Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the IRGC, among at least five killed, Iranian state media reports.

Several people have been killed in an Israeli air strike that flattened the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, according to Iranian state media and Syrian authorities.

Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was among at least five people killed in the attack, Iranian media reported on Monday.

Iran’s Ambassador Hossein Akbari who was not injured, said at least five people had been killed in the attack and that Tehran’s response would be “harsh”.

Reporters at the scene in Damascus’s Mezzeh district, where the consulate is located, saw smoke rising from rubble, and emergency vehicles parked outside.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad denounced the “terrorist attack”.

“We strongly condemn this heinous terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus killing a number of innocent people,” Mekdad said in a statement cited by Syrian state news agency SANA.

Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian described the attack “as a violation of all international obligations and conventions” and blamed Israel.

When asked about the attack, an Israeli military spokesperson told journalists: “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media.”

Since the Palestinian group Hamas led an attack on Israel on October 7, Israel has ramped up air strikes in Syria against Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia and Iran’s IRGC, both of which support the government of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

This blast in Damascus comes just days after Israeli air strikes killed dozens of people in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo.

Ali Vaez, director of the International Crisis Group’s Iran Project, says Israel’s alleged attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria is “akin to targeting another country on its own soil”.

“Overall this seems to still be a low-simmer regional war. It’s not yet an all-out regional conflict, but it does appear that Israel is trying to do everything in its power to expand the conflict,” Vaez told Al Jazeera.

“[This] puts Israel in a win-win situation because Israel knows Iran doesn’t want to get dragged into a regional war, so if it escalates its attacks against Iranian assets and personnel in Syria, it probably will be cost free, and if Iran does respond and retaliate, then it becomes a justified pretext for expanding the war.”

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