Syria Today – Iran Vows Revenge After Damascus Strike

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

A residential building in the Mazzeh neighbourhood of the Syrian capital, Damascus, was heavily damaged during an Israeli air raid. The attack resulted in multiple casualties, including high-ranking Iranian generals. Tehran has pledged to retaliate for the loss of lives.

Residential building destroyed in attack that killed IRGC members in Syria; Iran Vows Revenge

An air raid on the Mazzeh neighbourhood of the Syrian capital, Damascus, tore into a multistorey residential building and left several people killed.

The target of Saturday’s attack was an intelligence unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), sources told Al Jazeera.

The IRGC said an attack by Israeli fighter jets killed five of its “military advisers” and a number of Syrian forces.

It identified its members who were killed immediately as Hojjatollah Omidvar, Ali Aghazadeh, Hossein Mohammadi and Saied Karimi, without sharing their ranks. It later said another member, Mohammad Amin Samadi, also died after succumbing to his wounds.

Iran’s foreign ministry blamed Israel for the strike and said it “reserves the right to respond”. Israel has yet to comment.

The attack is believed to have been carried out with at least four missiles, according to Iranian state media.

Saturday’s attack comes amid widening tensions in the region and the Israeli offensive on Gaza that has killed nearly 25,000 people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based campaign group, said 10 people were killed in the strikes, including leaders of the Revolutionary Guard.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency quoted a military source as saying it had managed to stop some of the missiles, but that the attacks – which it said had hit a residential building – killed and injured some civilians. Buildings were also destroyed, it said.

A resident told AFP news agency that they saw “explosions” in the western Mazzeh area and “a large cloud of smoke”.

“The sound was similar to a missile explosion, and minutes later I heard the sound of ambulances,” he added.

Iran vows revenge 

Iran’s president said an air strike on the Syrian capital that killed five senior members of Iran’s security forces will not “go unanswered”, BBC reported.

Ebrahim Raisi said Israel was to blame for the attack, which also killed a number of Syrian forces.

Israel has not commented. For years it has carried out strikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria.

Such strikes have intensified since the Israel-Gaza war began following Hamas’s 7 October attacks on Israel.

In a statement posted on the president’s officials website, Mr Raisi expressed his condolences to the families of the “high-ranking martyrs”.

He vowed to avenge their deaths, and described the attack as a “cowardly assassination of five of Iran’s most distinguished advisors”.

The statement described the strike as “terrorist and criminal” and said it “shows the height of [Israel’s] desperation and weakness against the combatants of the resistance front”.

“It will not remain unanswered,” said the statement.

Iran’s foreign ministry said the attacks were an “aggressive and provocative” act by Israel, urging international actors to condemn them.

Damascus reaction

The Syrian  Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned on Saturday evening the Israeli airstrike on Mezzeh neighborhood in the Syrian capital Damascus, which resulted in the killing of five members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

“This barbaric aggression, in addition to the human genocide that the Zionist enemy is carrying out in the occupied Palestinian territories, proves beyond any doubt the criminal nature of this entity and its leaders,” the ministry said in a statement. 

The ministry called on the international community to take immediate action to stop the strikes launched by Israel, saying the strikes “disrupt regional and international security and peace and violate the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the goals for which the organization was established.” 

Syria’s civilians are increasingly forgotten as humanitarian aid dries out

The Middle East Eye published a long report on The main idea of the article is the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria due to the significant reduction in international aid. This decrease in support is leaving Syrian civilians increasingly vulnerable, leading to a rise in involvement with armed groups and illicit activities such as drug trafficking, as they struggle to cope with the worsening economic and social conditions.

As international humanitarian aid dwindles in Syria, the country’s civilians face increasing neglect. The World Food Programme (WFP) ended its food assistance program in Syria in 2024, affecting 5.6 million people, including those displaced in the northwest. The reduction in aid is due to various factors, including donor fatigue, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and other global crises.

According to the report, the Syrian government has extended approval for United Nations cross-border aid through Turkey for six more months. However, since 2017, Russia and China have advocated for routing all aid through Damascus, challenging the existing mandate for multiple border crossings established by a 2014 UN resolution. This change, along with a significant decrease in financial aid due to global economic pressures and the prolonged crisis in Syria, has led to a drastic reduction in aid. In 2021, 1,000 aid trucks entered northern Syria, but this number fell to 445 in the following year.

With the aid shortage, civilians in Syria are increasingly vulnerable to joining armed groups for financial reasons. Groups like the Islamic State (IS) and pro-Iran and Russia-financed militias are reportedly recruiting young men, offering financial incentives. Additionally, the Assad government is implicated in trafficking drugs like Captagon, a highly addictive amphetamine, which has become a lucrative business in the region.

The decrease in aid, the report adds, coupled with the Syrian government’s economic measures like removing subsidies and increasing taxes, has pushed 90% of Syria’s population below the poverty line. The UN estimates that the number of people needing humanitarian assistance rose to over 15 million in 2023 and is expected to increase further.

In summary, Syria faces a dire humanitarian crisis with decreasing international aid, leaving civilians in a vulnerable position and exposed to the influence of armed groups and illicit activities like drug trafficking.

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