Israeli strike in Syria kills IRGC officer and two others

Three explosions shook the centre of Baniyas on Syria's Mediterranean coast, says Iranian media

Cadets from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at a funeral for one of the force's commanders in 2023. AFP
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A member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and two other people were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria on Friday, media reports said, in the third consecutive day of Israeli attacks on Syria.

Three violent explosions shook the centre of Baniyas, on Syria's Mediterranean coast, during the dawn strike on a villa that housed “a group affiliated with Iran”, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A building was destroyed, killing an Iranian and two other non-Syrians who were with him, said the Britain-based watchdog, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

Iran's official news agency Irna later said Reza Zarei, a member of the IRGC's navy, had been “killed at dawn today by the usurping Zionist regime”.

The government-controlled city of Baniyas is home to an oil refinery, with Iranian tankers docking at its port.

Israel has not confirmed the strike. It rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.

Iran backs the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad and Hezbollah, which supports Hamas.

On Thursday, Israel killed a Hezbollah fighter in a strike on Syria, close to the Lebanese border, the Observatory said, hours after similar attacks.

Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on targets in Syria since civil war broke out in 2011. The targets have mainly been Iran-backed forces, including militants from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, as well as Syrian army positions.

Tehran is a key political, military and financial backer of the Assad government, and has sent military advisers and volunteers to bolster its forces.

Tehran says it has stationed forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus, but only as advisers.

The strikes have increased since Israel's war with Palestinian militant group Hamas began on October 7.

Syria's war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in March 2011 after security forces began a brutal clampdown on anti-government protests.

With reporting from agencies

Updated: March 01, 2024, 4:10 PM