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Iran pays homage to Guards killed in Syria strike, vows revenge

Iranians attend the funeral in Tehran of the seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members
— Tehran (AFP)

Thousands of people chanted against Israel and the United States at Friday's funeral for seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals, who were killed in an air strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel.

Guards chief General Hossein Salami warned that Israel "cannot escape the consequences" of Monday's strike, which levelled the five-storey consular annex of the Iranian embassy in Damascus.

Israel has not commented on the strike, but analysts saw it as an escalation of its campaign against Iran and its regional proxies that runs the risk of triggering a wider war beyond the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Friday's ceremony coincided with annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day commemorations, when Iran and its allies organise marches in support of the Palestinians.

Quds Day rallies also took place in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain while in Lebanon the head of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement delivered a speech.

Iran has said among the dead were two brigadier generals from the Guards' foreign operations arm, the Quds Force, Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi and Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

Relatives in Iran mourn over the coffins of seven Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike on the country's consular annex in Damascus, which Tehran blamed on Israel

A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Zahedi, 63, was the Quds Force commander for the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Lebanon.

He had held several commands during a career spanning more than 40 years, and was the top Iranian soldier killed since a United States missile strike at Baghdad airport in 2020 killed General Qassem Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force.

The coffins of the seven were placed on the trailers of two trucks in one of the largest squares in Tehran.

- Israel 'will be punished' -

Mourners held Iranian, Palestinian flags and Hezbollah flags, chanting "Death to Israel!" and "Death to America!"

Ziyad al-Nakhalah, leader of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad which fights alongside Hamas in Gaza, attended the funeral, Iran's Fars news agency reported. President Ebrahim Raisi and his predecessor Hassan Rouhani were also present.

Thousands of Iranians attend the funeral of the seven IRGC members

Guards chief Salami said Tehran was determined to make Israel pay for the raid. "The Zionist regime cannot escape the consequences of the harm it does," he said, adding: "It is exposed and knows very well what is going to happen."

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said Israel "will be punished" for the killings.

Israel said Thursday it was strengthening its defences and pausing leave for combat units following Iran's threats to retaliate.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Iran would inevitably retaliate.

"Be certain that Iran's response to the targeting of its Damascus consulate is inevitable," he said in a televised Quds Day speech.

Nasrallah warned that Hezbollah, which is believed to have a large arsenal of missiles and rockets, had yet to deploy its "main" weapons in its near daily cross-border exchanges with the Israeli army.

"We have not employed our main weapons yet, nor have we used our main forces," he said.

- New strikes -

Hezbollah said Friday that three of its fighters had been killed in exchanges with Israel. Its ally Amal said it had also lost three fighters to an air strike in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli army said in a communique that it had bombed a "military complex" used by Amal and targeted several regions of southern Lebanon.

A military spokesman posted on X, formerly Twitter, that Israel's air force had struck Hezbollah infrastructure.

The war in Gaza began with Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, which left 1,170 people, mostly civilians, dead in southern Israel.

Tehran backs Hamas, but has denied any direct involvement in the attack.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 33,091 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

- Quds Day rallies -

Israel has long fought a shadow war of assassinations and sabotage against Iran and its allies, including Hezbollah, carrying out hundreds of strikes against targets in Syria.

Guards chief Salami said Israel was entirely dependent on US backing.

Protesters rally in Syria to mark Quds Day one of several rallies across Arab countries

"The Zionist regime is alive and well today because of artificial support from the United States. When this is withdrawn it will collapse, and this is near," he said.

Quds Day solidarity rallies with the Palestinians were held across the region, AFP correspondents reported.

Hundreds marched in Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus, including members of Islamic Jihad, many chanting "Jerusalem we are coming".

In Baghdad, pro-Iran groups organised a rally that drew around 2,000 people who gathered on Palestine Street chanting: "No to America, No to Israel."

An Israeli flag was painted on the ground so that protesters could trample it.