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Iran's Revolutionary Guards claim 4 military advisers killed in Israeli strike on Syria

UPI
Rescuers and soldiers stand at the site of residential building after an alleged Israeli strike in Mezzah neighborhood of Damascus on Saturday. Official Iranian media said four military advisers with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps died in the attack. Photo by EPA-EFE/STR

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said four of its military advisers died in an Israeli airstrike on a building in Syria on Saturday, further widening the sphere of conflict in the Middle East.

The IRGC Public Relations Department said in a statement issued to Iran's semi-official Tasnim News Agency that the "savage and criminal Zionist regime" was responsible for the deaths in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The Iranian reports indicated the intelligence chief of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds force and his deputy were among those killed in a four-story residential building.

The IRGC said "a number" of Syrian forces had also died in the airstrike carried out by Israeli fighter jets in the Mezzeh neighborhood west of the capital. Iran's supreme leader and commander-in-chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sent condolences to the advisers' families, the statement said.

The official Syrian news agency SANA cited military officials as saying the airstrike happened at 10:20 a.m. local time, carried out by Israeli warplanes coming from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights.

Syrian officials said they targeted a residential building in Mezzeh. Air defense forces responded and were successful in downing some of the incoming missiles, they added.

The airstrikes injured "a number" of civilians while completely destroying the targeted building and inflicting damage on other neighboring buildings, Syria said.

The Israel Defense Forces would not comment on the situation, telling CNN, "We do not comment on foreign reports."

The London-based Syrian opposition group The Observatory for Human Rights placed the death toll in the Damascus strike at six, including five Iranians and a civilian of Syrian nationality. Four others remained missing, the group said.

Tasnim reported eight bodies had been removed from the rubble by late Saturday.

The reported strike further stoked concerns that the war between Israel and Hamas is spreading into a regional conflict directly involving Iran.

Iran has been involved in its conflict through its proxies Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, but it has recently begun directly attacking its neighbors, framing them as retaliation against terrorists who have conducted recent attacks within its borders.

The IRGC on Monday launched ballistic missiles into Syria and northern Iraq, targeting what it called an Israeli spy headquarters as well as "anti-Iran terror groups."

The following day, Iranian forces launched airstrikes targeting a Sunni militant group in Pakistan, attracting a strong rebuke from its neighbor, which said two children were killed in the attack.