Updated Apr 1, 2024 - World

Top Iranian general killed by Israeli airstrike

Emergency and security personnel gather at the site of strikes which hit a building adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Syria's capital Damascus, on April 1, 2024.

Emergency and security personnel gather at the site of strikes that hit a building adjacent to the Iranian Embassy in Syria's capital Damascus, on April 1. Photo: Maher Al-Mounes/AFP via Getty Images

An Israeli airstrike killed a top Iranian general as it targeted a building near the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, two sources familiar told Axios.

The big picture: This is a major blow to Iran, as Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi was the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon.

  • The general was the key Iranian military official in charge of relations with Hezbollah in Lebanon and the pro-Iranian militias in Syria. 
  • According to Iranian media, five other IRGC officials were killed in the strike, including Zahedi's deputy, Gen. Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian accused Israel of Zahedi's assassination and stressed that Israel will be responsible for the consequences.

Between the lines: The incident is likely to escalate the shadow war between Iran and Israel that has been intensifying in recent years.

State of play: Iran's ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, said Israeli fighter jets fired six missiles from the Golan Heights that hit the consulate building.

  • He said he was in his office at the embassy when the strike took place.
  • "The Zionist regime has acted against international laws, which will result in our decisive response," he said.
  • Iranian media reported the building was used as the Iranian Embassy's consular section and the ambassador's residence.

Flashback: This is the first time Israel has attacked an Iranian diplomatic building.

  • Zahedi is the most senior IRGC officer who has been killed since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. in January 2020.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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