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Tehran has said the killing of its military advisers in an alleged Israeli missile strike in Syria will not go unpunished as tensions rise due to the war in Gaza and attacks by Iran and its proxies in the region.
Syrian authorities said the Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus, the location of foreign embassies, including Iran’s, was targeted on Saturday morning by an Israeli-launched air attack from the Golan Heights.
The dead included Hojjatollah Omidvar whom Iran’s semi-official Student News Network described as a deputy chief of the Quds Force intelligence unit in Syria. It is one of Tehran’s five branches of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unit in charge of foreign operations.
The IRGC said the four others killed were military advisers Ali Aghazadeh, Hossein Mohammadi, Saeed Karimi and Mohammad Amin Samadi, who were in the country at the invitation of the Syrian government.
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani told reporters that the “usurping Zionist regime’s crimes against the Iranian government have never gone and won’t go unpunished,” semi-official state news agency Tasnim reported. Kanaani added that Tehran will respond in its own way and accused the Israeli government of acting in contradiction to peace.
Newsweek has contacted the Israeli government for comment about the threat made by Tehran. Israel has previously said it does not comment on international media reports about alleged attacks it conducts.
However, Kanaani’s warning comes as fear grows that the war between Israel and Iranian-backed Hamas, which followed the militants’ October 7 attack on southern Israel, will spill over throughout the region.
There have been Iranian attacks on Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, which one Middle East expert said showed a different approach by Tehran to projecting power in the region.
“These attacks raise interesting questions about Iran’s strategy and don’t align with its usual sophistication and calculation,” former Israeli Intelligence Official and regional analyst Avi Melamed told Newsweek in emailed comments. “In the immediate days following the strikes, they’ve all thus far shown to create more liability than benefit.”
Last week, Iran said it had struck militants in Pakistan, but Islamabad responded by attacking Iranian territory after an angry diplomatic response. Melamed noted it was significant that Islamabad’s action was “the first openly credited attack on Iran’s soil by a sovereign military in years.”
Iran also targeted Iraq in what Tehran said was aimed to taking out a spy base for Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Baghdad summoned Tehran’s ambassador in anger over the violation of national sovereignty.
“Iran’s attacks into these nations contributes to the growing international understanding that it is an aggressive, dangerous and unstable state using violence to achieve its objectives,” said Melamed.
“It also diverts attention from Gaza more towards Iran’s regional aggression both directly and through its proxies like the Houthis,” he added.
This month, the U.S. and the U.K. struck targets in Yemen after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had launched attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. This prompted an angry response from Tehran, whose envoy to the UN, Amir Saeid Iravani, previously told Newsweek it amounted to a “declaration of war against the Yemeni people.”
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