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Iran's embassy in Syria is attacked — Iran blames Israel


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today described an airstrike that hit and killed seven aid workers in Gaza as unintentional. The admission comes on the heels of another potential Israeli airstrike in the region. Iran says Israel yesterday attacked its embassy compound in Syria in a strike that killed a senior security commander. Now, Israel has not confirmed it carried out the attack, though it typically doesn't comment on strikes against Iranian targets. But despite that, Israel and other countries are bracing for retaliation.

NPR's Jane Arraf joins us now from Amman, Jordan. Jane, what exactly did Benjamin Netanyahu say?

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Well, he acknowledged it was an Israeli strike, and he said it was unintended. Now, he also said that they were looking into it in depth and they wanted to determine what happened so it would not happen again. This was a convoy from the U.S.-based aid organization World Central Kitchen leaving a warehouse in Gaza on a route coordinated with the Israeli military. It killed the seven-member team - Britons, an Australian, a Canadian American, a Polish national and a Palestinian, according to the group.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, the strike in question happened yesterday and involved a U.S.-based aid group, World Central Kitchen. Seven aid workers in Gaza were killed while distributing food. Tell us more about that.

ARRAF: Yeah. This was a - the World Central Kitchen is an aid group based in the U.S. that has basically been launching a trial run of getting food by sea from Cyprus to Gaza. It did the first one. This was only the second mission. And they're doing that because of Israeli restrictions on food coming in by land. Israel says it needs to impose those restrictions for its own security. But it has held up tremendously the amount of food that's able to go in. So this was a very significant effort, potentially with a lot of impact in terms of others doing it. And the aid group says they took all the precautions.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I mean, Jane, how hard is it for reporters like you to verify what's happening in a moment like this?

ARRAF: It's really unprecedented. I mean, as you know, foreign reporters are pretty much banned from Gaza by the Israeli military. We have tried to get on one of the missions with the World Central Kitchen vessel, and Israel had barred that. In addition, there are so many local journalists and aid workers being killed - the Committee to Protect Journalists says more than 90 of them. Israel disputes those figures, saying they're not all journalists or they weren't working as journalists when they were killed. But overall, it has made it very, very difficult to get information out about what's happening on the ground.

MARTÍNEZ: Jane, just about 30 seconds here. Israel says it's preparing for retaliation. What exactly is it expecting?

ARRAF: So that retaliation is regarding an airstrike on the - Iran's embassy compound in Damascus. Iran blames Israel for that strike. Israel hasn't claimed responsibility. It normally doesn't. But it killed a senior commander of the Iranian elite Quds Force, and Iran has threatened retaliation. So it's got pretty much the whole region on edge. This is one of the things people had feared - governments had feared that there could be a wider war sparked by the war in Gaza.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Jane Arraf joining us from Amman, Jordan. Jane, thank you.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.