World

Tehran vows response after strike blamed on Israel destroyed Iran's Consulate in Syria and killed 12

TEHRAN, Iran — (AP) — Iran on Tuesday vowed to respond to an airstrike widely attributed to Israel that destroyed Iran's Consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus the previous day and killed 12 people, including two Iranian generals and a member of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group.

Four Syrian citizens were also killed in the strike, a Syrian official said Tuesday, without providing any details about them. Hezbollah, which has been a key ally of both Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and Iran, also pledged “punishment and revenge” on Israel.

Iran’s deputy U.N. ambassador Zahra Ershadi told a contentious emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that some Iranians were injured, but “The final and accurate death toll remains uncertain as the entire diplomatic premises has been destroyed with individuals trapped under the rubble.”

Israel, which has repeatedly targeted Iranian officers in Syria and in Lebanon, did not confirm Monday's attack.

Iran provides money and weapons to Hezbollah, as well as Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza. Clashes between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border have increased since the war in Gaza began nearly six months ag o.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, a key decision-making body, met late on Monday and decided on a “required” response to the strike, Iran’s state television reported. It said the meeting was chaired by President Ebrahim Raisi but provided no further details.

“We will make them regretful about the crime and similar acts,” said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran.

The U.S. National Security Council said the United States played no role in the strike in Damascus and did not know of it ahead of time. “We have communicated this directly to Iran,” U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Robert Wood, told the U.N. Security Council, saying the U.S. “cannot confirm any information about this event.”

Ershadi accused Israel of threatening regional and international peace and declared that “the United States is responsible for all crimes committed by the Israeli regime.”

She said Iran has exercised “considerable restraint” but Israel must now bear “full responsibility” for the consequences of the attack. Iran reserves its rights under interrnational law and the U.N. Charter “to take decisive response to such reprehensible acts.”

The U.S.’ Wood urged Iran and its proxies and partners in the region — Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis — to de-escalate tensions, and he repeated prior American warnings to them not to take advantage of the situation “to resume their attacks on U.S. personnel.”

Virtually all council members expressed concern that the Damascus attack, coupled with the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, could spillover into the entire Mideast region, and beyond.

It was not clear if and when Iran would respond, but any retaliation from Tehran would risk a dangerous confrontation with Israel and the U.S.

Later Tuesday, Assad expressed his condolences in a telephone call with Raisi and condemned Israel, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

The airstrike killed Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who led the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016, his deputy, Gen Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi, and five other officers. A member of Hezbollah, Hussein Youssef, also was killed in the attack.

Syrian Health Minister Hassan al-Ghabash said that along with the four Syrian nationals killed, 13 others were seriously wounded in the airstrike. He also did not disclose any information about the wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said the Syrians were members of pro-Iran militias but didn’t elaborate.

In announcing Youssef’s death, Hezbollah also did not provide any details about him on Tuesday. It said Zahedi played a crucial role in helping “develop and advance the work” of the group in Lebanon.

“This crime will certainly not pass without the enemy receiving punishment and revenge,” the Hezbollah statement said.

Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous, after visiting the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, said rescue workers are still searching for bodies under the rubble of the consulate building.

Since the Oct. 7 outbreak of the Gaza war, Iran's proxies have stepped up attacks, with near-daily cross-border exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel, and frequent attacks on Red Sea shipping by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Israel, which rarely acknowledges strikes against Iranian targets, said it had no comment on the latest attack in Syria, although a military spokesman blamed Iran for a drone attack early Monday against a naval base in southern Israel.

Israel, increasingly impatient with the exchanges with Hezbollah, has warned of the possibility of a full-fledged war. The Houthis have also been launching long-range missiles toward Israel, including on Monday.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the country is in a war on multiple fronts “both offensively and defensively.”

“We see evidence of this every day, including over the last few days,” said Gallant, speaking to the Israeli parliament’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. “We operate everywhere, every day, in order to prevent our enemies from gaining strength and in order to make it clear to anyone who acts against us — all over the Middle East — that the price for action against Israel will be a heavy one.”

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who received a call Tuesday from Iran's foreign minister, condemned the strike on the Iranian Consulate and reaffirmed on Tuesday “the principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises,” according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Guterres also said diplomatic personnel “must be respected in all cases in accordance with international law.”

At the U.N. Security Council’s meeting, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia lashed out at the U.S., United Kingdom and France for failing to condemn Israel’s violation of international law and intentionally striking a diplomatic premise.

He told reporters afterward that Russia will seek Security Council condemnation of the attack. Asked if he had any advice for Iran, Nebenzia replied, “I have advice to Israel to demonstrate restraint and not to provoke further escalation, which they did this time.”

America's Wood retorted: “On the contrary, it is Iran and its proxies that have been carrying out a number of attacks throughout the region.”

Under the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic immunity, the premises of a diplomatic mission are inviolable.

Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar condemned the strike as fears grow of a widening regional conflict. The 22-state Arab League slammed Israel, saying it aims to “expand the war and push the region to chaos.”

Iran’s official news agency IRNA said Iran relayed an important message to the U.S. late Monday, delivered through a Swiss envoy in Tehran. Switzerland looks after U.S. interests in Iran as Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic relations.

IRNA also said Iran holds the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, responsible for the strike.

Meanwhile, a U.S. defense official said that an attack drone was detected and destroyed by U.S. forces at Al-Tanf Garrison in Syria on Monday afternoon.

No injuries and no damage to infrastructure were reported. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public. The drone was in the vicinity of the base, but it was not clear whether it was targeting the base, the official said.

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Chehayeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Samy Magdy in Cairo, Ellen Knickmeyer and Tara Copp in Washington, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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