Iranian and Syrian officials on Monday accused Israel of bombing Iran’s consulate in Damascus, an attack one expert called a “war-abetting escalation” that U.S. President Joe Biden “claimed he was preventing” in the Middle East.

Seven people including Iranian diplomats and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) senior commander Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi were killed in the airstrike, which according to the BBC occurred at approximately 5:00 pm local time and flattened the multistory building adjacent to the Iranian Embassy in the Syrian capital’s Mezzeh district.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian described the strike as “a violation of all international obligations and conventions.” Faisal Mekdad, his Syrian counterpart, condemned what he called a “heinous terrorist attack.”

Israeli officials declined to comment on the attack. Israel has increased airstrikes targeting IRGC and Iran-backed Hezbollah militants inside Syria since the Hamas-led October 7 attacks. Israeli strikes against Hezbollah have also killed hundreds of militants and civilians in Lebanon.

Hamidreza Azizi, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, called the consulate attack a “significant escalation in tensions.”

“This attack is viewed by some in Iran as a declaration of war by Israel against Iran,” Azizi wrote on social media. “It represents a shift from previous engagements, directly hitting Iranian soil represented by its consulate in Syria—as opposed to targeting IRGC officers in Syrian sites.”

“In earlier stages, Israel would refrain from targeting IRGC officers—only proxies and arms shipments,” he continued. “Since the Gaza war, a shift was already there to target high-ranking Iranian commanders. Some sources claim the attack was a response to an assault on an Israeli ship last night at the port of Eilat, attributed to Iraqi militias. This suggests another new rule of engagement by Israel: direct retaliation against Iran for any attacks by its proxies.”

Azizi added that the strike “is also seen as a message to both Iran and [President Bashar] al-Assad’s regime in Syria: Israel’s capability and willingness to escalate its response to the presence of Iranian forces in Syria.”

Numerous experts including Azizi wondered whether Israel informed the United States ahead of the attack. A White House spokesperson said that Biden is aware of reports attributing the strike to Israel and that his “team is looking into it.”

Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft said on social media that “this is the exact type of conduct that usually prompts the U.S. to label a country a pariah or rogue state.”

“The U.S. accuses such states of seeking to destroy the ‘rules-based order,'” Parsi noted. “But so far, Biden has acquiesced to Israel’s conduct in this area as well as all other aspects of Israel’s slaughter in Gaza.”

Parsi accused Israel of “seeking to either destroy these norms or create a new normal in which it—much like the U.S.—will be untouchable above these laws and norms.”

He also called the Damascus strike “the kind of war-abetting escalation Biden claimed he was preventing.”

The U.S. has also bombed Syria—as well as YemenIraq, and Somalia—since October 7.

Palestinian Policy Network fellow Tariq Kenney-Shawa said: “What the Biden administration means by ‘taking every measure to avoid regional escalation’ is that they’re making sure only Israel is allowed to escalate. Deploying aircraft carriers, airstrikes in Yemen/Syria/Iraq, all of that is to make sure Israel can provoke but no one can respond.”

While Parsi wondered if Israel attacked Iran’s consulate—its sovereign territory—to elicit a response to justify a larger war, editor Dave DeCamp went further, accusing Israel of “trying to provoke a war with Iran to get the U.S. directly involved.”

Iranian journalist Mona Hojat Ansari wrote for the Tehran Times that the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “believes that by plunging the region into a maelstrom of chaos and entangling the United States in another pointless war in West Asia that would drain American resources, it may find a chance to survive as an apartheid establishment.”

“The attack on Iran’s consulate should particularly raise a red flag for Washington,” she added, “as it demonstrates Israel’s readiness to ignite the entire region, even if it means that the U.S. and all its traditional allies in the region would suffer devastating consequences.”

staff writer for Common Dreams.