RESCUE workers search through the building’s rubble a day after the air strike in Damascus, on Tuesday.—AFP
RESCUE workers search through the building’s rubble a day after the air strike in Damascus, on Tuesday.—AFP

DUBAI: Iran said on Tuesday it would take revenge on Israel for an airstrike that killed two of its generals and five other military advisers at the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, heightening the risk of further escalation in conflict in the Middle East.

The strike marked one of the most significant attacks yet on Iranian interests in Syria, where Israel has stepped up a long-running military campaign against Iran and groups its backs as the Gaza war has rippled around the Middle East.

Until now, Iran has avoided directly entering the fray, while backing allies’ attacks on Israeli and US targets.

Israel has not declared responsibility for the attack which destroyed a consular building adjacent to the main embassy building in the upscale Mezzeh district on Monday night, killing seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Iranian UN mission calls attack ‘violation’ of diplomatic principles

But a senior Israeli government official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said those hit had “been behind many attacks on Israeli and American assets and had plans for additional attacks”.

The embassy “was not a target”, the official said.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed revenge. “The Zionist regime will be punished by the hands of our brave men. We will make it regret this crime and others it has committed,” he said.

Khamenei’s political advisor Ali Shamkhani, in a post on X, said the United States “remains directly responsible whether or not it was aware of the intention to carry out this attack”.

According to Axios, citing a US official, Washington told Tehran it “had no involvement” or advanced knowledge of the Israeli strike.

Iranian state media said the death toll was 13, including six Syrians. Two security sources in Lebanon said at least one member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah was killed in the strike.

Syrian civil defence teams were still working on Tuesday to clear the rubble as ambulances were parked nearby.

Iran’s ambassador to Syria Hos­sein Akbari, who was not wounded in the strike, has said the flattened building housed his residence.

He could be seen exiting the main embassy building on Tuesday with his security guards.

Iran’s UN mission said the attack was a violation of “the foundational principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises”.

Akbari, the ambassador, said it showed total disrespect for international law and both Iran and Syria had the right to respond.

Wafa Badr, a Mezzeh resident, said she was home in the kitchen when she heard an enormous blast.

“I was knocked unconscious for about 10 minutes we were so surprised with what happened. Both our cars are destroyed,” she said.

Iranian state media said Tehran believed the target was Mohammad Reza Zahedi, one of the brigadier generals killed.

Russia called the strike an act of aggression and asked Israel to cease such “absolutely unacceptable” actions.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

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