Monitor says 19 pro-Iran fighters killed in Syria strikes

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the raids were likely carried out by Israel

By AFP

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Israeli soldiers operate in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the border with Syria. — Reuters
Israeli soldiers operate in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the border with Syria. — Reuters

Published: Sat 30 Dec 2023, 8:14 PM

Air strikes in eastern Syria "likely" launched by Israel on Saturday killed at least 19 pro-Iran fighters, a war monitor said, updating an earlier toll.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "19 pro-Iranian fighters, including four Syrians and six Iraqis, were killed and more than 18 were wounded" in at least nine air strikes overnight near the Iraqi border.

It said the raids were "likely carried out by Israel", after earlier indicating they were "likely American".

A US military official, requesting anonymity, said the "US did not conduct any defensive strikes overnight".

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Israel rarely comments on individual strikes targeting Syria, but it has repeatedly said it will not allow arch-foe Iran, which backs President Bashar Al Assad's government, to expand its presence there.

The Observatory said the strikes targeted military positions in Albu Kamal and its surroundings in Deir Ezzor province, adding that a weapons shipment from Iraq and an ammunition warehouse were also hit.

Separately, "Israeli ground bombardment" overnight in southern Syria's Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, killed two fighters from a Hezbollah-linked group, said the Britain-based monitor.

The pair, "of Palestinian origin", were "members of a group affiliated with the Syrian Resistance to Liberate the Golan, which works with Lebanon's Hezbollah", according to the Observatory, which has a broad network of sources inside war-torn Syria.

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During more than a decade of civil war in Syria, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on its territory, primarily targeting Iran-backed forces including Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as well as Syrian army positions.

But it has intensified attacks since the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7, as tensions rise across the Middle East.

The Israeli army said early on Saturday that it was carrying out strikes in Syria after two rockets fired from the country fell into territory under its control.

The army did not say the precise location where they fell.

Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement, which like Hamas in the Gaza Strip is supported by Iran, announced on Saturday the death of four of its fighters "on the road to Jerusalem" -- a reference to militants killed in hostilities since October 7.

It was unclear where they were killed.

There have been regular cross-border exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Iranian state media said an Israeli missile strike on Monday near Damascus killed Razi Moussavi, a senior commander in the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Middle East has also seen a surge in attacks on US forces, which Washington blames on Tehran-aligned armed groups across the region, since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

The majority have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of Iran-linked armed groups which oppose US support for Israel.


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