Israeli Strike Killed 10 Fighters in Syria, Most of Them Foreign, Watchdog Says

Amid tensions between Israel and Iran-backed groups, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says seven of 10 fighters killed in an overnight strike attributed to Israel belonged to Iran-backed militias

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Missiles flying into the sky near international airport, in Damascus, Syria, January 21, 2019.
Missiles flying into the sky near international airport, in Damascus, Syria, January 21, 2019.Credit: SANA / AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

An airstrike attributed to Israel south of Damascus on Monday night killed 10 fighters, most of whom belonged to Iranian- and Hezbollah-backed militias, a human rights watchdog reported Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that three Syrian regime soldiers were killed in the strike, and seven members of militias loyal to Iran and Hezbollah who were not Syrian citizens.

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The report, which has not been confirmed by state sources, noted that the strike targeted military installations near the Damascus airport and the Daraa area.

IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman was asked about the strike by Army Radio Tuesday morning, and said "The Israel Defense Forces has an interest and strategic goals on the northern front, and we are doing everything necessary to achieve our targets." He added, "It is certain and well-established that the Israeli army works day and night to assure our strategic goals on the northern front are properly achieved."

Zilberman added, "We will make every evert to thwart Hezbollah's attempts to harm us."

On Monday night, Syrian state media quoted an anonymous Defense Ministry official, who said the Israeli military fired missiles at military posts south of Damascus from the Golan Heights.

He said Syrian air defenses shot down most of them before they hit their targets, but that two soldiers were killed and seven wounded in the attack. Syrian state news had later reported that the strike killed a woman and her husband in a village southeast of the capital.

Israel rarely comments on such reports, but is believed to have carried out scores of raids targeting Iran’s military presence in Syria. In the past three months alone, Syria has accused Israel of carrying out at least eight air raids on its territory. The last reported strikes came on July 20.

Iran is a key ally of the Syrian government in the nearly decade-long civil war. Israel views Iran as a regional menace and has vowed to prevent any permanent Iranian military buildup in Syria, particularly near the frontier.

In recent months, Israeli officials have also expressed concern that Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Lebanese militant group that operates in Syria, is trying to establish facilities to produce precision-guided missiles.

Tensions have also risen along the Israel-Lebanon border.

During last month's strikes on Syria, a Hezbollah member was killed and the Lebanese militant group vowed to retaliate against Israel.

On Sunday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to kill Israeli soldiers whenever Israel kills Hezbollah fighters in Syria.

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