Israeli night raids targeting arms depots and military positions in eastern Syria killed at least seven Syrian soldiers and 16 allied fighters, in the deadliest raids since 2018, a war monitor said 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 monitoring group said.
Paramilitaries belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and the Fatimid Brigade, which is made up of pro-Iranian Afghan fighters, operate in the region, the Observatory said.
The raids also wounded 28 troops and militiamen, some of them critically.
The Israeli military did not immediately comment.
Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman called the Israeli raids the “deadliest since June 2018” when strikes on the same region killed at least 55 pro-government fighters, including Iraqis as well as 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 (2310 GMT Tuesday), the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial assault on the town of Deir Ezzor and the Abu Kamal region,” SANA said, citing a military source.
“The results of the aggression are currently being verified,” it added.
It was the second wave of Israeli raids in Syria in less than a week.
The last strikes on January 7 targeted positions in southern Syria and in the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus, killing three pro-Iran fighters.
Israel routinely carries out raids in Syria, mostly against targets linked to Iran in what it says is a bid to prevent its arch foe from consolidating a foothold on its northern border.
Israel hit around 50 targets in Syria in 2020, according to an annual report released in late December by the Israeli military.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as Syrian government troops.
Israel rarely acknowledges individual strikes but has done so when responding 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 repression of anti-government protests.
Al Jazeera reported that the area of the attack is also key to a land corridor for Tehran that links Iran across Iraq and Syria through Lebanon, which Iran uses to smuggle in weapons and rockets, mainly to the Hezbollah armed group.
Iran has members of its own military as well as fighters from a variety of nationalities fighting with militias it supports deployed across Syria.
Israel hit about 50 targets in Syria in 2020, according to an annual report released in late December by the Israeli military.
The Israeli army has carried out hundreds of air and missile raids on Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, singling out Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops.
Iran’s nuclear program
Airstrikes near the Syria-Iraq border early Wednesday targeted sites used for Iran’s nuclear program, a senior US intelligence official told AlJazeera Wednesday.
According to the official, American intelligence was used to execute the strike, which was aimed at a warehouse used to transfer and store advanced nuclear weapons, as well as dispatch materials used in Iran’s nuclear weapons development program.
The IDF had no comment on the report.
AFP/ France 24/ Al Jazeera