2 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards die amid tensions

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two members of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Division died as “martyrs” in Iran in separate incidents over the weekend, Iranian media reported Monday. The term is usually a designation given to those with important missions.

The deaths of the two men come as tensions remain high over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers, and its uranium enrichment program which is now the closest it has come. never been to military grade levels. While authorities have made no hint of foul play in the men’s deaths, Israel has been accused of killing other high-ranking members of the Guard amid the growing crisis.

Separately, Israel on Monday warned tourists to leave Turkey due to a series of alleged plots targeting Israelis there.

The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies, believed to be close to the Guard, identified one of the dead as Ali Kamani and said he died in Khomein, central Iran. Tasnim said Kamani died in a “car accident”, without giving further details.

News agencies did not give Kamani a ranking. However, a photo published by Tasnim showed the man wearing the epaulettes of a second lieutenant in the Aerospace Program of the Guard, which manages Iran’s ballistic missile program as well as some of the country’s air defences.

Khomein, the birthplace of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution, is in Markazi Province. This province is also home to Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak, a key nuclear program site surrounded by air defenses.

Fars alone reported the death of the second man, whom he identified as Mohammad Abdous. The agency published a photo of Abdous in civilian clothes at the Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad, Iran.

Fars said Abdous died “on a mission” while working in Iran’s Semnan province. The rural province of Semnan, east of Tehran, is home to the Imam Khomeini spaceport, which was used in satellite launches.

The report of the deaths of the two men comes about a week and a half after the reported death of Guardsman Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh, a member of his Quds Expeditionary Force, in unclear circumstances.

In May, two gunmen on motorbikes shot and killed guard colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei in Tehran. Responsibility for the attack has not been claimed. Iranian officials blamed “global arrogance” – code for the United States and Israel – for Khodaei’s killing.

Khodaei, 50, remains an obscure figure and Iran has yet to provide any biographical details beyond the fact that he was also a member of the elite Al-Quds force. The Guard described him as “the defender of sanctuary” – a reference to Iranians who support militias fighting the extremist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Thousands of people attended his funeral in Tehran and radical President Ebrahim Raisi visited his family.

The manner in which the killing was carried out evoked previous Israeli targeted attacks in Iran. In November 2020, a top Iranian military nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadehwas killed by a remote-controlled machine gun while traveling by car outside Tehran.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned Israelis not to fly to Turkey and called on those there to return. He said he made the call “after a series of attempted Iranian terrorist attacks against Israelis vacationing in Istanbul.”

He said the Israeli authorities had already foiled such attacks, “a great effort that saved Israeli lives.”

“They intentionally choose Israeli citizens to kidnap or kill. It can happen to anyone. This is a real and immediate danger,” he said, thanking the Turkish authorities for their help and adding that he did not believe the travel warning would remain long-term.

“I also want to send a message to the Iranians: whoever harms the Israelis will pay. The long arm of Israel will reach them wherever they are.

Turkey did not immediately acknowledge the plots.

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Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.

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