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Multiple people were killed, including a commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), in an Israeli air strike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus on April 1, according to Syrian and Iranian officials, media, and opposition groups, prompting angry threats of retaliation by Iranian officials.

“Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, was martyred in an attack by Zionist regime fighters on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s consulate building in Damascus,” Iranian state TV reported.

Some reports identified Zahedi, 63, as a former commander of the Quds Force, but full details were not immediately available.

A military source told the official Syrian news agency that Israeli missiles were fired from the occupied Golan Heights and that the Syrian air defense system intercepted a number of them, but that some hit the target, leading to “total destruction of the building” and the killing and wounding of “everyone inside.”

Iranian commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi (file photo)

Iranian commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi (file photo)

Iran said, however, that the consulate annex was hit by six missiles fired by F35 fighter jets.

An Israeli military spokesperson did not comment specifically, saying only, “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media.”

The White House said it was aware of the reports. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a daily news briefing that Washington was “concerned about anything that would be escalatory or cause an increase in conflict in the region.”

Iran’s ambassador to Damascus, Hossein Akbar, told Syrian TV that five to seven people were killed in the attack.

The ambassador said he and his family were unhurt, but he vowed that Iran’s response would be “harsh.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, in a phone call that his government holds Israel responsible for the attack and labeled it “a breach of all international conventions,” according to Iranian state TV.

Amir-Abdollahian “stressed the need for a serious response by the international community to such criminal actions,” the report said.

The IRGC later said seven of its members had been killed, including Zahedi and his deputy, Hadi Haji Rahimi.

The Syrian Defense Ministry said in a statement that Israel attacked the consulate building and that “all those present in the building have been killed or injured.” It said rescue crews were evacuating the wounded.

“We strongly condemn this heinous terrorist attack” that resulted in “the martyrdom of a number of innocent people,” Mekdad said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been a close ally of Iran and Russia, relying on their support to remain in power despite major opposition and a civil war in the country.

Tehran has maintained a heavy military presence in Syria, while Israeli has periodically carried out attacks against Iranian-linked sites in the country, often targeting IRGC commanders.

The Iranian state TV report said the Israeli strike was a targeted “assassination” attack on the Quds commander in what is sure to raise tensions in the already tense Middle East region.

The Quds Force is the elite foreign arm of the IRGC and has been declared a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.

The Iranian state TV report also said that several Iranian diplomats had been killed in the attack.

Saudi broadcaster Al-Arabiya reported that “a senior Iranian figure” was the target of the strike.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that “Israeli missiles” had destroyed an annex building of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus and that eight people had been killed.

According to reporters from Reuters at the scene, smoke was rising from the ruins of a building that had been “flattened.” The reporters said an Iranian flag was seen on a pole in front of the rubble and that Syrian and Iranian officials were at the scene.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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