(AFP) – Thousands massed Thursday in the Iranian capital for the funeral of senior Revolutionary Guards commander Razi Moussavi, three days after he was killed in what Tehran says was an Israeli strike.
The crowd in Tehran’s central Imam Hossein square chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”.
Israel has long fought a shadow war of assassinations and sabotage against arch foe Iran and its allies, but Moussavi’s killing in Syria came at a time of sharply heightened regional tensions over the Israel-Hamas conflict since early October.
Iranian state media says an Israeli missile strike on Monday killed Moussavi, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arms, the Quds Force, near the Syrian capital Damascus.
The Israeli army, which has launched hundreds of strikes on Iran-linked targets in war-torn Syria in recent years, said only that it does not comment on foreign media reports.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier on Thursday met with Moussavi’s family and led a prayer over the slain general’s body before it was taken to the square.
Many of the mourners were waving yellow flags imprinted with the message “I am your opponent”, a reference to Israel.
The head of the Guards, Hossein Salami, hailed Moussavi as “one of the most experienced and effective IRGC commanders in the Axis of Resistance” — Tehran-aligned armed groups in the Middle East.
Salami praised Moussavi for his key role after a former Quds Force commander, the revered Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Baghdad. Soleimani had run the Guards’ foreign operations for more than a decade.
IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif warned on Wednesday that “our response to Moussavi’s assassination will be a combination of direct action as well as (from) others led by the Axis of Resistance”.
Sharif charged that Israel’s killing of the general “was likely due to its failures” when Palestinian Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on October 7.
The attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on the latest official Israeli figures, and saw around 250 people taken hostage.
Israel has retaliated with a relentless bombardment, siege and ground invasion of Gaza that have killed at least 21,110 people, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.
Iran, which supports Hamas financially and militarily, has hailed the deadly attacks as a “success” but denied any direct involvement.
“‘Al-Aqsa Flood’ was a completely Palestinian operation,” Salami said using Hamas’s name for the October 7 attack, a day after remarks by spokesman Sharif seemed to suggest it was in part motivated by revenge for Soleimani’s killing.
“I say that the revenge for Hajj Qasem is a separate operation,” the Guards chief said.