An Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on Monday has raised fears of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East, marking the most significant attack outside of Gaza since the start of the Hamas-Israel war nearly six months ago. The incident, which killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including two senior commanders, has drawn strong condemnation from both Syria and Iran, with the latter vowing to respond to what it called a "violation of all international obligations and conventions."

According to Syria's defense ministry, Israeli aircraft targeted the consulate building, located on a highway in the western Mezzeh district of Damascus, from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights at about 5:00 p.m. local time. While Syrian air defenses managed to shoot down some of the missiles, others made it through, destroying the entire building and killing and injuring those inside.

Among the dead were Brig-Gen Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the elite Quds Force, and his deputy, Brig-Gen Mohammad Hadi Haji-Rahimi. Zahedi, 63, was described as a high-ranking figure in the Quds Force who had served as commander in Lebanon and Syria between 2008 and 2016, making him one of the most high-profile Iranian figures believed to have been killed by Israel in the country's long campaign of targeted assassinations.

  The attack on the consulate, which is technically sovereign Iranian territory, marks the most overt strike on Iranian soil in years and has raised concerns about the potential for retaliation. Iran's regional allies, including the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, have been embroiled in daily cross-fire with Israeli forces since October 8, walking a fine line between limiting their operations to the border area while trying to enforce tit-for-tat rules of engagement. Mohammad Ali Shabani, an Iran analyst and editor at the online magazine, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that the events in Damascus indicate that "Israelis have (Iranian Supreme Leader) Ali Khamenei in a box," adding that "Iran's supreme leader is being embarrassed before his own praetorian guard, and Quds Force will have increasingly hard time justifying Khamenei's indecisiveness before Iran's regional allies."

The strike on the consulate follows a series of suspected Israeli attacks in Syria, including one last Friday that killed 53 people, including 38 Syrian soldiers and seven members of Hezbollah, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Israel has previously acknowledged carrying out strikes in Syria to combat what it calls Iran's "military entrenchment" and shipments of Iranian weapons to allied groups.

The White House has said that President Joe Biden is aware of the reports and that his team is looking into the matter. The attack has also drawn international attention, with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stressing "the need for a serious response by the international community" in a telephone conversation with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad.