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'Rare opportunity' - killed Iranian commander arrived in Damascus the day before meeting

Iranian officials fear an intelligence leak, not seeking escalation with Israel

An ambulance is parked outside the Iranian embassy after a suspected Israeli strike on Monday on Iran's consulate, adjacent to the main Iranian embassy building, which Iran said had killed seven military personnel including two key figures in the Quds Force, in the Syrian capital Damascus, April 2, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Firas Makdesi)

According to a report in Reuters, Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander who was killed in an airstrike in Damascus on Monday, arrived in Syria the day before the attack. 

Iran has blamed Israel for the attack and threatened retaliation. An anonymous Iranian official told Reuters that Iran feels compelled to respond, but the country is not looking for an escalation, but rather deterrence. 

Zahedi was the highest-ranking IRGC officer to be killed since 2020 when U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the strike that took out Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.

The precise manner of the strike, which took out Zahedi and those accompanying him, without killing the Iranian ambassador to Syria, indicates knowledge of Zahedi’s whereabouts and schedule. 

Tehran is reportedly concerned about a security breach and an Iranian security source told Reuters that Iran is investigating a possible leak about Zahedi’s movements to sources in Israel. 

An Israeli source refused to confirm if the strike was an IDF operation but told Reuters it was a “rare opportunity” to target several senior Iranian officials. 

“Whoever did this clearly did not want to pass up what appears to have been a very, very rare opportunity,” he said. “That's not something a country at war would pass up.” 

Reuters reported that a Syrian military intelligence officer told them the area around the Iranian embassy had seen Israeli intelligence activity area recently.  

Strengthening the case that the attack came from Israel, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs revealed on Thursday that Zahedi had an active role in planning the Oct. 7 attack. 

According to the research institute, the Council of the Union of Islamic Revolutionary Forces, a media outlet affiliated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, recently issued a statement praising Zahedi for his role in “the establishment and strengthening of the resistance front, and in planning and executing the attack on October 7.” 

Hamas also confirmed Zahedi’s participation in the attack. which Hamas calls 'Al-Aqsa Flood,' releasing a statement that said that he played “a great role in building the resistance front against Israel over many years, and played a central role in the campaign of the Al-Aqsa Flood.”

On Wednesday night, Khamenei threatened that “Tel Aviv supporters should know that Iran's harsh response to this bloody crime is on the way. God willing, the response will influence the future equations of the region.”  

While the attack drew condemnation from the United Nations and the European Union, an Israeli official told Reuters the identities of those who were eliminated amounted to “an admission that a diplomatic mission in a third-party country is being used as a military headquarters.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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