Raisi: 'Israel to pay'; FM: ‘Tel Aviv faces tough countdown'

Iran vows revenge after senior IRGC officer slain in alleged Israeli strike in Syria

Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi said responsible for coordinating military alliance between Iran and Syria, arming Iranian-backed militias including Hezbollah

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

IRGC officer Razi Mousavi is reported to have been killed in an alleged Israeli strike in Damascus, December 25, 2023. (via Tasnim News Agency)
IRGC officer Razi Mousavi is reported to have been killed in an alleged Israeli strike in Damascus, December 25, 2023. (via Tasnim News Agency)

A senior officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed Monday in an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Syrian capital of Damascus, Iranian media reported.

According to the semi-official Iranian Tasnim news agency, Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi was killed in a strike in the Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeinab.

Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi vowed that Israel “will certainly pay for this crime.”

“Without a doubt, this action is another sign of frustration, helplessness, and incapacity of the usurping Zionist regime in the region,” Raisi said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted that “Tel Aviv faces a tough countdown.”

The Israel Defense Forces’ top spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, declined to comment on the reports during a press conference on Monday evening.

While Israel’s military does not, as a rule, comment on specific strikes in Syria, it has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed terror groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country, over the last decade.

Mousavi was responsible for coordinating the military alliance between Iran and Syria, and was believed by Israel to be heavily involved in Tehran’s efforts to supply weapons to terror proxies in the area, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group.

Hezbollah commented that it regards the killing as a “flagrant and shameless violation, which is off limits,” according to Iran’s state-owned Press TV.

Pro-government media outlets in Syria did not immediately report the strike, unlike other incidents in the past when Damascus has publicly blamed Israel for attacks.

It came as Israel has hit Hezbollah targets in Lebanon as a response to the Iran-backed terror group’s rocket fire at northern Israel that began in October when war erupted between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Tasnim report said Mousavi was “one of the oldest advisers of IRGC in Syria” and close to former IRGC Quds force head, Qassem Soleimani, killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Iraq.

It said there was no information about other injuries in the attack.

Three munitions reportedly hit the compound where Mousavi was located.

In a statement carried by Iranian media, the IRGC confirmed Mousavi was killed near Damascus, and threatened revenge. The IRGC said that “the usurping and barbaric Zionist regime will pay for this crime.”

The al-Jadeed Lebanon outlet reported that Mousavi had lived in Syria for 30 years and had his own office inside the Syrian Defense Ministry.

IRGC officer Razi Mousavi with former IRGC Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani, killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020. (via Tasnim News Agency)

At the beginning of the month, Iran said two IRGC officers were killed in an attack in the area of the Syrian capital, and blamed Israel.

The IRGC said Mohammad Ali Atai Shoorcheh and Panah Taghizadeh were “martyred” while on an advisory mission to Syria, blaming the “Zionists” for their death.

Syria said Israeli airstrikes targeted multiple areas near Damascus on that occasion.

The IDF has carried out hundreds of strikes inside government-controlled parts of war-torn Syria in recent years, often targeting Hezbollah and other terror groups backed by Iran, but it rarely acknowledges or discusses the operations.

An Israeli Air Force fighter jet flies over the border area with south Lebanon, in northern Israel on December 20, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

On October 7, Palestinian terror group Hamas led a massive terror attack from the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,200 people in Israel. Thousands of terrorists who burst through the border also abducted at least 240 who were taken as hostages in Gaza.

Israel launched a military campaign to destroy Hamas, remove it from power in Gaza, and release the hostages.

After the war started, Hezbollah began carrying out attacks along the Lebanese border with Israel, firing at military positions, and communities as well as launching rockets at the north of the country. The attacks prompted Israel to evacuate tens of thousands of people from towns in the line of fire. Israel has hit back at Hezbollah with artillery fire and airstrikes in Lebanon.

Earlier Monday, Hezbollah again fired missiles and rockets at northern Israel.

Several IDF positions along the Lebanon border were targeted, as well as civilian homes in Misgav Am.

There were no reports of injuries in the attacks.

The IDF said its tanks shelled several Hezbollah sites in response to the rocket and missile fire.

AFP contributed to this report.

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