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

While casualties in strikes in Syria attributed to Israel are somewhat common, it is rarer that those killed are Iranian.

The Israeli military has defended airstrikes targeting Iranian targets in Syria as necessary to prevent foe Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.

Sunday’s missile barrage coincided with rising regional tensions. Negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal have hit a “pause” over Russian demands about sanctions targeting Moscow for its war on Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Iran suspended its secret Baghdad-brokered talks aimed at defusing yearslong tensions with regional rival Saudi Arabia, after Saudi Arabia carried out its largest known mass execution in its modern history with over three dozen Shiites killed.

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