Most senior IRGC figure assassinated since Soleimani

Iran’s top commander in Syria killed in airstrike; Tehran blames Israel, vows revenge

Strike flattens building in Iran embassy compound, killing IRGC’s Mohammad Reza Zahedi; deputy also reported killed; citing Israeli officials, NY Times says Jerusalem behind attack

The site of an alleged Israeli strike that destroyed the Iranian embassy's consular annex, killing Mohammad Reza Zahedi, IRGC Quds Force’s Syria-Lebanon chief, Damascus, Syria, April 1, 2024. (STRINGER/AFPTV/AFP)

Iran accused Israel Monday of carrying out an airstrike on a building next to Iran’s embassy in Damascus that killed seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the top Iranian commander in Syria.

The strike in the Damascus-area municipality of Mezzeh hit a building adjacent to the Iranian embassy, footage showed.

Though Israel has not commented on the strike, The New York Times cited four unnamed Israeli officials as confirming the country was behind the attack.

A Reuters report said a building in the embassy compound was “flattened,” in what it said was “a startling apparent escalation of conflict in the Middle East that would pit Israel against Iran and its allies.” Iran’s SSN news website said the targeted building was Iran’s consulate and ambassador’s residence.

The IRGC in a statement carried by Iranian media announced the deaths of seven members, including its senior-most official in Syria, Mohammad Reza Zahedi, and his deputy Mohammad Haj Rahimi.

Zahedi was a top commander in IRGC’s Quds Force, a US-designated terrorist organization.

He was reportedly responsible for the unit’s operations in Syria and Lebanon, for Iranian militias there, and for ties with Hezbollah, and thus the most senior commander of Iranian forces in the two countries. Israel’s Army Radio said Zahedi oversaw all Iranian terrorist operations against Israel from Syria, Lebanon “and the Palestinian sphere.”

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)

His death was the most significant killing of an IRGC leader since the US assassinated Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in January, 2020.

The IRGC also listed officers Hossein Aminullah, Seyyed Mahdi Jalalati, Mohsen Sadaqat, Ali Agha Babaei, and Seyyed Ali Salehi Rouzbahani among the dead.

IRGC official Mohammad Reza Zahedi, in July 2, 2017. (Ali Khara/Fars Media Corporation, via Wikimedia CC BY 4.0)

Reuters quoted Iran’s ambassador in Syria warning that Iran’s response to the strike would be harsh.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, meanwhile, said in a call with his Syrian counterpart that Tehran holds Israel responsible for the consequences of the attack, Iran’s state media reported.

The strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus is “a breach of all international conventions,” Amirabdollahian added.

Footage from the scene showed that the targeted building had been destroyed in the strike. Next to the rubble, an Iranian flag was seen flying over the Iranian embassy.

Syria’s state-run SANA broadcaster claimed air defense systems had engaged the alleged Israeli attack, downing some of the missiles.

SANA said rescue authorities were working to extract dead and wounded people from under the rubble.

While Israel 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. The Israeli military says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Faced with ongoing attacks by the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group and Shiite militias throughout the Middle East in the wake of Hamas’s brutal October 7 massacre, which sparked the war in Gaza, Israel has escalated its strikes on Iran-linked terror targets in Syria, killing numerous IRGC operatives, as well as members of Hezbollah and other Iranian proxy groups.

In December, senior IRGC officer Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Damascus, drawing Iranian threats of retaliatory action.

Monday’s strike came hours after a drone launched by an Iran-backed militia in Iraq struck an Israeli Navy base in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, causing damage to a hangar.

Meanwhile, shortly after the Damascus strike, the Israeli military announced that IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi approved new operational plans at the Northern Command headquarters in Safed earlier in the day.

The plans “for the continuation of the fighting” were approved during an assessment held by Halevi, the commander of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, and members of the General Staff, the IDF added.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets with members of the General Staff at the Northern Command HQ in Safed, on April 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The meeting also came amid repeated Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel.

The IDF said Monday that it had targeted numerous Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, including a weapons depot and rocket launchers, as the terror group continued its rocket and missile fire at army bases and Israeli communities on the border.

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