Iran promises ‘harsh’ response to strike on consulate in Syria – with top commanders among seven killed

Iran promises ‘harsh’ response to strike on consulate in Syria – with top commanders among seven killed
  • PublishedApril 2, 2024

Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, a deputy commander, were killed in the strike.

Iran has blamed Israel for a deadly air strike on its consulate in Syria, in which two of its senior military commanders were killed.

Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds Force, died in the explosion, which destroyed the Iranian consulate building in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, a deputy commander in the Quds Force, was also killed, along with five other officers, according to the IRGC.

They are the most senior leaders of the force to be killed since the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020.

Damascus map

The IRGC blamed Israel for the strike, as did Iran’s foreign ministry, which labelled it an “abhorrent” and “brutal” attack.

Tehran’s ambassador to Damascus, Hossein Akbari, who was not injured in the strike, promised the Iranian response would be “harsh”.

Israel declined to comment on the incident. The White House also did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. An Israeli airstrike has destroyed the consular section of Iran's embassy in Damascus, killing or wounding everyone inside, Syrian state media said Monday. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)

Image:Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria. Pic: AP

The deaths of the two commanders and the destruction of the Iranian consulate are likely to further inflame tensions in the Middle East.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, called the strike “a breach of all international conventions”.

A spokesperson for the ministry told Iranian state TV that Tehran would decide on the type of “response and punishment against the aggressor”.

Syria’s foreign minister Faisal Mekdad, who later attended the scene, said his country “strongly condemns this atrocious
terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed a number of innocents”.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan also condemned the attack, while Hamas – which is backed by Iran – said it condemned the strike “in the strongest terms”.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad walks with Iran's ambassador in Damascus Hossein Akbari, near a damaged site after what the Iranian media said was an Israeli strike on a building close to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria April 1, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
Image:Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad walks with Iran’s ambassador in Damascus Hossein Akbari following the strike. Pic: Reuters

Who is Mohammad Reza Zahedi?

A top commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Guardsman Brigadier General Zahedi was a leading figure in its elite Quds Force – a unit specialising in military intelligence and unconventional warfare.

He was a mid-ranking commander during the Iran-Iraq war, having joined the IRGC two years after the revolution of 1979.

Having previously served as a commander in the Revolutionary Guard’s ground forces, he served as the head of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon until 2015.

According to the IRGC-affiliated Sabereen News, Guardsman Brigadier General Haji Rahimi was one of Mr Zahedi’s deputies.

He earlier served as the deputy commander of the IRGC Quds Force for coordination but was recently sent to Syria upon his own request to serve as Mr Zahedi’s deputy.


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