An Israeli air strike outside the Syrian capital of Damascus has killed a senior adviser in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to reports from Iranian state media.
Sayyed Razi Mousavi, one of the top IRGC commanders in Syria, was killed on Monday.
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He was responsible for coordinating the military alliance between Syria and Iran, an important part of Iran’s regional network of allies and proxies known as the “Axis of Resistance”.
Mousavi “was killed during an attack by the Zionist regime a few hours ago in Zeinabiyah district in the suburbs of Damascus,” Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported, using a different name for Sayyida Zeinab south of the Syrian capital.
In a statement read on state TV, the IRGC said that the “usurper and savage Zionist regime will pay for this crime”.
Iran’s state television interrupted its regular news broadcast to announce that Mousavi had been killed, describing him as one of the most experienced IRGC advisers in Syria.
The strike comes amid fears that Israel’s war with the Palestinian armed group Hamas in Gaza could expand into a wider regional conflict, pulling in Iran-backed groups such as Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
“Mousavi is one of the oldest IRGC commanders in Syria and Lebanon, he’s been functioning in this area since the 80s,” Al Jazeera correspondent Ali Hashem reported from southern Lebanon.
“According to our sources, Mousavi was the target of several assassination attempts by Israel. However, this was the time when the assassination attempt succeeded. The Israelis accuse him of being an instrumental figure within the network of arms smuggling from Iran to Syria, to Iraq to Syria, and to end with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and also as very influential within what Iran calls the Axis of Resistance,” Hashem added.
Reports from IRNA said that Mousavi was “among those accompanying Qassem Soleimani,” the head of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, who was killed in a United States drone attack in Iraq in 2020. Soleimani had played a central role in the coordination of Iran’s regional activities.
Iranian media reported that President Ebrahim Raisi called the strike “a sign of the Zionist regime’s frustration and weakness in the region for which it will certainly pay the price”.
There was no immediate comment from Israel’s military, but Barak Ravid, a reporter for US news site Axios, quotes an unnamed Israeli official who says that Israel is preparing for retaliation that could include rocket fire from Syria and Lebanon.
The US and Israel have for years carried out attacks against what they describe as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran’s influence has grown since it backed President Bashar al-Assad in the war that erupted in Syria in 2011.
Earlier this month, Iran said Israeli strikes had killed two IRGC members in Syria who had served as military advisers there.