Iran says IRCG officer killed in Israeli strike on Syria, vows revenge

An officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike on Damascus shortly after midnight on Friday, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

The report identified the dead officer as Milad Heydari, saying he was a consultant. No rank was given, but the report said he was “martyred” in the attack, which was blamed on Israel. The term is usually given to those killed on official tasks.

The IRGC threatened to avenge the officer’s death in its announcement, according to the report. “Undoubtedly the Zionist regime will find an answer for this crime.”

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported earlier that Syrian air defenses intercepted “hostile missiles” on the capital shortly after midnight, although the “attack” managed to cause material damage. Damascus regularly claims that it is successful in intercepting IDF strikes, but military analysts doubt these assertions.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strikes targeted an arms depot for government forces and Iranian-backed groups just south of Damascus.

Less than 24 hours earlier, SANA said the IAF targeted sites in Damascus, wounding two soldiers and causing material damage.

Screenshot from a video showing an alleged Israeli strike on Damascus, March 31, 2023. (screenshot: Twitter)

As a general rule, the Israeli military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but they have admitted that they have carried out hundreds of sorties against Iranian-backed groups trying to gain a foothold in the country over the past decade.

The IDF says it also attacks weapons shipments believed to be bound for those groups, including Lebanon’s main terrorist organization Hezbollah. In addition, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

The pair of attacks followed two attacks in recent weeks targeting Aleppo International Airport, which were also blamed on Israel. The airport runway was temporarily closed due to damage.

One of the strikes last week targeted an underground ammunition depot at the nearby Nairab military airport, according to two unnamed “regional intelligence sources” who spoke to the Reuters news agency. The sources said the site was used to store missile guidance systems delivered by cargo flights from Iran.

Israel also carried out a rare daytime strike in northwestern Syria earlier in the month, injuring three soldiers and causing damage, SANA reported.

In January, the Syrian army said the Israeli military fired missiles toward Damascus International Airport, temporarily disabling it and killing two soldiers. That attack came amid Israeli fears that the Damascus airport was being used to funnel Iranian weapons into the country.

AP contributed to this report.

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