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Iran says Revolutionary Guards attack Israel's 'spy HQ' in Iraq, vow more revenge

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Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they attacked the "spy headquarters" of Israel in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, state media reported late on Monday, while the elite force said they also struck in Syria against the Islamic State.

A view of a damaged building following missile attacks, in Erbil, Iraq, January 16, 2024. Reuters/Azad Lashkari

Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they attacked the "spy headquarters" of Israel in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, state media reported late on Monday, while the elite force said they also struck in Syria against the Islamic State.

The strikes come amid concerns about the escalation of a conflict that has spread through the Middle East since the war between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas began on Oct. 7, with Iran's allies also entering the fray from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

"In response to the recent atrocities of the Zionist regime, causing the killing of commanders of the Guards and the Axis of Resistance ... one of the main Mossad espionage headquarters in Iraq's Kurdistan region was destroyed with ballistic missiles," the Guards said in a statement.

Reuters could not independently verify the report. Israeli government officials were not reachable for immediate comment.

Iraq condemned on Tuesday Iran's "aggression" on Erbil that led to civilian casualties in residential areas, according to a statement by the country's foreign ministry.

Iraqi government will take all legal measures against these actions that are considered a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and the security of its people, including filing a complaint at the United Nations Security Council, said the statement.

Iran had vowed revenge for the killing of three members of the Guards in Syria last month, including a senior Guards commander, who had served as military advisers there.

Since the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas fighters into Israeli territory and the ensuing Israeli bombing campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon, more than 130 fighters of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah have been killed in hostilities.

"We assure our nation that the Guards' offensive operations will continue until avenging the last drops of martyrs' blood," the Guards' statement said.

In addition to the strikes northeast of Kurdistan's capital Erbil in a residential area near the U.S. consulate, the Guards said they "fired a number of ballistic missiles in Syria and destroyed the perpetrators of terrorist operations" in Iran, including the Islamic State.

Reuters could not independently verify the report.

US CONDEMNS ERBIL ATTACK AS 'RECKLESS'

The U.S. State Department condemned the attacks near Erbil, calling them "reckless," but officials said no U.S. facilities were targeted and there were no U.S. casualties.

"We tracked the missiles, which impacted in Northern Iraq and Northern Syria. No U.S. personnel or facilities were targeted," Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.

"We will continue to assess the situation, but initial indications are that this was a reckless and imprecise set of strikes," she said, adding: "The United States supports the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Iraq."

Earlier this month, Islamic State claimed responsibility for two explosions in Iran's southeastern Kerman city that killed nearly 100 people and wounded scores at a memorial for top commander Qassem Soleimani.

Iran, which supports Hamas in its war with Israel, accuses the United States of backing what it calls Israeli crimes in Gaza. The U.S. has said it backs Israel in its campaign but has raised concerns about the number of Palestinian civilians killed.

'CRIME AGAINST KURDISH PEOPLE'

In a statement from his office, Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani condemned the attack on Erbil as a "crime against the Kurdish people."

At least four civilians were killed and six injured in the strikes on Erbil, the Kurdistan government's security council said in a statement, describing the attack as a "crime."

Multimillionaire Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee and several members of his family were among the dead, killed when at least one rocket crashed into their home, Iraqi security and medical sources said.

Dizayee, who was close to the ruling Barzani clan, owned businesses that led major real estate projects in Kurdistan.

Additionally, one rocket had fallen on the house of a senior Kurdish intelligence official and another on a Kurdish intelligence centre and air traffic at Erbil airport was halted, the security sources said.

Iran has in the past carried out strikes in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region, saying the area is used as a staging ground for Iranian separatist groups as well as agents of its arch-foe Israel.

Baghdad has tried to address Iranian concerns over separatist groups in the mountainous border region, moving to relocate some members as part of a security agreement reached with Tehran in 2023.

Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and Timour Azhari in Baghdad; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, Jasper Ward, Timothy Gardner, David Brunnstrom in Washington and Jana Choukeir

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