Iran says Israel bombs its embassy in Syria, kills commanders

On Monday, suspected Israeli warplanes attacked the Iranian embassy in Syria. Iran claimed that seven military advisers were killed, including three senior officers. This marked a significant escalation of Israel’s conflict with its regional enemies.

Reuters journalists at the scene in the Mezzeh District of Damascus witnessed emergency workers clambering atop the rubble of a damaged building within the diplomatic compound adjacent to the main Iranian embassy. Outside, emergency vehicles were parked. A pole with an Iranian flag was positioned near the debris.

“We condemn this horrific terrorist attack which targeted the Iranian Consulate building in Damascus, and killed many innocents,” said Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal Mkdad. He was also seen on the scene with Syria’s Interior Minister.

The Iranian ambassador in Syria confirmed that the strike was directed at a consular office within the compound of the embassy and his residence is located on the upper two floors.

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Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps released a statement stating that seven Iranian military advisors were killed in the attack, including Mohammad Reza Zahedi. Zahedi was a senior commander of its Quds force, an elite foreign intelligence and paramilitary unit.

Israel has targeted Iran’s military bases in Syria, as well as those of its proxy forces. But Monday’s strike was the first time Israel had attacked the embassy itself.

The Israelis have increased the number of strikes against Hamas in Gaza, a group backed by Iran that started the war on Oct. 7, when it attacked Israel and killed 1,200 people.

According to Palestinian health officials, Israel’s offensive against Gaza has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians.

Israel’s military has intensified airstrikes against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. Both groups support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Israel does not usually discuss its attacks on Syria. When asked about the strike, a spokesperson for the Israeli military said: “We don’t comment on reports in foreign media”.

The New York Times quoted four Israeli officials who refused to be named as admitting that Israel was responsible for the attack.

Iran’s U.N. Mission described the strike as “a flagrant violation of United Nations Charter and international law and the fundamental principle of inviolability of diplomatic premises and consular premises.”

The Iranian mission said the strike was a “significant threat to regional security and peace,” and urged the U.N. Security Council condemn the attack. It also stated that Tehran reserved the “right to take a definitive response.”

Hezbollah – the Lebanese militia group viewed as Iran’s strongest proxy in the Middle East – has vowed retaliation. The group stated that “this crime will not be forgotten without the enemy being punished and retaliated.”

As well as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Oman, Pakistan also condemned the attack.

Hossein Akbari (Iran’s ambassador in Syria), who was not injured, had earlier told Iranian state TV five to seven people were killed, including diplomats. Tehran would respond “harshly”.

According to the Iranian state media, Tehran believes that Zahedi is the target. Along with him, four other people were killed.

Al Alam Television in Arabic Language in Iran reported that Zahedi served as a military advisor in Syria and was the leader of the Quds Forces in Lebanon, Syria and until 2016.

TENSIONS REGIONALES

Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said Washington was “concerned” about any action that could escalate conflict or increase tensions in the region. However, he did not anticipate the strike would affect the talks to free Israeli hostages taken by Hamas.

Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian stated on Tuesday that a Swiss diplomat who represents U.S. interest in the country had been summoned to Tehran in order to stress Washington’s responsibility in the attack.

“A message of importance was sent to the American Government as a supporter for the Zionist regime” (Israel). Amirabdollahian wrote in a blog post that America must answer.

Axios, citing an official from the United States, reported that Washington had told Tehran “that it was not involved” in or aware of Israel’s strike.

Analysts are divided on whether the attack at the Iranian Embassy compound will spark greater violence.

Jon Alterman, a Washington-based think tank called CSIS, said that the attack likely reflected Israel’s conviction that such strikes were deterrents, and made a wider war less likely.

He said that the Israelis were convinced that by avoiding action, their enemies would grow in number and not lessen. “They’re convinced that as long they keep doing this, their enemies will be deterred.”

Steven Cook, a Washington-based analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, sees potential for an escalation.

He said that the IRGC could loosen restrictions on proxies operating in Iraq and Syria. This would put American forces at risk again. Hezbollah could be directed by the Iranians to intensify its attacks against Israel. These attacks have become more bold and numerous.