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Senior Iranian Quds Force general killed in Damascus by alleged Israeli airstrike on Iranian consulate

Expert: Most severe blow against Iran since Soleimani assassination in 2020

An Iranian flag hangs as smoke rises after what the Iranian media said was an Israeli strike on a building close to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria April 1, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Firas Makdesi)

Iranian General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, one of the most senior commanders in the Quds Force, was killed in an airstrike on the Iranian consulate building in Damascus, Syria on Monday, Arabic and Iranian media reported.

Together with Zahedi, at least seven other people, including his deputy and another senior officer, were killed in the explosion that razed the entire consulate which stood adjacent to Iran’s embassy, according to al-Arabiya.

The consulate reportedly served as a headquarters for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) international arm, the Quds Force. At the time of the strike, Zahedi and several others were attending a high-level meeting there.

All victims of the attack were Iranian military personnel, and no diplomatic staff was injured in the strike, Israel’s Army Radio noted.

While Syrian state media accused Israel of carrying out the airstrike, Israeli officials didn’t comment on the allegations at the time of publication.

Shortly after the news was released, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich tweeted a checked-off box without further comment.

Zahedi (63) commanded the Quds Force’s Unit 18000 which led Iranian operations aimed directly at Israel, and kept daily contact with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Channel 12 news reported.

He oversaw the Quds Force operations in the Palestinian arena, as well as in Syria and Lebanon, including smuggling ammunition and precision weapons to Iranian proxy militias.

Zahedi served in the IRGC during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and also commanded the IRGC’s Air Force and Imam Hussein Division in the past. 

Iran’s ambassador in Syria blamed Israel for Zahedi’s death and declared that the Iranian regime's response would be "swift, direct, and harsh." The Syrian foreign minister was spotted inspecting the "flattened" consulate some hours after the strike, Reuters reported.

The Iranian Embassy in Lebanon responded with fury to the airstrike, stating: “This barbaric Israeli aggression is a flagrant violation of international laws, diplomatic norms, and the requirements of the Vienna Convention.”

“If the commander of the Iranian division responsible for Syria and Lebanon is indeed eliminated, this is one of the most important and significant assassinations, perhaps the most important since the assassination of Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force,” wrote Tamir Hayman, a former IDF intelligence chief.

Zahedi, he continued, “is the senior commander on the northern front of the Quds Force, in charge of the activation of Hezbollah and the Shia militias in Syria and in practice the most senior person on the northern front in the event of a war with Israel.”

“If indeed the assassination was carried out in a sovereign Iranian compound - a consulate - this is an important fact. Another important fact: This is a very senior man in the Revolutionary Guards. It seems that Iran is finally paying a price for being behind most of the offensive activity against Israel (including the one we saw this morning in Eilat),” Hayman added.

Zahedi’s elimination follows a string of high-profile killings of Hezbollah commanders across Lebanon and Syria over the past few days. He is also the most senior Iranian military figure to be eliminated since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas last October.

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

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