Four Iranian security members killed in suspected Israeli strike

Despite Iran’s accusations, Israel has not confirmed or denied its involvement.

A suspected Israeli air strike on the Syrian capital has claimed the lives of four senior members of Iran’s security forces, along with several Syrian troops.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a powerful branch of Iran’s armed forces, accused Israel of being behind the attack, which occurred on Saturday in the Mazzeh district of Damascus.

Israel has not confirmed or denied its involvement. It has repeatedly targeted Iranian-affiliated sites in Syria over the years, as part of its efforts to counter Iran’s influence and presence in the region.

The frequency and intensity of such strikes have increased since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war, triggered by Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October.

The IRGC has been actively supporting the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the civil war in 2011, sending military advisers, fighters and weapons to help him quell the opposition forces.

According to Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency, the victims of the strike included the IRGC’s intelligence chief in Syria, his deputy, and two other members of the corps.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that 10 people were killed in total, among them senior IRGC commanders.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency cited a military source as saying that some of the missiles were intercepted, but that the attack damaged a residential building and caused casualties among civilians. It also said that several buildings were demolished by the strike.

A witness told AFP news agency that he saw “explosions” and “a large cloud of smoke” in the western part of the Mazzeh area.

He said he heard a sound similar to a missile blast, followed by the sound of ambulances a few minutes later.

Videos circulated on social media, which could not be verified by the BBC, showed a thick plume of smoke and rubble.

This was not the first time that an Israeli strike killed a high-ranking IRGC official in Syria. In December, a strike near Damascus airport killed a senior adviser to the IRGC who was in charge of coordinating military activities between Syria and Iran.

The Middle East has been on edge since 7 October, when Hamas launched a large-scale assault on southern Israel, killing about 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and taking 240 hostages to Gaza. It is believed that more than 132 hostages are still in captivity.

More than 24,900 people have lost their lives in Gaza as a result of Israel’s military campaign, which aims to eradicate Hamas, according to the health ministry run by the Palestinian group. Israel says its ground and air operation in Gaza is necessary to defend itself from Hamas’s attacks.

The conflict has sparked fears of a wider regional war, especially between arch-enemies Israel and Iran, and in the midst of multiple overlapping crises.

Israel is fighting against Hamas, which receives support from Iran. It is also engaged in clashes with Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia in Lebanon.

Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have also been attacking US forces in the region, while the US and UK have launched strikes on the Houthis, another Iran-aligned group, in Yemen, in response to their attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

The situation became more tense this week, when Iran and Pakistan exchanged fire across their border.

On Tuesday, Iran acknowledged that it had carried out a missile and drone attack in south-western Pakistan, killing two children, and said it was targeting an “Iranian terrorist group” based in Pakistan.

Pakistan retaliated on Thursday, launching strikes on what it said were “terrorist hideouts” in south-eastern Iran, killing nine people.

Both countries claimed they were only targeting militants on each other’s territory, but they also recalled their ambassadors from the respective capitals.

However, after holding talks, they restored their diplomatic relations.

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