Syrian foreign minister said in remarks broadcast Tuesday that the Iranian ballistic missiles attack on militants in eastern Syria the previous day was part of “legitimate” cooperation between the two countries to combat terrorism.
Walid al-Moallem’s comments came during a wide-ranging interview with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV. The full interview is to air later in the day.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched six ballistic missiles as well as drone bombers into eastern Syria’s Deir el-Zour province on Monday, targeting Islamic State militants it blamed for an attack on a military parade in Iran last month.
The strikes were the second time Iran had used cross-border missiles inside Syria. Last year, Iran also struck in militant positions in Deir el-Zour’s town of Mayadeen and following another attack, in Tehran, that was blamed on ISIS.
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But Monday’s strikes come after Syrian government forces and allied Iranian-backed militias gained control of the strategic border town of Boukamal late last year, likely improving Iran’s intelligence and capabilities in the area.
The strikes were also seen as threat to Iran’s regional adversaries at a time when Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers unravels.
“The Iranian missiles are in the framework of combatting terrorism,” said al-Moallem.
The Syrian government and its allies, as well as the U.S-led coalition are separately battling ISIS, which still controls a sliver of land along Syria’s border with Iraq.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said the strikes killed eight people in Hajin, a town still controlled by ISIS. It was not clear if all the killed were militants, the Observatory said, adding that one of the missiles hit a house that had been seized by ISIS.
The U.S. military’s Central Command acknowledged that Iranian forces conducted “no-notice strikes” in the area Monday and said it was assessing the damage. The coalition said no coalition forces were in danger despite reports from media sources like CNN that the missiles were within 3 miles of U.S. troops.