Senior Iran Revolutionary Guard officials killed in Syria strike blamed on Israelon January 20, 2024 at 12:40 pm

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The Revolutionary Guard blames Israel for the strike in the Syrian capital which killed four senior advisers.

People and security forces gather in front of a building destroyed in an explosion in Damascus on SaturdayImage source, Getty Images

Four senior members of Iran’s security forces have been killed in a suspected air strike on the Syrian capital.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard blamed Israel for the attack, which it said killed four military advisers as well as a number of Syrian forces.

Israel has not commented. For years it has carried out strikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria.

Such strikes have intensified since the Israel-Gaza war began following Hamas’s 7 October attacks on Israel.

Senior figures among the Revolutionary Guard – a major military, political and economic force in Iran – have been present in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011, helping to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against widespread rebellion to his rule.

Saturday’s attack is understood to have taken place in the Mazzeh neighbourhood, south-west Damascus, an area home to a military airport, as well as the UN headquarters in Damascus, embassies and restaurants.

A resident told AFP news agency that they saw “explosions” in the western Mazzeh area and “a large cloud of smoke”.

“The sound was similar to a missile explosion, and minutes later I heard the sound of ambulances,” he added.

Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency said the attacks killed the IRGC’s Syria intelligence chief, his deputy, as well as two other Guard members.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency quoted a military source saying it had managed to stop some of the missiles, but that the attacks had killed some people, and “injured a number of civilians”. Buildings were also destroyed, it said.

Videos, which the BBC has not verified, showed a large cloud of smoke and buildings destroyed.

Last month a suspected Israeli air strike just outside Damascus killed a senior IRGC commander.

The Middle East has been on heightened alert since 7 October, when Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel, killing around 1,300 people, mainly civilians, and taking 240 hostages back to Gaza. More than 132 hostages are thought to still be held in the territory.

More than 24,900 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its military response, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says its ground and air operation in Gaza is aimed at destroying Hamas.

The conflict has raised concerns about a wider war spreading around the region, particularly between fierce rivals Israel and Iran, and amid a series of overlapping crises.

Israel is targeting the Palestinian group Hamas, which is supported by Tehran. It is also exchanging fire with Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria are also targeting US forces in the region, and the US and UK have struck the Houthis – another Iran-backed group – in Yemen, who have been attacking ships in the Red Sea.

Fears about an even wider conflict were further heightened this week, when Iran exchanged strikes with its neighbour Pakistan.

On Tuesday, Iran admitted carrying out a missile and drone attack in south-western Pakistan, killing two children, saying it was targeting an “Iranian terrorist group” in Pakistan.

Days later, Islamabad hit back, launching strikes it said were targeting “terrorist hideouts” in south-eastern Iran, killing nine people.

Although both sides insisted they were targeting militant bases in each other’s countries, Iran and Pakistan withdrew their ambassadors from the respective capitals.

But following talks, diplomatic ties were restored.

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