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The Latest | Iran promises payback for Israel's apparent strike that killed top generals

Iranian leaders renewed their promise to hit back after an airstrike widely blamed on Israel destroyed Iran's Consulate in Syria, killing 12 people, including two elite Iranian generals. Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said Wednesday the attack "will not remain without answer."

The U.S. is concerned the deadly strike in Damascus could trigger new attacks on American troops by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, said Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, the top U.S. Air Force commander for the Middle East.

Iran and its allies — including the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other armed groups in Syria, Iraq and Yemen — have repeatedly traded fire with Israel and the U.S. since the start of Israel's war in Gaza.

By attacking an Iranian diplomatic station, Israel's apparent escalation has raised fears that the devastating six-month war against Hamas could spill over into the entire Mideast region and beyond.

Israel faces growing isolation as international criticism mounts over its killing of six foreign aid workers this week who were helping deliver desperately needed food in Gaza. The United Nations says much of the population in northern Gaza is on the brink of starvation.

Israel's war in Gaza has killed nearly 33,000 Palestinians, the territory's Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn't differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. The war began on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage.

Currently:

— World Central Kitchen is saving lives with food but paying a price in blood.

— Family and friends recall 'brave' and 'selfless' aid workers killed in Israeli airstrikes.

— Killing of aid workers adds to pressure on the U.K. government to halt arms sales to Israel.

— Yemen's Houthis may be running low on weapons stocks as attacks on ships slow, U.S. commander says.

Muslim American leaders reject chance to break bread with Biden as anger over Gaza festers.

Palestinians seek full U.N. membership again, but the U.S. is almost certain to block it for a second time.

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here's the latest:

U.N. SAYS ACUTE MALNUTRITION WORSENING FOR YOUNGSTERS IN NORTH GAZA

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations children’s agency says one-third of the children under age 2 in northern Gaza were suffering from acute malnutrition in March, adding that the figure “has more than doubled in the last two months.”

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that “dozens of children in the northern Gaza Strip have reportedly died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks, and half the population is facing catastrophic food insecurity.”

Chaiban said he saw “a staggering decline in the conditions of children” during his second visit to Gaza in January.

He pointed to widespread destruction of infrastructure, “a quasi-blockade” on the north, repeated denials or delays in getting Israeli approval for humanitarian convoys, and fuel shortages and electricity and telecommunications blackouts which have been “devastating for children.”

Virginia Gamba, the U.N. special envoy for children in conflict, told the council that the latest U.N. report issued last year verified 3,941 cases where youngsters were prevented from getting food and other assistance. The highest figures, she said, were in Gaza and the West Bank, Yemen, Afghanistan and Mali.

Gamba said data gathered for the next report in June “shows we are on target to witness a shocking increase of the incidents of the denial of humanitarian access globally.” In addition to the Palestinian territories, she pointed to Haiti where there are “high levels of arbitrary impediments and/or outright denial of humanitarian access to children.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said doctors in Gaza have reported being horrified at treating children suffering from war wounds and watching children die from acute malnutrition.

She said that “humanitarian assistance is desperately needed now, and it must be facilitated to mitigate the impact of an impending famine.”

Thomas-Greenfield said that food and other aid is also urgently needed for children in Congo, Afghanistan, Sudan and Africa’s Sahel region and for Rohingya Muslim youngsters in Myanmar.

AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES ISRAEL'S KILLING OF AID WORKERS

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the Israeli airstrikes that killed six foreign aid workers in Gaza “stands in stark contrast” with Israel’s statements that it is protecting lives.

Albanese said Thursday that Israel has given an insufficient and unacceptable explanation of how the World Central Kitchen charity vehicles moving at large distances apart were hit in succession, killing Australian Zomi Frankcom and her colleagues.

“For them to lose their life in these circumstances is outrageous and completely unacceptable,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

World Central Kitchen said it coordinated with the Israeli military over the movement of its convoy.

“One of the things that Israel says is that it is protecting people’s lives, innocent people. Well, this stands in stark contrast as well as, of course, the many incidents affecting not just people who’ve come from overseas to provide aid, but, of course, Palestinians themselves, where we’ve seen extraordinary loss of life in Gaza,” Albanese added.

Albanese noted that the United Nations Security Council last week issued its first demand for a cease-fire in Gaza as Israel proposes an invasion of the crowded border town of Rafah.

ISRAEL CALLS UP RESERVISTS TO STRENGTHEN AIR DEFENSE UNITS AS IRAN THREATENS REPRISAL

JERUSALEM -- The Israeli military says it is calling up more reservists to beef up its air-defense unit.

Wednesday’s announcement comes as Iran has vowed to avenge an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria this week that killed two Iranian generals. Israel has not commented on Monday’s strike.

Iran possesses long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel, and its proxies and allies across the region, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi militia, have large arsenals of rockets and missiles.

Israel has a number of defense systems designed to intercept various aerial threats. These systems have been stretched thin during the war in Gaza, with Iran’s proxies launching thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel.

BIDEN AND NETANYAHU PLAN TO SPEAK THURSDAY, U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are scheduled to speak on Thursday amid growing White House frustration with Israel’s prosecution of the war in Gaza and in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers, according to a U.S. official familiar with planning for the call.

The official was not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity to discuss plans for the call, which came as a top White House official on Wednesday said the administration had no plans to carry out its own investigation of what led to the strikes that killed workers — including an American citizen — associated with celebrity chef José Andrés' World Central Kitchen.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the Biden administration continues to support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. But Kirby said Israel must do more to prevent the killing and wounding innocent civilians and aid workers as it carries out its operations in Gaza.

“As a modern military and a democracy, they have obligations to the innocent people of Gaza and they have not always have met those obligations,” Kirby said. “We are concerned about the methods too.”

Biden in a statement Tuesday expressed outrage over the incident and said he believes “Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers.” The president added that it’s a “major reason” why distributing humanitarian aid has been so difficult. Biden and Netanyahu last spoke on March 18.

Biden is also likely to reiterate his concerns about Netanyahu's plan to carry out an operation in the southern city of Rafah, where about 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, as Israel looks to eliminate Hamas following the militant group's deadly Oct. 7 attack.

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Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed.

U.N. SUSPENDS NIGHTTIME AID CONVOYS IN GAZA FOR 48 HOURS DUE TO SECURITY CONCERNS

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations has suspended humanitarian aid convoys moving during the night in Gaza for 48 hours following Israel’s killing of seven aid workers, but it is continuing daytime operations to send trucks to the north where much of the population is on the brink of starvation.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday that the nighttime suspension “for further evaluation” of security issues impacting aid workers on the ground began Tuesday and will end Thursday morning.

In the north “people are dying,” he said, and “as famine closes in, we need humanitarian staff and supplies to be able to move freely and safely across the Gaza Strip.”

The U.N. suspension followed the deadly Israeli strikes on a convoy of World Central Kitchen vehicles Monday as they were helping deliver food in Gaza. Israel says the strikes were “a mistake that followed a misidentification” and said it has launched an independent investigation.

On the health front, Dujarric said Israel has “denied, delayed or impeded” multiple requests by the U.N. World Health Organization over the past two weeks to visit Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. He said WHO made a new request Wednesday to Israeli authorities to facilitate a visit to the hospital in northern Gaza, once the territory's largest.

On Monday, the Israeli military withdrew from Shifa after a two-week raid saying it killed some 200 militants in close-quarters fighting and detained hundreds. Before and after satellite images showed the hospital’s main buildings have been reduced to burned-out shells, and nearby apartment buildings were flattened.

ISRAELI WAR CABINET MEMBER CALLS ON NETANYAHU TO AGREE TO NEW ELECTIONS THIS YEAR

JERUSALEM — A member of Israel’s three-man war Cabinet has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to new elections later this year.

Benny Gantz made the call in a news conference Wednesday. He says elections are needed to renew the public’s faith in the government.

Israeli society has grown increasingly divided in recent months as the war in Gaza has dragged on and the government has struggled to return dozens of hostages held captive by Hamas.

This week, families of the hostages joined a broader protest movement seeking Netanyahu’s resignation and new elections. Protests this week near Netanyahu’s residence turned violent with clashes between demonstrators and police.

Gantz called for an agreed-upon date for elections in September — two years ahead of schedule. He said that would leave time to continue the war against Hamas “while allowing the citizens to know that we will soon renew the trust between us and prevent a rift among the people.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected calls to step down or hold new elections in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that sparked the war. He says the government must focus on the war.

Since Oct. 7, Netanyahu’s popularity has plummeted in opinion polls, trailing far behind Gantz.

Gantz’s message Monday does not pose an immediate threat. Netanyahu’s governing coalition maintains a parliamentary majority even without Gantz’s support.

Netanyahu’s Likud Party accused Gantz of playing “petty politics,” saying an election campaign would paralyze the country and hurt the war effort.

IRAN VOWS TO RETALIATE FOR ISRAELI STRIKE ON CONSULATE THAT KILLED MILITARY LEADERS

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian leaders on Wednesday reiterated their calls for revenge after an apparent Israeli airstrike killed five members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard this week, state media reported.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel will continue to fail on the battlefield in Gaza, and its defeats will bring it closer to collapse.

“Desperate efforts like the act they committed in Syria will not save them from defeat and they will be slapped for the action, too,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency, during a meeting with officials Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said the attack “will not remain without answer.”

The airstrike Monday was widely blamed on Israel, and destroyed Iran's Consulate in Damascus. It's not clear if and when Iran would respond, but any retaliation from Tehran would risk a dangerous confrontation with Israel and the U.S.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said the attack "will not remain without answer.”

In Syria, a funeral was held for the slain Revolutionary Guard members at a holy Shiite shrine in Damascus, media reported. The main funeral ceremony will be held Friday in Iran during an annual pro-Palestine rally, called al-Quds day.

The deadliest strike on an Iranian diplomatic site in decades appears to signify an escalation of Israel’s targeting of Iranian military officials and their allies in Syria. Those Israeli strikes have intensified since Hamas militants — who are supported by Iran — attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Under the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic immunity, the premises of a diplomatic mission are inviolable.

U.S. MILITARY IS ‘CONCERNED’ ABOUT IRAN'S POSSIBLE RETALIATION FOR ISRAELI STRIKE ON CONSULATE

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is concerned that the airstrike widely blamed on Israel that destroyed Iran's Consulate in Damascus could trigger new attacks on American troops by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, the top U.S. Air Force commander for the Middle East said Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich said Iran’s assertion that the U.S. bears responsibility for Israeli actions could bring an end to the pause in militia attacks on U.S. forces that has lasted since early February. He said he sees no specific threat to U.S. troops right now, but “I am concerned because of the Iranian rhetoric talking about the U.S., that there could be a risk to our forces”

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Tuesday that the U.S. assessed that the airstrike in the Syrian capital of Damascus was done by Israel. The strike killed 12 people, including two Iranian generals and a member of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Grynkewich told reporters the U.S. is watching and listening carefully to what Iran is saying and doing to evaluate how Tehran might respond. Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria were launching repeated attacks on U.S. forces at bases in those countries late last year, and in late January killed three U.S. service members and injured dozens more at a base in Jordan.

In retaliation, the U.S. launched a massive air assault, hitting more than 85 targets at seven locations in Iraq and Syria, including command and control headquarters, drone and ammunition storage sites and other facilities connected to the militias or the IRGC’s Quds Force, the Guard’s expeditionary unit that handles Tehran’s relationship with and arming of regional militias. There have been no attacks on U.S. troops in the region since that response.

U.S. SAYS IT CONTINUES TO SUPPORT ISRAEL'S RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF

WASHINGTON — White House national security spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday underscored that the Biden administration continues to support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas following this week’s Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers.

Still, Kirby said Israel must do more to not kill and wound innocent civilians and aid workers as it carries out its operations in Gaza.

“As a modern military and a democracy, they have obligations to the innocent people of Gaza and they have not always have met those obligations,” Kirby said. “We are concerned about the methods too.”

The strikes on the charity’s convoy highlighted what critics have called Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and lack of regard for civilian casualties in Gaza. Israel blames Hamas for civilian deaths, saying it operates in populated areas.

Kirby, however, said the U.S. has no plans to conduct its own investigation of the strikes.

“We expect the Israelis to conduct a thorough and comprehensive, complete and transparent investigation,” Kirby said. ”We look forward to finding out the results of that investigation. And we’ll move on from there.”

CELEBRITY CHEF JOSE ANDRES CALLS ON ISRAEL TO OPEN LAND CROSSINGS

JERUSALEM — Celebrity chef José Andrés has called on Israel to open land crossings for aid and stop killing civilians.

Andrés is the founder of World Central Kitchen, the international food charity whose seven workers were killed in a series of Israeli strikes late Monday.

In an op-ed published by Israel's mass-selling Yediot Ahronot on Wednesday, Andrés wrote that "the Israeli government needs to open land routes to food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today."

“After the worst terrorist attack in its history, it’s time for the best of Israel to show up,” he wrote, referring to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war in Gaza. “You cannot save the hostages by bombing every building in Gaza. You cannot win this war by starving an entire population."

He noted that his charity provides meals to those in need in all over the world, including in Israel after the attack that triggered the war.

Israel has acknowledged carrying out the strikes by mistake and says it has launched an independent investigation.

But Andrés said the strikes, which killed six international aid workers and their Palestinian driver, “were not just some unfortunate mistake in the fog of war.”

“It was a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by the (Israeli military). It was also the direct result of his government’s policy to squeeze humanitarian aid to desperate levels,” Andrés wrote.

Israel has severely restricted access to northern Gaza, where experts say famine is imminent. Andrés' charity and other aid groups suspended their operations after the deadly strike, saying it had become too dangerous to operate in Gaza.

IRAN WARNS ISRAEL OVER THE SYRIA STRIKE

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has warned Israel over an airstrike that destroyed Iran's consulate in Damascus and killed 12 people, including two Iranian generals.

Gen. Ramazan Sharif, a spokesman for the guard, said Wednesday that “soon we will see deadlier blows to the Zionist regime and the Resistance Front will carry out its duties in this regard.”

He appeared to be referring to Iran and its allies across the region, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and armed groups in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. They have repeatedly traded fire with Israel and the U.S. since the start of the war in Gaza, raising fears of a wider conflict.

Monday’s airstrike on the Syrian capital was widely blamed on Israel, which has not said whether it was involved.

Sharif accused Israel of trying to avenge Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war in Gaza, saying it “will get nowhere, and the motivation of our soldiers will be multiplied.”

He also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of using such strikes to divert public attention from “the racist nature of this regime."

GERMANY IS CONCERNED ABOUT ISRAEL'S MOVE TO EXPEL AL-JAZEERA TV

BERLIN – Germany is expressing concern about new legislation that clears the way for the closure of Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to push ahead with the removal of what he called a “terror channel” from the country on Monday after parliament passed the law.

The foreign ministry in Germany, a staunch ally of Israel, said Wednesday that it views the legislation “with concern.” Spokesperson Sebastian Fischer said a free and diverse media landscape is a central tenet of liberal democracy, “and Israel understands itself as a liberal democracy.”

Asked by an Al Jazeera reporter whether Germany agrees with Netanyahu’s assessment of Qatari-based TV network, Fischer replied: “We have regularly given interviews on Al Jazeera, and wouldn’t do that if Al Jazeera were a terror channel from our point of view.”

ISRAELI POLICE SAY ARAB RESIDENT CARRIES OUT CAR-RAMMING ATTACK

TEL AVIV — Israel police said an Arab resident from northern Israel carried out a car-ramming attack, wounding four police officers and attempting to stab security forces at a checkpoint before he was killed by police.

The attack, carried out by a 26-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel from the Arab town of Tira, occurred around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

The police were lightly wounded and evacuated for medical treatment.

Palestinian citizens make up around 20% of Israel’s population. They have citizenship, including the right to vote, but face widespread discrimination. They have close family ties to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and largely support the Palestinian cause, leading some Israelis to view them with suspicion.

The attacks came amid heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Hamas militant group has called on Palestinians to attack Israelis during the month-long holiday. There have been several stabbing and ramming attacks at checkpoints during Ramadan and since the start of the war.

Violence has surged in the occupied West Bank since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack triggered the war in Gaza.

ISRAEL SAYS ‘MISIDENTIFICATION’ LED TO GAZA STRIKES THAT KILLED AID WORKERS

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military chief says a deadly Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers in the Gaza Strip was the result of a “misidentification” in complex conditions.

Announcing the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi expressed remorse over the killings and called the event a “grave mistake.”

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said. He gave no further details.

He said an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” that would be completed in the coming days, and said the army appreciates the “important work” of the World Central Kitchen.

He said the conclusions of the independent investigation would be implemented immediately and shared with World Central Kitchen and other “relevant” international organizations.

“We see great importance in the continued delivery of humanitarian aid, and we will keep working to facilitate this vital effort,” he said.

World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated with the Israeli military over the movement of its cars. Three vehicles that were moving at large distances apart were hit in succession. They were left incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple targeted strikes.

At least one of the vehicles had the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air, and the ordnance punched a large hole through the roof.

The strikes on the charity’s convoy highlighted what critics say is Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and lack of regard for civilian casualties in Gaza. Israeli authorities blame Hamas militants for civilian deaths because the fighters operate in populated areas.

AUSTRALIAN LEADER SAYS ISRAEL PROMISES ‘FULL TRANSPARENCY' INTO AID WORKERS' KILLING

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu has provided an undertaking for “full transparency” in an investigation of how seven aid workers including an Australian woman who were killed by airstrikes in Gaza.

Albanese said he had “expressed Australia’s anger and concern” over Zomi Frankcom’s death in a phone call with Netanyahu on Wednesday.

“I emphasized the importance of full accountability and transparency and Prime Minister Netanyahu has committed to full transparency about how this tragedy could possibly have occurred,” Albanese told reporters.

“There is a need for a thorough investigation into what happened here and Prime Minister Netanyahu committed to that,” Albanese added.

Israel had accepted responsibility for the attack on a World Central Kitchen aid convoy and the consequent investigation must be “very fast, immediate, clear and transparent,” Albanese said.

“I conveyed to Prime Minister Netanyahu in very clear terms that Australians were outraged by this death, by this tragedy, of this fine Australian,” Albanese said.

“This is an Australian who we can all be proud of, someone who not only was in Gaza assisting people in need, but had in the past provided support for people in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, here in Australia after the bushfires. This was someone who was clearly committed to benefit her fellow humanity, and someone ... whose loss is very deeply felt by her family, but I think felt by Australians as well,” Albanese added.

CANADA AND OTHER COUNTRIES WILL SEND ISRAEL A DIPLOMATIC REBUKE FOR KILLING GAZA AID WORKERS, OFFICIAL SAYS

TORONTO — Canada and other nations’ embassies will present a joint formal diplomatic rebuke to the Israeli Foreign Ministry over the country’s killing of seven aid workers in Gaza, a senior Canadian government official said.

A top official with Canada’s Global Affairs department has also made a formal representation to Israel ambassador to Canada on Tuesday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

The Canadian official did not elaborate on which nations would take part in the formal rebuke, known as a demarche. But the dead from Monday night’s strikes included a Canadian-American dual national, a Palestinian, three British citizens, and Polish and Australia nationals. Those Western countries have been key backers of Israel’s nearly 6-month-old offensive in Gaza, and several of them sharply condemned the killings.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the military had carried out the “unintended strike ... on innocent people.” He said officials were investigating and would work to ensure it did not happen again.

U.N. SAYS ISRAEL'S KILLING OF AID WORKERS IS ‘INEVITABLE’ RESULT OF HOW IT'S CONDUCTING THE WAR IN GAZA

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says Israel's “heartbreaking” killing of seven aid workers in airstrikes “is the inevitable result of the way this war is currently being conducted,” pointing to the killing of more than 180 humanitarian workers so far.

The World Central Kitchen staff's recent deaths show “a disregard for international humanitarian law and a disregard for the protection of humanitarian workers” that the law requires, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Tuesday.

At least one of the vehicles had the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air, and the ordnance punched a large hole through the roof. Three vehicles moving at large distances apart were hit in succession. They were left incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple targeted strikes.

Dujarric said Sigrid Kaag, the senior U.N. humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, met with the World Central Kitchen team Monday in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah — just hours before they were killed. Kaag is “appalled” at the attack, Dujarric said.

World Central Kitchen, which is a partner of the U.N. World Food Program, has suspended operations in the region along with other aid organizations, dealing a blow to the delivery of desperately needed aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million hungry people, including hundreds of thousands of people who are near starvation.

Israel has called the airstrikes an accident and says it’s investigating.

Dujarric was asked what his message is to Israel. “The message is let humanitarian workers do their job. They need to be able to do it in safety.”

U.S. MILITARY BELIEVES ISRAEL CARRIED OUT DEADLY STRIKE ON IRAN'S CONSULATE IN SYRIA

WASHINGTON — The United States military believes Israel carried out the recent airstrike on Iran's Consulate in Syria and that several senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard were present.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Tuesday that it is the U.S. assessment that Israel conducted the strike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus and that “there were a handful IRGC top leaders there.”

Israel, which has repeatedly targeted Iranian officers in Syria and in Lebanon, did not comment on Monday's attack.

Iran has vowed to respond to the attack that killed 12 people including two Iranian generals and a member of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, which is backed by Iran.

Israel, increasingly impatient with months of cross-border fighting with Hezbollah, has warned of the possibility of a full-fledged war.

The U.S. National Security Council said the United States played no role in the strike in Damascus and did not know of it ahead of time.

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