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Iran confirms death of IRGC Quds Force officer in strikes on Syria

Iran's flag (Dreamstime/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran has confirmed the death of a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Syria following air strikes blamed on Israel.

The official IRNA news agency on March 26 said Behruz Vahedi, a member of the IRGC’s expeditionary wing, the Quds Force, had been killed in alleged Israeli air strikes on Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.

Media close to the Syrian government have accused the United States of carrying out the strikes. Neither the United States nor Israel has commented.

Earlier, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights said 13 people were killed in the attack, including 12 non-Syrian members of the IRGC.

At least 11 Iranian members of the IRGC have been killed in suspected Israeli strikes on Syria and Lebanon since the start of the war in Gaza in October.

Israel launched a deadly offensive against the Palestinian enclave in response to a multipronged attack by Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union. Around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the Hamas attack inside Israel, while more than 250 were taken hostage and brought back to Gaza.

Iran’s regional allies — the so-called axis of resistance — have been targeting Israeli and U.S. interests in the Middle East following Israel’s attack on Gaza. However, armed groups have scaled back their attacks on American bases following a series of U.S. strikes in February.

The strikes on Syria came hours before Hamas’s political bureau chief, Ismail Haniyeh, landed in Tehran for meetings with Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He told a news conference that a March 25 UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza showed that Israel was experiencing “unprecedented political isolation.”

The IRGC stepped in to defend President Bashar al-Assad in 2013 when his grip on power was challenged during the Syrian civil war. Hundreds of IRGC commanders and officers, described by Tehran as “military advisers” are believed to be present in Syria. Iran maintains a large network of militias in the Arab country, consisting mostly of Shi’ite Afghan and Pakistani fighters.