Iran promises ‘harsh’ response to consulate strike with top commanders among seven killed


Iran’s response to an airstrike on its Syrian consulate – which reportedly killed a senior military commander – will be “harsh”, the country’s ambassador has warned.

Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was reportedly killed in the explosion, which destroyed the Iranian consulate building in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Tehran’s ambassador to Damascus, Hossein Akbari, who was not injured, claimed between five and seven people had been killed in the strike.

He promised the Iranian response would be “harsh”.

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Mohammad Reza Zahedi. Pic: Fars News Agency

Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad also told media after meeting Iran’s ambassador that “several” people were killed, without offering further information.

A Lebanese security source who spoke to Reuters and Iran’s Tasnim news agency claimed the explosion was an Israeli airstrike.

Iran’s foreign ministry also blamed the attack – which it labelled as “abhorrent” and “brutal” – on Israel.

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

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

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

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The death of Mr Zahedi and the destruction of the Iranian consulate is likely to further inflame tensions in the Middle East.

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

A spokesperson for the ministry told Iranian state TV, which first reported Mr Zahedi’s death in the strike, said Tehran would decide on the type of “response and punishment against the aggressor”.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also condemned “the targeting of the Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus”, in a statement released by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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), Mr 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.

He is the most senior leader of the IRGS to be killed since the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020.

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