Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps blamed Israel on Wednesday for the killing of a senior aerospace officer near Damascus and vowed to avenge the death.
Colonel Davoud Jafari, an adviser from the IRGC’s aerospace division, was “martyred by the Zionist agents with a roadside bomb” near the Syrian capital overnight, the Corps said in a statement.
The statement warned that Israel will answer for the “crime.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor with questionable veracity and unclear funding, said Jafari was a drone and air defense expert. The group claimed that he was killed along with his Syrian guard when a roadside bomb struck their car in the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab.
The bodyguard was killed instantly while Jafari was taken to a nearby hospital and succumbed to his wounds shortly afterward, said the Observatory’s chief Rami Abdurrahman.
An official with an Iran-backed group confirmed to The Associated Press that Jafari was struck by a roadside bomb near the Damascus International Airport, south of the capital. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was speaking about security affairs in Syria, said the bomb was planted to release the pressure in the direction of the car.
A photo of the alleged attack seen by the AP showed Jafari’s car riddled with metal pebbles and its windshields blown out.
Iran has been a major supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad during the country’s 11-year civil war and has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters from around the region to fight alongside his forces.
Dozens of Iranian forces have been killed in the war, though Tehran has long said it plays only a military advisory role in Syria.
Israeli officials have said in the past that they will work on preventing Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, especially in the country’s south near the border.
Israel has also vowed to prevent Iran from supplying advanced weapons and technology to Iran-allied terror groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
It has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
The killing in Damascus came amid increased tensions in a shadow war that has been playing out between Iran and Israel for several years.
Last week an Iranian drone hit an oil tanker associated with an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman, the latest in several such incidents in which Israel-linked ships were targeted.
Meanwhile, Syria accused Israel of carrying out an airstrike on its territory over the weekend that killed four soldiers, amid a series of strikes in the region alleged to hit supply chains and other key targets of interest to Israel.