Suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Syria on Monday in an escalation of Israel’s war against Iran’s regional proxies, flattening a building in a strike Tehran said killed a top Revolutionary Guards commander and several diplomats.

Reuters reporters at the site in the Mezzeh district of Damascus saw emergency workers clambering atop rubble of a destroyed building inside the diplomatic compound, adjacent to the main embassy building. Emergency vehicles were parked outside. An Iranian flag hung from a pole in front of the debris.

The Syrian foreign minister and interior minister were both spotted at the scene.

Israel has long targeted Iranian military installations and those of its proxies in Syria, and has ramped up those strikes in parallel with its campaign against Iran-backed Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Monday’s attack was the first time the vast embassy compound itself had been hit.

Israel typically does not comment about attacks by its forces on Syria. Asked about the strike, an Israeli military spokesperson said: “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media”.

Iran vows harsh response

An Iranian flag hangs as smoke rises after what the Iranian media said was an Israeli strike on a building close to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria April 1, 2024.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

The Iranian ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, who was not injured, said at least five people had been killed in the attack and that Tehran’s response would be “harsh”.

Iranian state media said one of those killed was Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and that Tehran believed he was the target of the attack.

Syrian state media said at least six people were killed and several more were injured.

The White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which precipitated the war in Gaza, Israel has escalated airstrikes in Syria against both Iran’s Guards and the Tehran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, both of which support the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

On Friday, Israel carried out its deadliest strikes in months on northern Syria’s Aleppo province and killed a senior Hezbollah fighter in Lebanon. It has also regularly struck the airports in Aleppo and Damascus in an attempt to halt Iran’s weapons transfers to its proxies.

The Israeli military said on Monday it had stopped advanced weapons, including shrapnel charges and anti-tank mines, from being smuggled into the West Bank from Iran.

It said the weapons were uncovered during an operation against a Lebanese-based operative of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who it said was recruiting agents to smuggle weapons and carry out attacks in the West Bank.

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