Israeli night raids targeting arms depots and military positions in eastern Syria have killed at least 10 Syrian soldiers and 47 allied fighters, in the deadliest raids since 2018, a war monitor said Wednesday.
The Israeli air force carried out more than 18 attacks early Wednesday against multiple targets in an area stretching from the eastern town of Deir Az Zor to the al-Bukamal desert at the Syrian-Iraqi border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
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At least 37 others were also wounded in the raids, according to the London-based monitor.
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.
A senior US intelligence official with knowledge of the attack told The Associated Press that the raids were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States and targeted a series of warehouses in Syria that were being used as a part of the pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.
The US official, who requested anonymity to speak about sensitive national security matters, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the raid with Yossi Cohen, chief of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, at a public meeting in popular Washington restaurant Café Milano on Monday.
The Israeli military did not immediately comment.
The Syrian state news agency SANA reported the attacks but without giving further details.
“At 1:10am [23:10 GMT], the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial assault on the town of Deir Ezzor and the Al Bukamal region,” SANA said, citing a military source.
“The results of the aggression are currently being verified,” it added.
Local news source DeirEzzor24 said a number of warehouses and sites belonging to pro-Iranian militias were hit in the area.
“They burnt Iranian positions in Deir Ezzor,” said Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based activist from Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province who runs an activist collective that reports on news in the border area.
The attacks were the second wave of Israeli raids in Syria in less than a week.
The last air raids on January 7 were aimed at positions in southern Syria and south of the capital Damascus, killing three pro-Iran fighters.
Israel routinely carries out raids in Syria, mostly against targets affiliated with Iran in what it says is a bid to prevent its arch-foe from securing a further foothold along its borders.
According to Israeli media, the area that came under fire has reportedly been struck by Israel on more than one occasion in recent years as it houses a number of bases used by Iranian-backed groups.
The area 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.
The strikes come at a time of heightened tension in the region in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Meanwhile, Israeli jets have been violating Lebanese airspace and crisscrossing skies over Beirut in daily, low-altitude flights that have added to jitters in the Lebanese capital.
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.