Iran vows to 'punish' Israel over strike on Damascus embassy compound

Israeli Defence Minister says his army would 'act everywhere, every day to prevent the force build-up of our enemies'

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Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi vowed on Tuesday to retaliate and "punish" Israel over the strike against Tehran's embassy compound in Syria as the Gaza war spillover continues to expand across the region.

The attack on Monday evening in Damascus killed at least 14 people. Senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, including the head of the Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria, Mohammad Reza Zahedi, were among the dead.

“The evil regime will be punished by the hands of our brave warriors. We will make them regret this crime and the like by God’s grace,” Iranian state media quoted Mr Khamenei as saying.

Mr Raisi said Israel "has put blind assassinations on its agenda in the struggle to save itself,” describing the strike as a “cowardly crime that will not go unanswered”.

While Israel did not officially acknowledge responsibility for the attack, an army spokesman said the embassy compound, in the central Mezzeh area of Damascus, was a military site “disguised” as a diplomatic site.

“According to our intelligence, this is no consulate and this is no embassy,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told CNN. “I repeat, this is no consulate and this is no embassy. This is a military building of Quds forces disguised as a civilian building in Damascus.”

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel would “act everywhere, every day to prevent the force build-up of our enemies”, adding that Israel is making it “clear to everyone who acts against us, all over the Middle East, that the price for acting against Israel will be a heavy price”.

Tehran's Supreme National Security Council met late on Monday to discuss the attack and decided on a response, state TV reported, without providing further details.

Meanwhile, the regime's supporters in the capital held protests against Israel and the US, burning flags and brandishing photos of the dead.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah warned Israel that the killing of two Iranian generals in Damascus will not go unpunished.

“This crime will not pass without the enemy being punished,” Hezbollah said on Tuesday, in reference to Israel. The powerful Lebanese armed group and political party has engaged in near-daily exchanges of cross-border fire with Israel since October 8.

Iran's Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, chaired by Mr Raisi, also hit out at Israel and its closest ally, Washington, over the strike. Israel, with US backing, “has committed so many crimes in Gaza that history will not forget”, it said in a statement carried by state news agency Irna, praising Gazans for “fierce resistance”.

“This criminal act is against all international legal standards,” it added, saying Iran reserves “the right to answer to this shameless crime”.

The strike is the most significant attack against an Iranian target since the Gaza war began and risks pulling Iran into a direct confrontation with Israel.

Israeli air strike hits Iranian consulate in Syria

Israeli air strike hits Iranian consulate in Syria

It also raises concerns about further aggression on other fronts against Israel, including from Iran-backed groups in Yemen and Lebanon.

A source close to Iran's allies in the region said that the US "knows the gravity of what Israel did and that it should expect that Iran carries out some kind of response. Washington already fears the possibility of the collapse of the Iraqi truce that has been in place since last February".

Last month, Iraqi militias backed by Iran halted their attacks against US forces in the region in the context of an “unannounced truce” that involves Tehran and the Iraqi government, sources in Lebanon and Iraq told The National. Indirect talks between the US and Iran have attempted to build on thatin Iraq to expand it across conflict-hit areas of the Middle East.

Mondays' strike is one of several suspected Israeli attacks on Syria since the war in Gaza began on October 7, and comes just days after dozens of regime soldiers and Iran-backed fighters were killed near Aleppo.

The main facility hit in Aleppo comprises Soviet-era production lines of weapons and is thought to be undergoing modernisation by the IRGC, sources told The National on Tuesday.

The site produces heavy mortar rounds, munition for tanks and ballistic missiles, according to the sources.

Updated: April 02, 2024, 4:01 PM