Senior Iranian commander killed in Syria by apparent Israeli airstrike

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Israel-Hamas war for Monday, April 1. For the latest news on the conflict in the Middle East, view our story for Tuesday, April 2.

A top Iranian commander and several diplomats were killed Monday in an airstrike that leveled a building in Iran's consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus, an attack media outlets from both countries are blaming on Israel and that could lead to an escalation of hostilities in the Middle East, Reuters reported.

Three senior commanders died in the assault, most prominent among them Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi of Iran's elite Quds Force. His death was confirmed in a statement by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, which said seven military advisers were killed.

Iranian ambassador Hossein Akbari said his country's response would be of “the same magnitude and harshness,” The Associated Press reported.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, who was at the scene, said, "We strongly condemn this atrocious terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed a number of innocents."

Israel has not commented, in keeping with its practice in other high-profile strikes against Iran and its proxies. Attacks from Iranian-backed militants in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen have increased markedly since the Oct. 7 start of the Israel-Hamas war.

The Biden administration has made concerted efforts to keep that conflict from expanding regionally. During a news briefing with reporters Monday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. is "concerned about anything that would be escalatory or cause an increase in conflict in the region."

Pope Francis urges truce: Calls for immediate cease-fire in Gaza

Palestinians inspect the damage at Gaza's Shifa hospital after the Israeli military withdrew from the complex housing the hospital on April 1, 2024.
Palestinians inspect the damage at Gaza's Shifa hospital after the Israeli military withdrew from the complex housing the hospital on April 1, 2024.


∎ A sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has been arrested on suspicion of contact with militant operatives and supporting acts of terror, multiple Israeli news agencies reported Monday. Police said Sabah Abdel Salam Haniyeh, an Israeli citizen, was taken into custody in the town of Tel Sheva. Police told i24 News that documents and electronic devices found during a raid on her home linked her to “serious security offenses.”

∎ Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said senior Hamas militants arrested by Israel's armed forces in recent days "made it clear that the organization is disintegrating from within." He said senior militants are turning themselves in and providing information helpful to the Israeli military.

Michigan congressman on video: Appears to call for nuclear bombs to be dropped on Gaza

Charity that feeds Gazans says Israeli attack killed its workers

World Central Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres that has been distributing meals amid acute food shortages in Gaza, said some of its workers were killed by Israel Defense Forces while performing those duties.

"We are aware of reports that members of the World Central Kitchen team have been killed in an IDF attack while working to support our humanitarian food delivery efforts in Gaza,'' WCK said in a statement to USA TODAY, most of which it also posted on the X platform. "This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should never be a target, ever. We will share more information when we have gathered all the facts."

At least five WCK workers, including a Palestinian and citizens of Australia, Britain and Poland, died in an Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah, Reuters reported, citing the Hamas-run Gaza government media office.

The Israeli military referred to the deaths as a tragic incident and said it was thoroughly reviewing what led to it, Reuters reported. "The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza," the IDF said in a statement.

WCK helped collect and deliver the first shipment of food supplies to reach Gaza by sea during the war in mid-March, and it has set up dozens of kitchens in the embattled territory to cook the meals. The nonprofit, known for feeding the hungry in distressed areas, also built a makeshift jetty on the Gaza coast to help bring humanitarian shipments into land.

Israel ends two-week siege of Gaza's Shifa Hospital

The Israeli military announced completion of its controversial "targeted operation" at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday after killing 200 militants and arresting 500 others during a weeks-long siege that drew outcries from hospital officials and global leaders.

The military said the operation was carried out as a result of "preliminary and accurate" intelligence indicating Hamas militants were using the sprawling campus and its environs as a command-and-control center and a military headquarters.

"The forces located many weapons (and) intelligence documents throughout the hospital, encountered terrorists in face-to-face battles and fought battles while preventing harm to the medical staff and patients," the military said in a statement, adding that Israeli forces will "continue to operate in the north of the Gaza Strip and wherever terrorism rears its head."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, posted a photo of a battered hospital building on Twitter with the words "I repeat: hospitals must be respected and protected; they must not be used as battlefields."

The Hamas-run Gaza media office said Israeli forces killed 400 Palestinians around Shifa, including a female physician and her son, also a physician, and left the hospital in ruins.

"The occupation destroyed and burnt all buildings inside Al Shifa Medical Complex," said Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the media office. "They bulldozed the courtyards, burying dozens of bodies of martyrs in the rubble, turning the place into a mass graveyard. This is a crime against humanity."

Israel government poised to ban Al-Jazeera from country

Israel was poised to ban the Qatari-based news outlet Al-Jazeera after the Knesset approved legislation providing the government with temporary power to keep foreign news networks deemed a threat to national security from functioning in the country. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, a hard-liner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, championed the bill, saying it provided a quick tool for use against those who use freedom of the press to harm Israeli soldiers and incite terrorism.

"There will be no freedom of speech for Hamas mouthpieces in Israel," Karhi said after the bill won approval. "Al Jazeera will be closed in the coming days."

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre called reports of a possible Israeli ban on Al-Jazeera "concerning."

“We've seen the reports," she said. "If it is true, a move like this is concerninig. We believe in the freedom of the press. So we believe that work is important."

Thousands march in Israel, call for government to resign

Thousands of protesters marched in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as the massive demonstrations against Netanyahu's coalition government stretched into a second day Monday. One of the organizing groups, Kaplan Force, said on its website it is "employing all lawful means available to prevent this dictatorship's takeover of Israel."

Netanyahu was under pressure over an effort to weaken Israel's judicial system, viewed as a power grab, even before the war began. The longtime Israeli leader then drew extensive criticism when Israel appeared unprepared for the Oct. 7 militant attack that killed 1,200 people and saw around 250 seized as hostages. Netanyahu also has drawn criticism from the families and supporters of more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza, claiming his government has not pressed hard enough to negotiate their release.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews face military draft for first time

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters blocked an Israeli highway outside the central city of Bnei Brak on Monday to protest conscription to the military, the Times of Israel reported. Protesters held banners reading “To jail and not the army,” “We will die rather than draft,” and “Russia is here.”

Monday was the legal deadline for the Defense Ministry to begin drafting Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews. They have been exempt from military service since Israel's founding in 1948, but their growing numbers and the increased demand for soldiers has built resentment among some Israelis for the opt-out. A High Court of Justice order also freezes financial support for Haredi academies whose students receive the annual military service deferrals, and the Defense Ministry was instructed to begin drafting Haredi men.

US, Israeli officials meeting on Rafah invasion plans

Senior U.S. and Israeli officials held a virtual meeting Monday to discuss alternative proposals to an Israeli military invasion of Rafah. President Joe Biden has repeatedly urged Israel not to launch a ground invasion of the southern Gaza city that is packed with residents and refugees from other parts of the war-torn enclave. Netanyahu had been equally adamant in saying there is no there is no other way to eliminate Hamas.

Netanyahu canceled a planned visit to Washington last week by a senior Israeli delegation after the Biden administration allowed passage of a Gaza cease-fire resolution at the U.N. Days later, however, Israel asked the White House for the high-level meeting on military plans for Rafah.

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel war updates: Iranian commander killed in Syria; Israel blamed