New Delhi: Israel bombed a building in the Syrian capital Damascus on Saturday, killing five people who were attending a meeting of “Iran-aligned leaders”, a war monitor said, amid rising regional tensions over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, news agency AFP reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group with a network of sources inside Syria, said the Israeli strike targeted a four-storey building in the Mazzeh neighbourhood, a high-security zone that hosts leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and pro-Iran Palestinian factions.
“They were for sure targeting senior members” of those groups, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. Syrian state media confirmed the attack, saying it was carried out by a “likely Israeli aggression” that hit a residential building in Mazzeh, without providing further details.
Other Syrian media outlets reported loud explosions heard across Damascus around mid-morning, followed by a large plume of smoke rising from the targeted area.
“I heard the explosion clearly in the western Mazzeh area, and I saw a large cloud of smoke,” a resident told AFP. “The sound was similar to a missile explosion, and minutes later I heard the sound of ambulances,” he added.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes on Syrian territory during the country’s decade-long civil war, mainly targeting Iranian-backed forces and Syrian government positions. But it has intensified its attacks since the war between Israel and Hamas, an ally of Iran and Hezbollah, erupted on October 7.
In December, an Israeli air strike killed a senior general of the IRGC, the most high-ranking Iranian commander to be killed outside Iran since the US drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020.
In the same month, Israel also launched air strikes on eastern and northern Syria, killing dozens of pro-Iran fighters, according to the Observatory. The Israeli strikes have also sparked cross-border clashes with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, another ally of Iran.
Israel rarely comments on its strikes in Syria, but it has repeatedly vowed to prevent Iran, its arch-enemy, from expanding its influence and presence there.