Israeli strikes on Syria kill 23: monitor

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Beyrouth (AFP)

Nighttime Israeli raids targeting weapons depots and military positions in eastern Syria have killed at least seven Syrian soldiers and 16 Allied fighters, in the deadliest raids since 2018, a war observer said on Wednesday.

The Israeli Air Force carried out more than 18 strikes against multiple targets in an area stretching from the eastern town of Deir Ezzor to the Iraqi border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The raids killed seven Syrian soldiers and 16 non-Syrian militia fighters whose nationalities were not immediately known, the Britain-based watch group said.

Paramilitaries belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and the Fatimid Brigade, which is made up of pro-Iranian Afghan fighters, are operating in the region, the Observatory said.

The raids also injured 28 soldiers and militiamen, some seriously.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment.

Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman called the Israeli raids “deadliest since June 2018” when strikes in the same area killed at least 55 pro-government fighters, including Iraqis and Syrians.

In November, similar raids on eastern Syria killed at least 19 pro-Iran militia fighters, the monitor said.

The Syrian state news agency SANA reported the latest strikes but gave few details.

“At 1:10 am (11:10 pm GMT Tuesday), the Israeli enemy carried out an air assault on the town of Deir Ezzor and the region of Albu Kamal,” SANA said, citing a military source.

“The results of the assault are currently being verified,” he added.

It was the second wave of Israeli raids in Syria in less than a week.

The latest strikes on January 7 targeted positions in southern Syria and the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus, killing three pro-Iran fighters.

Israel regularly conducts raids in Syria, mostly against targets linked to Iran in what it claims is an attempt to prevent its main enemy from consolidating a position on its northern border.

Israel hit around 50 targets in Syria in 2020, according to an annual report released in late December by the IDF.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes and missiles on Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as Syrian government troops.

Israel rarely recognizes individual strikes, but it has done so in response to what it describes as aggression inside Israeli territory.

The war in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions more since it erupted after the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

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