Alleged Israeli Airstrike in Syria Kills IRGC Officer and Hezbollah Members

Latest Developments

An alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria on March 1 killed an Iranian advisor to Hezbollah and two Hezbollah members. Iranian state-run media blamed the strike on Israel and said that it killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy Col. Reza Zarei. The strike targeted a building used by the IRGC in the port city of Baniyas in northwestern Syria. Zarei was there advising the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah forces, who are allied with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in his fight against Syrian rebels. Qatari state-affiliated media also reported that Zarei was in charge of Iranian oil shipments to Syria. Neither the IRGC nor Hezbollah has yet released the names of the two Hezbollah terrorists who also died in the attack.

Expert Analysis

“Although focused on Hamas at the moment, the Israeli military knows that Hezbollah is the more lethal adversary, in terms of both the weapons it possesses and its experience on the battlefield. Expect Israel to keep striking Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria for as long as Syria remains the channel through which advanced weapons and other resources flow from Iran to Hezbollah.” — David Adesnik, FDD Senior Fellow and Director of Research

“The Israeli strike killing IRGC Navy Col. Reza Zarei and two Hezbollah members is an extension of Israel’s ongoing fight against Hezbollah along the Blue Line. The Israelis are signaling that they will not be deterred by Hezbollah’s attacks and are striking hard at the Resistance Axis to set new rules of engagement where Israel, and not its adversaries, has the upper hand.” — David Daoud, FDD Senior Fellow

Campaign Between Wars

For years, Israel has been striking Iranian and Hezbollah assets in Syria as part of a shadow operation known as the “campaign between wars.” Israel rarely takes responsibility for individual strikes, although it acknowledges a sustained effort to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria and the transport of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. On February 3, the Israel Defense Forces revealed that it had conducted more than 50 strikes in Syria since October 7 on targets linked to Hezbollah.

Iran Reportedly Pulls Back in Syria

Iran reportedly reduced its deployment of senior IRGC officers in early February after multiple Israeli airstrikes targeting its members. A series of strikes over the last two months has resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen IRGC personnel. An airstrike on a 10-story residential building in Damascus’s Kafr Sousseh neighborhood on February 21 killed two individuals. While Syrian media did not report the identities of those killed, the neighborhood is known to have a large Iranian presence. Israel last struck Syria on February 28, killing a Hezbollah fighter near the Syria-Lebanon border and striking Syrian air defense and radar sites near Damascus.

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