An Israeli attack in Syria yesterday killed an officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Guards said, as the second strike near Damascus in two days pointed to intensifying Israeli efforts to counter Tehran’s foothold in the country.
“The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has announced the martyrdom of guardsman Milad Haydari, one of the IRGC’s military advisers and officers”, in the Israeli attack, the IRGC said in a statement reported by Iranian media. The Guards vowed to respond, saying the “criminal attack” on the outskirts of Damascus at dawn would not go “unanswered”, the semi-official Iranian news outlet Tasnim reported.
The air strike was the sixth attack by Israel in Syria this month, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Israel has for years carried out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran’s influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar Al Assad in the civil war that began in 2011.
Iran says its officers serve in an advisory role in Syria at the invitation of Damascus. Dozens of IRGC members including senior officers have been killed in Syria during the war.
Syrian state media said that Israel had attacked just after midnight, firing missiles that hit a site in the Damascus countryside. Syrian air defences had shot down a number of missiles, it said, without mentioning any casualties.
Iranian-backed groups, including Lebanon’s heavily armed Hizbollah, and Iraqi paramilitary groups have positions around the capital and in Syria’s north, east and south.
“This is a very dangerous stage, the risks are very high and we should expect more to come,” said Hamidreza Azizi, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.
“The risk of escalation between Iran and Israel in Syria is higher than any time in the past few months, even possibly years,” he said.
The violence underlined the possibility of further tensions in Syria even as some of the Middle Eastern states that have vied for influence there move to improve ties with Tehran.