Reported Israeli airstrikes kill IRGC Navy advisor in Syria

Israeli airstrikes on the Syrian port of Baniyas killed IRGC Navy advisor Col. Reza Zareai along with two unidentified members of Lebanese Hezbollah.

The airstrike was aimed at a compound used by the IRGC in Baniyas, a port city in northwestern Syria. Zarei was there to offer guidance to Hezbollah forces, backed by Iran and allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his battle against Syrian opposition groups. According to reports from Qatari state-affiliated media, Zarei was overseeing Iranian oil deliveries to Syria. The identities of the two Hezbollah members who perished in the strike have not been disclosed.

The attack follows a campaign launched by Israel in early Dec. 23’, targeting IRGC officers and advisors operating in Syria who were working on military projects against the Jewish state.

On Jan. 20, a reported Israeli airstrike killed at least five officers from the IRGC – Qods Force in the Syrian capital of Damascus. This strike marked the second attack in the last month, targeting and killing IRGC officers in Syria.

The five advisors from the IRGC who lost their lives in the strike included Sadegh Omidzadeh, deputy intelligence officer of the Qods Force, his deputy Hajj Gholam, and three other advisors in the Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, as reported by The Associated Press.

On Dec. 25, 2023, Israeli strikes targeted and killed senior IRGC commander Razi Mousavi on the outskirts of Damascus.

Mousavi was a key interlocutor between Iran and the Syrian regime, a U.S. intelligence official who wishes to remain anonymous told FDD’s Long War Journal. Mousavi also facilitated the transfer of weapons from Iran to Syria, which were then sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Lastly, on Dec. 2, 2023, Israeli strikes eliminated two IRGC advisors operating in Damascus. They were identified as Mohammed Ali Ataei Shoorcheh and Panah Taghizadeh.

In the past, Israel has eliminated threats in Syria, but not at this pace. Following the Oct. 7, 2023, war, Israel has been facing threats from multiple fronts, including Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, the West Bank, Syria, and Yemen. Most of these organizations are proxies or clients of the Iranian regime and are attempting to foment chaos in the region and pressure Israel into a ceasefire to save Hamas. That being said, Israel has increased its attacks again members of the Axis of Resistance, including members of the IRGC operating in Syria.

Attacks on Israel from the active fronts will continue until Hamas is entirely removed from power in Gaza or if there is a permanent ceasefire in place. However, it does beg the question of what Israel will do with Hezbollah on its northern border and Hamas on the West Bank border once the focus is taken off Gaza.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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