Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group lost at least eight fighters in northwest Syria in skirmishes with insurgents and airstrikes by Turkey’s air force, an opposition war monitor and the militant group said Saturday.
Turkish strikes on northwest Syria late on Friday killed nine members of Iran-backed Hezbollah and wounded 30 others, a commander in the regional alliance backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said.
The commander said on Saturday that the Turkish strikes targeted Hezbollah headquarters near the city of Saraqeb in Idlib, a flashpoint of fighting in recent days, using smart missiles and drones.
The casualties followed the death of at least 33 Turkish soldiers earlier this week.
The deaths marked the highest for the group in Syria in years as Hezbollah has pulled out many of its fighters from the neighboring country.
Hezbollah sent thousands of its battle-hardened fighters into Syria a year after the country’s conflict began in 2011, helping President Bashar Assad’s forces win major battles against insurgents. But over the past two years, Hezbollah has withdrawn many of its forces, leaving only a few hundred of them in several areas around the war-torn country.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 Hezbollah fighters were killed Friday afternoon in the village of Talhiyeh when Turkish drones attacked their post as well as others of the Syrian army. The Observatory said 48 Syrian soldiers have also been killed since Thursday in Turkish bombardments and drone attacks in the region.
The Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said the 14 Hezbollah fighters included 10 Lebanese citizens and four of other nationalities, including at least one Iranian.
Hezbollah later released a statement listing the names and photos of eight of its fighters, including an Iranian cleric identified as Sayyed Ali Zengani. It gave no details other than saying that they “were martyred while performing their jihadi duties.”
More than a thousand Hezbollah fighters, including several founding members, have been killed in Syria.