Reported Israeli airstrike on Damascus kills Iranian commander

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Syrian state media and an Iranian news outlet reported that the slain individual was likely a member of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Expeditionary Force.

ANNOUNCEMENT

An Israeli attack on the Syrian capital on Saturday destroyed a building used by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, killing a commander and one of his deputies, Syrian state media and an Iranian news outlet reported.

Iran’s Student News Network, a hardline outlet close to the Guard’s Basij volunteer branch, said the men were members of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds expeditionary force.

An opposition watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least five people were killed in the rocket attack that struck as officials from Iran-backed groups held a meeting.

Syrian state TV reported that “Israeli aggression” targeted a residential building in the heavily guarded neighborhood of Mazzeh in western Damascus, home to several diplomatic missions. Saturday’s strike also affected the embassies of Venezuela and South Africa.

An official familiar with the situation said the building was being used by Revolutionary Guard officials, adding that “Israeli missiles” destroyed the entire building and that 10 people were killed or injured in the attack. The official belongs to an Iranian-backed group, but asked that his name and affiliation not be used because he is not authorized to speak publicly about security issues.

Security forces deployed around the destroyed four-storey building while ambulances and fire engines were seen in the area. The search for people trapped under the rubble was underway. The windows of nearby buildings were also shattered.

The attack came amid rising tensions in the region as Israel continues its offensive in Gaza. The Israeli assault on the area, one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history, has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, caused widespread destruction and uprooted more than 80% of the 2.3 million people of the territory from their homes.

Last month, an Israeli airstrike on a Damascus suburb killed Iranian Gen. Seyed Razi Mousavi, a longtime adviser to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria. Israel has also targeted Palestinian and Lebanese agents in Syria in recent years.

Iranian and Syrian officials have long acknowledged that Iran has military advisers and experts in Syria, but deny that there are any ground troops. Thousands of fighters from Iranian-backed groups have taken part in the conflict in Syria that began in March 2011, helping to tip the balance of power in President Bashar Assad’s favor.

Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks on targets within government-controlled areas of war-torn Syria in recent years.

Israel rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria but 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.

Earlier this month, an attack said to have been carried out by Israel killed top Hamas commander Saleh Arouri in Beirut.

In recent weeks, rockets have been fired from Syria into northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, raising tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border and attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, supported from Iran.

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