Iran vows deadly suspected Israeli airstrike on its consulate in Damascus “will not go unanswered”

Tehran, Iran — Iran and one of its key proxies vowed Tuesday to respond to a strike widely attributed to Israel that demolished Iran’s consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus and killed seven, including two Iranian generals.

Iran’s state TV reported Tuesday that the country’s Supreme National Security Council, a key decision-making body, met late Monday and decided on a “required” response to the strike. The report said the meeting was chaired by President Ebrahim Raisi, but provided no further details.

The “cowardly crime will not go unanswered,” Raisi said on his office’s website, according to Agence France-Presse.

AFP reports that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on his official website that “Israel will be punished” for the attack.

Emergency and security personnel gather at the site of a strike that hit Iran’s consulate in Sria’s capital Damascus, on April 1, 2024. 

MAHER AL MOUNES / AFP via Getty Images

Israel has repeatedly targeted military officials from Iran, which supports militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza, and along its border with Lebanon. Monday’s strike in Damascus signaled an escalation because it struck an Iranian diplomatic mission.

It wasn’t clear if Iran would respond itself, risking a dangerous confrontation with Israel and its ally the United States, or would continue to rely on proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The airstrike in Syria killed Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who led the elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016, according to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. It also killed Zahedi’s deputy, Gen. Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi, and five other officers.

Hezbollah said Tuesday that Zahedi played a crucial role in helping “develop and advance the work” of the group in Lebanon.

“This crime will certainly not pass without the enemy receiving punishment and revenge,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

Iranians burn Israeli and U.S. flags during a protest at Palestine square in Tehran, on April 1, 2024. An apparent Israeli airstrike destroyed the Iran’s consular annex in Damascus on April 1, Syrian and Iranian officials said, with a top Revolutionary Guard commander among eight reported to have been killed amid worsening regional tensions.

AFP via Getty Images

Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza nearly six months ago, those proxies have stepped up attacks, leading to near daily cross-border exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel, and frequent Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping. Hamas, which rules Gaza and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, is also backed by Iran.

Israel, which rarely acknowledges strikes against Iranian targets, said it had no comment on the latest attack in Syria, although a military spokesman blamed Iran for a drone attack early Monday against a naval base in southern Israel.

Israel has grown increasingly impatient with the daily exchanges of fire with Hezbollah, which have escalated in recent days, and warned of the possibility of a full-fledged war. Houthi rebels have also been launching long-range missiles toward Israel, including on Monday.

Iran’s official news agency IRNA said Tuesday that Iran relayed an important message to the United States late Monday and that it called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The message to Washington was delivered through a Swiss envoy in Tehran; Switzerland looks after U.S. interests in Iran. Washington and Tehran don’t have diplomatic relations.

“Iran reserves its legitimate and inherent right under international law and the United Nations Charter to take a decisive response to such reprehensible acts,” Iran’s mission to the world body said, according to AFP.

IRNA said Iran holds the United States, Israel’s closest ally, responsible for the strike.

The Security Council was to discuss the deadly strike later Tuesday at a meeting requested by Syrian ally Russia, AFP said.

Syria’s defense ministry said “the attack destroyed the entire building, killing and injuring everyone inside,” AFP reported, addilng that the only thing left standing after the attack was the gate building’s gate, with a sign reading “the consular section of the embassy of Iran.” Windows shattered within a 550 yard radius and many parked cars were damaged by the blast.

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