Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that a senior officer was killed in an explosion near Damascus earlier this week, with Iranian media attributing the attack to "elements belonging to the Zionist regime."
"The fake and criminal Zionist regime will carry the consequences of the assassination" of colonel Davoud Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards were quoted as saying.
The attack comes amid fears over Iran's expansion of its uranium enrichment. On Tuesday, the UN nuclear watchdog said the Islamic Republic is enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, underground for the first time at its Fordow plant.
Iran has been a main supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s 11-year civil war and has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters from around the region to fight alongside his forces.
Dozens of Iranian forces have been killed in the war, though Tehran has long said it has only military advisory role in Syria.
After August 2019 strikes near the Syrian capital, Israel publicly stated it was thwarting an imminent drone strike against Israel by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said days alter that the strikes hit a Hezbollah rest house, marking a rare acknowledgement of member deaths in Syria by Israeli strikes. The two Hezbollah fighters killed then were reportedly drone experts.
In 2013, senior Hezbollah operative Hassan Lakkis, who was considered the mastermind of the group's drone program, was shot dead south of Beirut. The group blamed Israel for the killing.
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Israeli officials have said in the past that they will work on preventing Iran's entrenchment in Syria, especially in the country's south near Syria's Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
Israel has acknowledged, however, that it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support al-Assad’s forces.