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Iran promises 'harsh' response to strike on consulate in Syria - with top commanders among seven killed

Iran has blamed Israel for a deadly air strike on its consulate in Syria, in which two of its senior military commanders were killed.

Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) elite Quds Force, died in the explosion, which destroyed the Iranian consulate building in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, a deputy commander in the Quds Force, was also killed, along with five other officers, according to the IRGC.

They are the most senior leaders of the force to be killed since the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020.

The IRGC blamed Israel for the strike, as did Iran's foreign ministry, which labelled it an "abhorrent" and "brutal" attack.

Tehran's ambassador to Damascus, Hossein Akbari, who was not injured in the strike, promised the Iranian response would be "harsh".

Israel declined to comment on the incident. The White House also did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

News website Axios, citing an American official, reported the US told Iran it "had no involvement" or advanced knowledge of an Israeli strike on a diplomatic compound in Syria.

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The deaths of the two commanders and the destruction of the Iranian consulate are likely to further inflame tensions in the Middle East.

Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, called the strike "a breach of all international conventions".

A spokesperson for the ministry told Iranian state TV that Tehran would decide on the type of "response and punishment against the aggressor".

Syria's foreign minister Faisal Mekdad, who later attended the scene, said his country "strongly condemns this atrocious
terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed a number of innocents".

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan also condemned the attack, while Hamas - which is backed by Iran - said it condemned the strike "in the strongest terms".