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16 killed as Israel carries out 20 air raids in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria: Israeli fighter jets carried out night raids which hit arms depots and military positions in eastern Syria killed at least 16 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

The Israeli air force carried out more than 18 attacks 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, according to the Britain-based war monitor.

The raids killed five Syrian soldiers and 11 allied fighters belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Lebanese Hezbollah and the Fatemiyoun Division which includes pro-Iranian Afghan fighters, the Observatory said, although their nationalities and a precise breakdown were not immediately known.

The Syrian state news agency SANA reported the attacks but without giving further details.

“At 1:10 am [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.

Israel has not commented on the attack. It was the second wave of Israeli raids in Syria in less than a week.

The last attacks 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.

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.