Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

An Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital killed at least 4 Iranian advisers, officials say

Syrian and Iranian officials and media say an Israeli strike on the Syrian capital, Damascus, killed four Iranian advisers with Tehran's Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary Al Quds force

Alberte Aji,Bassem Mroue
Saturday 20 January 2024 12:23 GMT

An Israeli strike on the Syrian capital on Saturday destroyed a building used by the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, killing at least four Iranians, Syrian and Iranian state media reported.

The Syrian army said the building in the tightly guarded western Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh was entirely destroyed, adding that the Israeli air force fired the missiles while flying over Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Israeli military did not comment on the strike.

A few hours later, an Israeli drone strike on a car near the Lebanese southern port city of Tyre killed two people, the state-run National News Agency reported. It was not immediately clear who the target was but such strikes in the past have killed officials from Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group as well as the Palestinian Hamas group.

Nour News, which is believed to be close to Iran’s intelligence apparatus, identified two of the dead in Damascus as Gen. Sadegh Omidzadeh, the intelligence deputy of the guard's expeditionary Quds Force in Syria, and his deputy, who goes by the nom de guerre Hajj Gholam. The guard later issued a statement identifying the dead as Hojjatollah Omidvar, Ali Aghazadeh, Hossein Mohammadi and Saeed Karimi. It gave no ranks for them. The difference in information could not be immediately reconciled.

An opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least six people — five Iranians and a Syrian — were killed in the missile attack that struck while officials from Iran-backed groups were holding a meeting. The Observatory's chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said three of the Iranians were commanders, adding that four other people are still missing under the rubble.

Security forces deployed around the destroyed four-story building as ambulances and fire engines were seen in the area. A search for people trapped under the rubble was underway. Windows were also shattered in nearby buildings.

A grocer near the scene of the strike said he heard five consecutive explosions at about 10:15 a.m., adding that he later witnessed the bodies of a man and a woman being taken away as well as three wounded people.

“The shop shook. I stayed inside for few seconds then went out and saw the smoke billowing from behind the mosque,” the man, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons, told The Associated Press.

“What happened was terrifying. I collapsed,” said Khaled Mawed, who lives nearby.

The strike came amid widening tensions in the region as Israel pushes ahead with its offensive in Gaza. Israel’s assault there, 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 over 80% of the territory’s 2.3 million people from their homes.

Israel launched the offensive after an unprecedented cross-border attack into Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage. Roughly 130 hostages are believed by Israel to remain in Hamas captivity. The war has stoked tensions across the region, threatening to ignite other conflicts.

Last month, an Israeli airstrike on a suburb of Damascus killed Iranian general Seyed Razi Mousavi, a longtime adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria. Israel has also targeted Palestinian and Lebanese operatives in Syria over the past years.

Iranian and Syrian officials have long acknowledged Iran has advisers and military experts in Syria, but denied there were any ground troops. Thousands of fighters from Iran-backed groups took part in Syria's conflict that started in March 2011, helping tip the balance of power in favor of President Bashar Assad.

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

Israel rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria, but it has said that 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, a strike said to be carried out by Israel killed top Hamas commander Saleh Arouri in Beirut.

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

____

Mroue reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in