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A member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been killed in a suspected Israeli air strike in Syria, the second attack targeting Tehran’s forces in the country in as many weeks.
A military adviser identified as Saeed Alidadi was killed “in an Israeli air strike south of Damascus”, according to the Tasnim news agency that is close to the elite Guards unit.
It comes as the US prepares to launch its first retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed proxy groups in the region that Washington holds responsible for an attack last week that killed three American service members.
Tasnim cited Syrian sources on Friday as saying that Israel had launched several missiles from the occupied Golan Heights, some of which were intercepted by air defences. Iran’s state television reported that three people had been killed in the strike near the Syrian capital, but did not give any details.
There has been no comment from Israel, which rarely confirms strikes against targets linked to Iran.
The suspected killing of the Guards adviser followed an incident late last month in which Iran accused Israel of killing five of its Guards in an air strike that targeted a residential building in Damascus. Iran accused the US of complicity in that attack and vowed to avenge their deaths.
The Guards also fired a volley of missiles against what it described as an Israeli “espionage centre” in the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region in response to another suspected Israeli raid that killed an Iranian commander in Syria.
Regional tensions, which have soared since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted in October, were ratcheted up further when the three US personnel were killed and dozens more were injured in a drone strike on the Tower 22 base near Jordan’s border with Syria.
Tehran distanced itself from that attack, which has drawn US forces even deeper into the conflict, but the White House blamed Iranian-aligned Iraqi militants and said those responsible would be held to account.
The Iraqi militants are part of a shadowy umbrella organisation backed by Iran known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which has come to the fore since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. The IRI has conducted dozens of strikes against US forces in Iraq and Syria.
One of the IRI’s component forces, Nujaba, said on Friday that it would continue to target US forces in the region, a day after another, Kataib Hizbollah, suspended attacks “to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government”.
US President Joe Biden said this week that he had decided on a response to the attack that killed the US personnel, while also insisting that he was against a wider war in the Middle East.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said in a speech on Friday that Tehran “would not start a war, but we’ll give a crushing response to any oppressive bullying power”.
Yet while both say they are opposed to an escalation, analysts fear that a miscalculation could trigger a wider military conflagration. The US, backed by the UK, has already launched several rounds of missile strikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen that have carried out attacks on shipping in the region and on Israel, America’s ally.
Iran is a main supporter of militant groups opposed to Israel and the US presence in the region collectively known as the Axis of Resistance. This includes Hamas, responsible for the October 7 attack on Israel, Hizbollah in Lebanon as well as the Houthis and the Iraqi militants.