Iran has blamed Israel for the death of its military advisors in the attack in Damascus.

(CNN) — Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported that an Israeli missile strike on a building in Damascus on Saturday killed at least five Iranian military advisers and several members of Syrian forces, another sign of escalating hostilities in the Middle East as Israel’s Hamas The war is progressing with. And enters the fourth month.

According to Syrian officials, the alleged attack targeted the Mazzeh neighborhood in the Syrian capital, which is home to several diplomatic missions, including the Iranian embassy.

“Israel launched an airstrike at 10:20 a.m. (local time) from the Golan Heights, targeting a residential building in the Mazzeh neighborhood,” the Syrian Defense Ministry alleged. He said some of the missiles were shot down by Syrian forces.

The Syrian state broadcaster reported that several buildings and vehicles around the attacked building were damaged by the blast, and civil defense teams were still searching for victims trapped under debris.

The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the incident, telling CNN: “We do not comment on foreign reports.”

One of the dead, Hojtollah Omidvar, was identified by Iran’s semi-official student news network as the deputy head of the Quds Force’s intelligence unit in Syria, one of five branches of the Revolutionary Guard unit in charge of operations abroad. Is.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) identified the other four dead as military advisers Ali Aghazadeh, Hossein Mohammadi, Saeed Karimi and Mohammad Amin Samadi. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in a statement on social media that his presence in Syria was “at the official invitation of the Syrian government.”

Security and emergency workers search the debris of a destroyed building in Damascus on January 20, 2024.  (Louis Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Security and emergency workers search the debris of a destroyed building in Damascus on January 20, 2024. (Louis Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

fear of regional infection

The attack in Damascus comes amid concerns that Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza is turning into a regional war. In northern Iraq, an Iranian missile attack last week targeted a site that Tehran claimed was a spy base for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah fighting group is engaged in almost daily clashes with Israeli forces across the border. And off Yemen, Houthi rebels have launched a series of attacks on Western commercial vessels and military vessels in the Red Sea.

Tehran’s top diplomat warned on Wednesday that attacks by Iran-backed groups in the Middle East will not stop until Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza ends, echoing comments from several groups in Iran’s influence network.

“If the massacre in Gaza stops, it will end other crises and attacks in the region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

Since Israel launched its ground and air campaign in Gaza on October 7 in response to bloody Hamas terrorist attacks, nearly 25,000 people have been killed in the blockaded Palestinian territory – most of them women and children, according to the Defense Ministry. Palestinian health in Ramallah.

The United States, a key ally of Israel, has also intervened militarily, launching strikes in Yemen aimed at reducing Houthi abilities to damage the vital Red Sea shipping route. In comments Wednesday, State Department spokesman Matt Miller stressed that a major conflict could be avoided and highlighted the flurry of U.S. diplomatic activity in the Middle East.

“We continue diplomatic efforts to make clear to everyone in the region that we do not want the conflict to escalate, we do not believe it is in the interest of any country to escalate the conflict,” Miller said Wednesday. ,

But finding a way to reduce stress will be difficult. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi vowed on Saturday to “punish” Israel for the Damascus missile attack. The killing is “another stain on the records of all governments claiming to be protectors of human rights because it violated Syrian airspace and trampled human and international laws,” he said in comments reported by Iranian state media. “

With reporting from CNN’s Kareem Khaddar.

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