Report: An Iranian colonel has been killed in an explosion near the Syrian capital

BEIRUT (AP) — A blast in Syria has killed an officer of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, the force said on its website on Wednesday, blaming Israel for the killing.

The force identified the officer killed as Colonel Davoud Jafari, who was said to be working for the Guard’s Aerospace Division. The statement warned that Israel would be liable for what it called the “crime.”

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Jafari was a drone and air defenses expert, adding that he was killed along with his Syrian guard when a roadside bomb hit their car in the southern suburbs of Met Damascus in Sayyida Zeinab.

An official from an Iran-backed group confirmed to The Associated Press that Jafari was killed by a roadside bomb near Damascus International Airport, south of the capital. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing security matters in Syria, said the bomb was planted to relieve pressure in the direction of the car.

A photo of the alleged attack seen by the AP showed Jafari’s car riddled with metal pebbles and its windshield blown.

Iran has been a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s 11-year civil war and has sent thousands of Iranian-backed fighters from across the region to fight alongside him.

Dozens of Iranian forces have been killed in the war, though Tehran has long said it has only a military advisory role in Syria.

After the August 2019 attacks near the Syrian capital, Israel publicly stated that it would thwart an upcoming drone strike by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force on Israel.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said days later that the strikes had hit a Hezbollah rest house, marking a rare acknowledgment of the deaths of members in Syria at the hands of Israeli strikes. The two Hezbollah fighters killed at the time are said to have been drone experts.

In 2013, senior Hezbollah operative Hassan Lakkis, believed to be behind the group’s drone program, was shot dead south of Beirut. The group blamed Israel for the murder.

Israeli officials have said in the past that they will work to prevent Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, particularly in the south of the country near the Syrian-held Golan Heights.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but such operations are rarely acknowledged or discussed.

However, Israel has acknowledged that it is targeting bases of Iran-aligned militant groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah, which has dispatched thousands of fighters to support al-Assad’s forces.

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