Omar Sanadiki/AP
Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)
CNN  — 

Top Iranian military commanders were among the seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) officials killed in an airstrike on the country’s consulate building in Damascus, Syria, according to Iranian officials and state-affiliated media, which blamed Israel for the attack.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that senior IRGC commander Mohammed Reza Zahedi was killed in the attack. Haji Rahimi was named as the second commander killed in the attack, according to the IRGC statement shared by state news agency IRNA later on Monday.

The IRGC statement named five other officials who were killed: Hossein Aman Elahi, Mehdi Jalalati, Mohsen Sedaghat, Ali Aghababaee, and Ali Salehi Roozbahani.

People gathered around the flattened building in Syria’s capital, according to photographs of the scene. Footage of the aftermath of the blast, published by Iranian state media Press TV, showed extensive damage, fire and smoke at the scene.

Speaking on camera to reporters in Damascus, Iranian ambassador Hossein Akbari alleged that the consulate building, located next to the Iranian embassy, “was targeted with six missiles from Israeli F-35 warplanes.”

Iranian embassy staff and military advisers were among the dead, he added. It is unclear if any of the IRCG officials were diplomatic staff and CNN cannot independently verify the claims or casualty figures.

In a separate interview, Akbari added that two Syrian policemen were also among the injured in the attack, which he said “is perhaps the first time that the Zionist regime allows itself to attack an official building of the Islamic Republic of Iran embassy, which had the flag of the Islamic Republic raised on top of it.”

Asked for comment on the incident by CNN, the Israel Defense Forces said it does not comment on foreign reports. However, a military spokesperson told CNN that Israel believes the Iranian building hit in the attack is a “military building of Quds forces” and not a consulate.

Mehr News Agency
Iran accuses Israel of killing Iranian military commander Mohammed Reza Zahedi and others in airstrike on consulate in Syria

“According to our intelligence, this is no consulate and this is no embassy. I repeat, this is no consulate and this is no embassy. This is a military building of Quds forces disguised as a civilian building in Damascus,” Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told CNN’s Jim Sciutto. CNN cannot verify the claim.

When asked if Israel was involved in the attack, Hagari said, “I’m not going to comment on that strike but I want to tell you that in the last six months, Iran is making this region escalate. She’s the main actor.”

“[Iran] is the main actor that makes atrocities in this region using the proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen,” Hagari said.

“Even this morning, an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] has hit an Israeli base in Eilat,” Hagari claimed. “Iran is an actor that brings escalation.”

Four unnamed Israeli officials acknowledged that Israel carried out the attack in Damascus, the New York Times reported.

Warnings of ‘reciprocal measures’

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, warned of possible “reciprocal measures,” following the incident.

“Iran preserves the right to take reciprocal measures and will decide the type of response and punishment against the aggressor,” Kanaani said, according to IRGC-affiliated Fars News.

The foreign ministers of Iran and Syria also accused Israel of authoring the attack, with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian calling it a “violation of all international obligations and conventions” and demanding a “serious response” from the international community.

Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images
Emergency personnel extinguish a fire at the site of strikes, which hit a building next to the Iranian embassy in Syria's capital Damascus, on April 1, 2024.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad described the strike as a “gross violation of international regulations, especially the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” according to a readout of his call with Amir-Abdollahian.

Zahedi, the slain commander, was previously the commander of IRGC’s ground forces, the commander of IRGC’s air force, and the deputy commander of the IRGC’s operations.

Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group issued a statement on Tuesday local time, accusing Israel of the strike, and warned that Israel would pay, vowing revenge.

United States State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the US did not “have confirmation either of the target or the responsible party” at a briefing on Monday.

“Before we have gathered information about what exactly this was, I don’t want to speak to it specifically,” Miller added. “But of course, we’re always concerned about anything that would be escalatory or cause an increase in conflict in the region.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry “strongly condemned” the attack in a statement published on its website on Monday, saying “any attacks on diplomatic and consular facilities to be categorically unacceptable.”

It also called on “the Israeli leadership to abandon the practice of provocative military actions in Syria and other neighboring countries, which can lead to the extremely dangerous consequences throughout the region.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.