Iran vows to punish Israel for deadly strike on embassy annex

Smoke rises and an Iranian flag hangs from the ruins of a building close to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria, 1 April 2024
An Iranian flag hangs as smoke rises after what the Iranian media said was an Israeli strike on a building close to the Iranian embassy in Damascus (image: Firas Makdesi/REUTERS)

Iran warned its arch foe Israel on Tuesday that it will retaliate for an air strike that killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals, and destroyed its consular annex building in the Syrian capital.

Israel declined to comment on Monday's strike in Damascus, which fuelled Middle East tensions already inflamed by the Gaza war and violence involving Iran-backed groups in LebanonSyria, Iraq and Yemen.

Iranian state media said 13 people were killed in the strike in which, according to Tehran's ambassador, Israeli F-35 fighter-jets fired six missiles that levelled the five-storey consular building adjacent to the embassy.

The building was reduced to a mountain of rubble by the blasts which blew out windows in nearby buildings and incinerated cars parked on the roadside in a leafy and upscale suburb of the city.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed that Israel "will be punished at the hands of our brave men. We will make them regret this crime and the other ones."

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi condemned the attack as a "clear violation of international regulations" which "will not go unanswered".

"After repeated defeats and failures against the faith and will of the Resistance Front fighters, the Zionist regime has put blind assassinations on its agenda in the struggle to save itself," Raisi said on his office's website.

Syria's ally Russia accused Israel of seeking to "fuel" conflict in the Middle East with the attack, with Moscow's envoy adding at a UN Security Council meeting that Israeli strikes on Syria are "unacceptable".

Iran's mission to the United Nations warned that the strike could "potentially ignite more conflict involving other nations" and called on the Security Council "to condemn this unjustified criminal act".

Iran said the strike killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, including two commanders of its Quds Force foreign operations arm, Brigadier Generals Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi.

Zahedi, 63, had held a succession of commands in the force in a Guards career spanning more than four decades.

State news agency IRNA said the funeral ceremony of the IRGC members will be held on Friday coinciding with the annual Quds Day, which will see Iranian people taking to streets in support of Palestinians and against Israel.

A monitor of the more than decade-old Syrian conflict, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strike killed 14 people, none of them civilians – eight Iranians, one Lebanese and five pro-Iran Syrian fighters.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned "the brutal, filthy attack" in a call to his Iranian counterpart, the Syrian presidency said, blaming Israel for it.

Israel has long fought a shadow war of assassinations and sabotage against Iran and its armed allies, including Lebanon's Hezbollah and other militant groups.

Regional tensions have flared since the Gaza war erupted with Hamas's attack on 7 October that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed nearly 33,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged daily cross-border fire since the war broke out, and Israel has also been blamed for multiple other strikes there and in Syria.

Hamas also described the strike as a "dangerous escalation" in the wider conflict. (AFP)