Israel Kills Three, Including Iranian Adviser, in Attack on Syrian Port

Others reported wounded, many homes damaged in strike on Baniyas

In a pre-dawn attack on Friday, Israel destroyed a villa in the northwestern Syrian port city of Baniyas, killing three people. The slain included Reza Zarei, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy member, who was reportedly in Syria acting as one of the Iranian military advisers.

Eyewitnesses reported three large explosions in the area of Baniyas during the attack. Israel, as is customary, did not comment on the strike nor confirm their involvement. The explosions damaged a number of surrounding homes in the area.

Despite the lack of specific comments, Israel has struck Iranian advisers and other targets in Syria hundreds of times during the Syrian Civil War. Most recently, in January, five IRGC advisers were assassinated in Damascus.

Reports identified the other two slain as members of Hezbollah. Several additional people were reported wounded, though there is so far no indication that they were targets but were residents of the area that was being struck.

Iran continues to have an advisory team in Syria and replaces members of that team when they are killed. However, the numbers and ranks of the IRGC members sent to Syria has reportedly been scaled back because Israel is killing them so often.

Iran has had advisory teams in Syria for over a decade, offering advice and assistance during the protracted civil war. Israel has said they will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria, and have used that as a pretext for the repeated attacks.

Iran for its part has been a long-time ally of Syria, and it is deeply concerned that the Assad government survive still-resilient ISIS and al-Qaeda factions, which grew to prominence among the rebel movements of the civil war.

Even though the Assad government has invited Iran to act in an advisory capacity, and Israel professes its neutrality in the civil war, Israeli officials have long maintained that they actually would prefer ISIS on their border rather than an Iran-friendly government.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.