Iran accuses US of giving Israel ‘green light’ for consulate attack

8 April 2024, 19:14

Syria Iran Tensions
Syria Iran Tensions. Picture: PA

The strike on its consulate building in Syria killed seven Iranian military officials including two generals.

Iran’s foreign minister on Monday accused the United States of giving Israel the “green light” for a strike on its consulate building in Syria that killed seven Iranian military officials including two generals.

Hossein Amirabdollahian reiterated Tehran’s vows that it will respond to the attack, widely blamed on Israel, that appeared to signify an escalation of Israel’s targeting of military officials from Iran, which supports militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza, and along its border with Lebanon.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in an address Monday reiterated the Iran-backed group’s support for a Tehran military response to the attack that killed General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior military official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, and worsened fears of the war spiralling into the rest of the Middle East.

Since the war in Gaza began six months ago, clashes have increased between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Hamas, which rules Gaza and attacked Israel on October 7, is also backed by Iran, as well as an umbrella group of Iraqi militias targeting US military bases and positions in Syria and Iraq.

Though Israel has regularly conducted strikes targeting Iranian military officials and allies, Gen Zahedi’s death was the most significant blow for Tehran since a US drone targeted and killed Quds Force chief General Qassim Soleimani in 2020 in Baghdad.

“I’d like to say with a very loud voice from here in Damascus that America has a responsibility in what happened and must be held responsible,” Mr Amirabdollahian told reporters in Damascus during a visit where he met his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, who condemned both the strike and Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Mr Amirabdollahian also met President Bashar Assad, with whom he discussed Gaza and the wider situation in the region, a statement from Mr Assad’s office said.

The Iranian foreign minister, who earlier that day inaugurated the opening of a new consular section in a nearby building, justified his claims by saying that Washington and “two European countries” did not condemn the attack on the diplomatic building.

Syria Iran Tensions
Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad, right, speaks to Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian during a joint press conference in Damascus, Syria (Omar Sanadiki/AP)

The Biden administration has insisted that it had no advance knowledge of the airstrike. Washington is Israel’s vital military ally.

Israel, which rarely acknowledges strikes against Iranian targets, said it had no comment on the strike in the Syrian capital. However, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said last week that the US has assessed Israel was responsible.

Initially after the strikes, Iranian state media said Gen Zahedi led the Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016.

Then, in a public address Monday, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah said Gen Zahedi was a key figure for the Lebanese group, and had three four-year stints in the tiny Mediterranean country.

Nasrallah, like Syria, and other key allies of Tehran, have said they remain committed to backing Iran.

“It’s a natural right for Iran. It’s natural for the Islamic Republic to conduct this response (to the consulate attack),” Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah said Gen Zahedi’s first involvement was until 2002, overseeing Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, and helping Hezbollah scale up. Gen Zahedi’s second term covered some of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s uprising turned civil war, where Tehran and Russia played a key role in backing Mr Assad against opposition forces. Gen Zahedi’s final stint began in 2020 and ended when he was killed.

Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops have clashed along the tense Lebanon-Israel border since October 8, the day after the Hamas attack on southern Israel.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli airstrikes over southern Lebanon killed Ali Ahmad Hussein, an elite commander of Hezbollah’s secretive Radwan Force. Hezbollah announced Hussein’s death, but did not give any details on the circumstances or his role with the group in line with how it makes public the deaths of its members.

By Press Association

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