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TEHRAN: Thousands of people chanted against Israel and the United States at Friday’s funeral for seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards, two them generals, who were killed in an air strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel.

Guards chief General Hossein Salami warned that Israel “cannot escape the consequences” of Monday’s strike, which levelled the five-storey consular annex of the Iranian embassy in Damascus.

Israel has not commented on the strike, but analysts saw it as an escalation of its campaign against Iran and its regional proxies that runs the risk of triggering a wider war beyond the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Friday’s ceremony coincided with annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day commemorations, when Iran and its allies organise marches in support of the Palestinians.

Quds Day rallies also took place in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain while in Lebanon the head of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement delivered a speech.

Iran has said among the dead were two brigadier generals from the Guards’ foreign operations arm, the Quds Force, Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi and Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Zahedi, 63, was the Quds Force commander for the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Lebanon.

He had held several commands during a career spanning more than 40 years, and was the top Iranian soldier killed since a United States missile strike at Baghdad airport in 2020 killed General Qassem Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force.

The coffins of the seven were placed on the trailers of two trucks in one of the largest squares in Tehran.

Mourners held Iranian, Palestinian flags and Hezbollah flags, chanting “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!”.

Ziyad al-Nakhalah, leader of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad which fights alongside Hamas in Gaza, attended the funeral, Iran’s Fars news agency reported. President Ebrahim Raisi and his predecessor Hassan Rouhani were also present.

IRGC chief Salami said Tehran was determined to make Israel pay for the raid. “The Zionist regime cannot escape the consequences of the harm it does,” he said, adding: “It is exposed and knows very well what is going to happen.”

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said Israel “will be punished” for the killings.

Israel said Thursday it was strengthening its defences and pausing leave for combat units following Iran’s threats to retaliate.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Iran would inevitably retaliate.

“Be certain that Iran’s response to the targeting of its Damascus consulate is inevitable,” Nasrallah said in a televised Quds Day speech.

The war in Gaza began with Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which left 1,170 people, mostly civilians, dead in southern Israel. Tehran backs Hamas, but has denied any direct involvement in the attack.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 33,091 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Israel has long fought a shadow war of assassinations and sabotage against Iran and its allies, including Hezbollah, carrying out hundreds of strikes against targets in Syria — but the attacks have intensified since the Gaza war broke out.

“It is quite clear that America has been one of the principal actors in the war continuing,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Friday.

IRGC chief Salami in his speech also denounced Washington.

“The Zionist regime is alive and well today because of artificial support from the United States. When this is withdrawn it will collapse, and this is near,” he said.

After Friday’s funeral ceremony in Tehran, Zahedi will be buried in his home city of Isfahan in central Iran.

Quds Day solidarity rallies with the Palestinians were held across the region, AFP correspondents reported.

Hundreds marched in Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus, including members of Islamic Jihad, many chanting “Jerusalem we are coming”.

In Baghdad, pro-Iran groups organised a rally that drew around 2,000 people who gathered on Palestine Street chanting: “No to America, No to Israel.”

An Israeli flag was painted on the ground so that protesters could trample it.

Thousands rallied in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which is controlled by Iran-backed rebels.

In Bahrain, which normalised relations with Israel in 2020, opposition groups organised pro-Palestinian rallies in several areas.


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