An Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike on Damascus shortly after midnight Friday, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The report identified the dead officer as Milad Heydari, saying he was an adviser. No rank was given, but the report said he was “martyred” in the attack, which was blamed on Israel. The term is typically a designation given to those killed on official assignments.
The IRGC threatened to avenge the death of the officer in its announcement, according to the report. “The Zionist regime will undoubtedly receive a response to this crime.”
Syria’s state news agency SANA earlier reported that Syria’s air defenses intercepted “hostile missiles” over the capital shortly after midnight, though the “aggression” managed to cause some material damage. Damascus regularly claims to successfully intercept 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 Iran-backed groups just south of Damascus.
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Less than 24 hours earlier, SANA said that the IAF targeted sites in Damascus, wounding two soldiers and causing material damage.
Screen capture from a video showing an alleged Israeli strike on Damascus, March 31, 2023. (screen capture: Twitter)
As a general rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but it has acknowledged conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country over the last decade.
The IDF says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror organization. Additionally, 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, also attributed to Israel. The airport’s runway was temporarily closed due to damage.
One of the strikes last week targeted an underground munitions depot at the adjacent 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-guided systems that had been delivered by Iranian cargo flights.
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 Israel’s military fired missiles toward the Damascus International Airport, putting it out of service temporarily and killing two soldiers. That attack came amid Israeli fears the Damascus airport was being used for funneling Iranian weaponry into the country.
AP contributed to this report.