Russia Voices Outrage As Death Toll Rises To 11 After Israeli Attack On Iran's Damascus Embassy

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Apr 01, 2024 - 10:38 PM

Update(1838ET): Monitors cited in AFP report the death toll from Monday's Israeli air strike on the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus has risen to 11. "The death toll from the Israeli strikes on the Iranian embassy annex has risen to 11: eight Iranians, two Syrians and one Lebanese -- all of them fighters, none of them civilians," AFP quoted the war monitor as saying.

Regional and international reaction came hours later, with Lebanese Hezbollah -- a close ally of Iran -- vowing that Israel will be "punished" for the attack. As we detailed earlier (below), several top IRGC commanders were killed in the strike at a moment a high-level military meeting was taking place.

Russia's Foreign Ministry reacted as follows: "We strongly condemn this attack on the Iranian consular office in Syria. We consider any attacks on diplomatic and consular facilities, the inviolability of which is guaranteed by the relevant Vienna Conventions, to be categorically unacceptable."

However, Russia has by and large taken a back seat when it comes to responding to Israeli attacks on Syria. Israeli aircraft typically fire on Syria from over nearby Lebanese airspace, but Syrians have increasingly wondered why Moscow doesn't use its significant anti-air systems parked in the region to defend against such attacks on its ally the Assad government. But Russia and Israel apparently reached a status quo deal years ago, which allow for the Israeli raids as long as they are ostensibly targeting 'Iranian assets'. 

Among the slain in Monday's attack was Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a top commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), who reportedly oversaw Quds Forces operations in Syria and Lebanon. Clearly Israeli's intelligence capabilities are significant regarding Iranian movements and operations inside Syria, given Israel clearly knew the where and when of the top level meeting.

Abou Mahdi Zahedi, Iran’s top general in Syria and Lebanon, has been confirmed killed by Iranian state sources.

A strike like this -- against an embassy which is supposed to be 'protected' by international diplomatic norms upheld by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations -- is somewhat unprecedented and so marks a massive escalation by Israel. 

David Asher, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and former senior State Department official under the Trump administration had this to say in terms of what's likely to come next:

"This is a huge strike against Iran’s Qods Force. Expect to see Iranian missile retaliation directly against Israel. Things are moving beyond proxy war into direct conflict. Crude prices should make a decisive move higher on macro risk," he told ZeroHedge.

Others are currently speculating that Israel may be trying to provoke a war with Iran to get the US directly involved on its side. The Hezbollah situation along Israel's northern border continues to be at crisis levels, given that an estimated 80,000 Israeli citizens remain evacuated from their homes. 

Recent months have seen Israeli officials float a bold plan for a US-enforced 'buffer zone' which would remove Hezbollah from near the Israeli border. While the plan calls for an international peacekeeping force, those troops would essentially become an occupying force in the eyes of Hezbollah and the Iranians. But Israel likely perceives that it needs full Washington support and military backing if it were to pursue a final 'end all' battle with Hezbollah, which would certainly collapse all of Lebanon into chaos and crisis. Without doubt, the Netanyahu coalition government wants to see regime change in Tehran as well.

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Update(1450ET): Tehran is vowing a "harsh" response to the Israeli attack on its embassy and consulate earlier in the day, which killed at least five to eight people, reportedly including IRGC leaders. Iran's foreign minister slammed it as "a violation of all international obligations and conventions" while the Syrian government denounced it as a "terrorist attack". 

Iran's Ambassador to Syria Hossein Akbari was not injured in the attack, which appeared to have occurred at the moment a high level meeting was taking place. Iranian state media has since confirmed the death of Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the elite Quds Force of the IRGC. There are further indicators that two more top IRGC commanders may be among the slain...

"Tasnim reported that Zahedi’s deputy was also killed in the strike," regional media further confirms.

Depending on Iran's response, this could be the start of an all-out regional war. For months now, Iranian-made ballistic missiles and drones have rained down on Israel, fired by Iran's proxies in Lebanon and Yemen. This new brazen Israeli attack on Iran's embassy takes things into uncharted territory, and also opens up the potential for the Iranians to target Israeli embassies abroad.

The annex or consular building next to the embassy in Mezzeh district was flattened in the strike...

Via Reuters

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There are emerging reports and accompanying video confirmation that an Israeli airstrike destroyed part of the complex of the Iranian embassy in the Syrian capital on Monday.

Syrian state media is also reporting that Israel conducted a rare daytime strike in the vicinity of the Iranian embassy in Damascus. Video shows that the entire front of the embassy complex and drive along with a side annex building have been destroyed. 

However, the embassy building itself is standing and appears to have not been directly struck in the attack. Regional reports say an annex of the main embassy was taken out.

This may have been a targeted strike on a top Iranian security official, given Reuters is now reporting that the strikes killed the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria, Mohammad Reza Zahedi...


Below is local footage showing a row of vehicles on fire in the attack aftermath:

Amid unverified early reports, a regional monitor has said the death toll is at eight killed in the strikes on the Iran embassy annex in Damascus.

According to Israeli media, the attack occurred during a meeting of top-level officials:

Initial reports citing Iranian media say senior IRGC official Mohammad Reza Zahedi was killed in the alleged Israeli strike. 

The strike occurred during a meeting involving senior regional figures, adding a layer of complexity to the incident. New images released by Syrian media outlets depict the aftermath of the airstrike, revealing significant damage to the targeted building and its surroundings.

Reuters cites Iran’s SSN news website, which alleges that the Israeli airstrike specifically targeted Iran’s consulate and ambassador’s residence in Damascus.

Earlier on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed damage to Eilat navy base on the Red Sea, in what appeared to be an unprecedented targeted drone launch by Iran-backed Iraqi militia.

Oil prices are already reacting to this increased geopolitical tension...

This was a very high risk strike also given the Iranian embassy is right next door to the Canadian embassy. 

The Mezzeh area of Damascus is also lined with restaurants, malls, and bars — and also is home to an important military airport and some key government facilities.

There's a lot of daily foot traffic at the Iranian embassy too, given that Damascus has long been a Shia pilgrimage spot and sees a constant influx of Iranian visitors.

An Al Jazeera correspondent, Zeina Khodr, has highlighted international law and norms regarding banning aggression against countries' sovereign diplomatic sites in the following...

"Killing of top Iran Quds Force commander in Damascus is a major blow … but Iranian media says bldg destroyed was part of Iranian consulate - Israel hit a diplomatic mission which should enjoy immunity - Israel has crossed red lines - how will Iran react?"

This now opens up the possibility that Tehran could strike back at Israel's embassies and consulates abroad, in yet more worrying and unpredictable escalation.

Moon of Alabama writes, "Israeli officials in embassies around the world will now be forced to limit their movements in the general public as they are the most likely targets of revenge strikes."