March 2, 2024

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warned Israel on Wednesday that it or its allied groups would take “direct” action to avenge the killing of senior commander Razi Moussavi.

The general was killed Monday in an Israeli missile strike near the Syrian capital, according to state media, at a time of heightened regional tensions around the Israel-Hamas war raging in Gaza.

The Israeli army, which has launched hundreds of strikes on Iran-linked targets in war-torn Syria in recent years, said only that it does not comment on foreign media reports.

The body of Moussavi, a commander in the Guards’ foreign operations arm the Quds Force, was taken to Iraq for funeral rites in Shiite Muslim holy sites a day ahead of his burial in Iran planned for Thursday.

IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif warned that “our response to Moussavi’s assassination will be a combination of direct action as well as (from) others led by the Axis of Resistance,” the local Mehr news agency reported.

Sharif charged that the Israeli killing of the general near Damascus “was likely due to its failures after the ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood'” — a reference to the October 7 attacks Hamas launched against Israel.

The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on the latest official Israeli figures, and saw around 250 people taken hostage.

Israel has retaliated with a relentless bombardment and ground invasion that have killed at least 21,110 people, according to Hamas-run Gaza’s health ministry.

– ‘List of crimes’ –

The Gaza war has reverberated across the Middle East, drawing in armed groups backed by Israel’s arch foe Iran in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Iran, which supports Hamas financially and militarily, has hailed the deadly attacks as a “success” but denied any direct involvement.

President Ebrahim Raisi has said Iran sees it as “its duty to support the resistance groups” but insisted that they “are independent in their opinion, decision and action”.

Sharif claimed Moussavi’s killing was an Israeli attempt “to expand the war to other geographical areas”.

In Iraq, hundreds of mourners Wednesday flocked to attend memorial prayers for Moussavi, whose coffin was taken to the Imam Ali shrine in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf.

“America is the enemy of God,” some of them chanted.

The pallbearers included members of the Hashed al-Shaabi, mainly pro-Iranian former paramilitary units that have been integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces.

His remains were then taken to Karbala, another shrine city, ahead of his repatriation to Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Mohammed al-Sadiq, told AFP that Moussavi’s death was the latest of the Israeli “enemy’s list of crimes”.

burs-ap/mz/fz