Israeli airstrike destroys Iranian consulate building in Syria, killing seven including two senior military commanders

1 April 2024, 18:54 | Updated: 1 April 2024, 22:15

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday
Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

An Israeli airstrike has destroyed the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing at least seven including two senior military commanders, Syrian state media said Monday.

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The strike appears to signify an escalation of tensions within the Middle East with Israel targeting Iranian military officials and their allies in Syria.

Attacks on Iran's officials have increased since Hamas' October 7 onslaught on Israel. The militant group receive money and weapons from Iran.

Monday's attack killed Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards commander Brig-Gen Mohammad Reza Zahedi, according to Iran state media. Zahdi previously led the Iranian elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016.

It also killed Zahdi's deputy, General Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi, and five other officers.

Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad told the media after meeting Iran's ambassador, Hossein Akbari, that "several" people were killed, without offering further information.

There was no official confirmation from Iran. Israel, which rarely acknowledges such strikes, also said it had no comment on the latest attack in Syria.

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday
Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday. Picture: Alamy

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While Iran's consular building was levelled in the attack, according to Syria's state news agency, Sana, its main embassy building remained intact.

Iran's ambassador, Hossein Akbari, condemned Israel and said as many as seven people were killed.

Emergency crews were still searching for bodies under the rubble. Akbari said two police officers who guard the building were wounded.

He vowed revenge for the strike "at the same magnitude and harshness".

The chief spokesman for Israel's army, Rear Admiral. Daniel Hagari, said on Monday that a drone attack on a naval base in southern Israel early in the day was "directed by Iran".

There were no injuries and only minor damage to a building, the army said.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which is also backed by Iran, accused Israel of seeking to widen the conflict in Gaza.

Syria's foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, said "several" people were killed, and in a phone call with his counterpart in Iran, he condemned Israel.

A spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called on other countries to condemn the strike.

Iranian state television said the Iranian ambassador's residence was inside the consular building, which stood next to the embassy. The main embassy remained intact.

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday
Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday. Picture: Alamy

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years.

Such airstrikes have escalated in recent months against the backdrop of Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and ongoing clashes between Israel's military and Hezbollah on the Lebanon-Israel border.

Though it rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria, Israel has said it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

An Israeli airstrike in a Damascus neighbourhood in December killed a longtime adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria, Seyed Razi Mousavi.

A similar strike on a building in Damascus in January killed at least five Iranian advisers.

Last week, airstrikes over the strategic eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour near the Iraqi border killed an Iranian adviser.

It comes after the IDF said it had withdrawn from the main hospital in Gaza after two weeks, with Palestine residents saying it has been left in "total destruction".

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday
Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday. Picture: Alamy

Israel said that its troops had left the al-Shifa hospital after a raid to kill Palestinian militants, and seize weapons and intelligence documents.

The IDF added that it had carried out its operations "while preventing harm to civilians, patients and medical teams".

Hundreds of people came back to the hospital and the surrounding area after the withdrawal early on Monday.

A resident who had come back to the area said Israeli troops had left "total destruction" when they departed.

Another resident, Yahia Abu Auf, said there were still patients, medical workers and displaced people sheltering inside the medical compound.

He said several patients had been taken to the nearby Ahli Hospital, and that army bulldozers had ploughed over a makeshift cemetery inside the hospital compound.

"The situation is indescribable," he said.

"The occupation destroyed all sense of life here."Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and has raided several medical facilities.

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