Iran says a general in the country's elite Revolutionary Guard was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sunday that also killed several ranking members of Hezbollah.
Though these aren't the first Iranians or Hezbollah fighters to be killed in Syria, this incident stands out because these men were on the Syrian Golan Heights, within 10 miles of Israel's northeastern border.
Iran's official news agency quoted a website for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stating that Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed while in Syria advising Syrian troops. Iran and Hezbollah have been supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against a mix of rebel opposition forces.
Israel doesn't usually comment officially on such strikes, though it's thought to have carried out others — the latest in early December. The Revolutionary Guard statement blamed "Zionist" forces. Reuters reported that an unnamed Israeli security source confirmed that Israel carried out the strike.
In addition to Iran's Allahdadi, six ranking members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah were killed. One was Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late high-ranking Hezbollah strategist Imad Mughniyeh. The elder Mughniyeh was killed in a 2008 bombing that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in Syria through a network of local sources, says a house and two cars were hit in the Quneitra region, near the border with Israel.
Both Hezbollah and Iran reacted angrily. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the strike as a terrorist attack.
Just last week in a televised interview, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel not to underestimate the group's military might.
Lebanese analyst Hilal Khashan says the airstrike early Sunday is a blow to Hezbollah because of the "significant" figures killed. But he said that recent attacks by Israel have not drawn major military responses from Hezbollah.
The fact that Hezbollah is stretched thin now as it's engaged in the war in Syria, Khashan said, could reduce the chances it would want to open a new battle with Israel.
But other analysts were reported saying the group might feel it has to respond to avoid looking weak; Lebanese media quoted unnamed Hezbollah officials saying the group was looking for a calculated response.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Iran says an Israeli airstrike in Syria has killed one of its generals. The Lebanese Shiite militia, Hezbollah, also says six of its operatives died. Israel has not commented. NPR's Alice Fordham reports there have been angry responses from both Iran and Hezbollah.
ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Both Hezbollah and Iran are allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he fights for control of a country in the grip of civil war. An Iranian statement says Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi from the Revolutionary Guard Corps was on assignment advising Syrian forces when he was killed Sunday. Hezbollah's media announced the death of Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late strategist Imad Mughniyeh, among six killed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a house and two cars were hit in the Quneitra region, less than 10 miles from the Israeli border area. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the strike as a terrorist attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MEN: (Chanting in foreign language).
FORDHAM: At Mughniyeh's funeral today, young men chanted religious slogans. Just last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel not underestimate its powers in a TV interview. Lebanese analyst Hilal Khashan says this is a blow to them.
HILAL KHASHAN: You know, what happened yesterday was major.
FORDHAM: He says the group is stretched thin in Syria, making it less likely they will strike back. But other analysts think the group will be humiliated if it does not take action. And Hezbollah officials were quoted anonymously in Lebanese media saying they were seeking a calculated response. Alice Fordham, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.