Jan 27, 2:24 PM EST

Iran says it sent warning to Israel via US officials


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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Tehran said Tuesday it sent a warning to Israel through the United States over the recent killing of an Iranian general in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The Jan. 18 strike in the Syrian-controlled part of the disputed Golan Heights killed Iranian Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard, along with six Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.

Both Iran and the militant Hezbollah group, close allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, blamed Israel, which is believed to have been behind a number of airstrikes in Syria in recent years. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the airstrike.

"We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act," IRNA quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian as saying. Israel had "crossed our red lines," he added.

The deputy foreign minister said Iran sent the message through diplomatic channels to U.S. officials, to hand over to Israel. He did not elaborate.

Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations since after Iranian militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held Americans there hostage for 444 days in 1979.

The two nations normally exchange diplomatic messages through the Swiss embassy, which looks after U.S. interests in Iran. But diplomats from both countries also meet directly on other occasions - such as the current negotiations to limit the scope of the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for easing harsh international sanctions against Tehran.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not comment on private diplomatic talks with Iran, beyond saying that no threat to Israel was delivered in the latest round nuclear talks between U.S. and Iranian officials.

"We absolutely condemn any such threats, that come in any form," Psaki told reporters.

There was no official comment in Israel over the Iranian report.

Amirabdollahian spoke during a commemoration Tuesday for the Iranian general. The Guard's acting commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, said Iran will soon retaliate for his death.

"We tell them (Israelis to) await retaliation but we will decide about its timing, place and the strength," Salami said at the ceremony.

Iran has repeatedly vowed to retaliate against any attacks by Israel or Western powers in recent years. Though it is unlikely to respond militarily, it may step up the support it already provides to armed groups like the Palestinian Hamas and the Hezbollah movement.

Allahdadi was one of the highest ranking Iranian officers known to have been killed abroad in decades. Another senior Guard commander, Brig. Gen. Hamid Taqavi, was killed during a battle against the Islamic State extremist group in Samarra, Iraq, last month.

Shiite-majority Iran says it has sent military advisers to assist Syria and Iraq in battling Sunni extremist groups, but Tehran has denied sending combat forces.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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