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Israeli airstrike destroys Iran's consular building in Damascus, killing senior Iranian military adviser and several others, says Syrian media

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo / Omar Sanadiki) Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo / Omar Sanadiki)
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DAMASCUS, Syria -

An Israeli airstrike destroyed the consular section of Iran's embassy in Syria, killing a senior Iranian military adviser and several others, Syrian officials and state media said Monday.

The strike appears to signify an escalation of Israel's targeting of Iranian military officials and their allies in Syria, which have intensified since Hamas militants -- who are supported by Iran -- attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel, which rarely acknowledges such strikes, said it had no comment.

The attack killed Iranian military adviser Gen. Ali Reza Zahdi, who led the elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016, according to the Iranian Arabic-language state television channel Al-Alam and pan-Arab television station Al-Mayadeen, which has reporters in Syria.

Iranian Ambassador Hossein Akbari condemned Israel and said as many as seven people were killed. First responders were still searching for bodies under the rubble. Akbari said two police officers who guard the building were wounded.

He vowed revenge for the strike "at the same magnitude and harshness."

Charles Lister, director of the Syria program of the Washington-based Middle East Institute think tank, called the strike a "major escalation." The attack is sure to draw retaliation, he wrote on the social media platform X.

Syria's foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, said "several" people were killed, and a phone call with his counterpart in Iran, he condemned Israel.

A spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called on the global community to condemn the strike. Iranian state television said the Iranian ambassador's residence was inside the consular building, which stood next to the embassy. The main embassy remained intact.

State news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military source, said the building in the tightly guarded neighbourhood of Mazzeh was leveled.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years.

Such airstrikes have escalated in recent months against the backdrop of Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and ongoing clashes between Israel's military and Hezbollah on the Lebanon-Israel border.

Though it rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria, Israel has said it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

An Israeli airstrike in a Damascus neighbourhood in December killed a longtime adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria, Seyed Razi Mousavi. A similar strike on a building in Damascus in January killed at least five Iranian advisers. Last week, airstrikes over the strategic eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour near the Iraqi border killed an Iranian adviser.

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Chehayeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington, contributed to this report.

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