Israeli air raids kill 31 in deadliest attacks on Syria since 2018

An Israeli armoured personnel carrier during a military drill in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on Dec 30, 2020.
An Israeli armoured personnel carrier during a military drill in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on Dec 30, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIRUT • Israeli night raids targeting arms depots and military positions in eastern Syria killed at least seven Syrian soldiers and 24 allied fighters in the deadliest raids since 2018, a war monitor said yesterday.

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 24 foreign militia fighters whose nationalities were not immediately known, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Paramilitaries belonging to the Lebanese Hizbollah movement and the Fatimid Brigade, which is made up of pro-Iranian Afghan fighters, operate in the region, the Observatory said.

Asked by Israel's Reshet Bet radio about the reports, Israeli Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said he would not comment on the incident.

But Mr Hanegbi said Israel targeted Iranian targets in Syria "time after time... whenever our intelligence dictates it and according to our operational capability".

Israel's Defence Force Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said last month that missile strikes had "slowed down Iran's entrenchment in Syria".

Syrian 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.

Yesterday's raids came hours after a separate wave of strikes near the Iraqi border killed at least 12 Iran-backed militia fighters on Tuesday.

Israel hit around 50 targets in Syria last year, according to an annual report released late last month by the Israeli military.

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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline 'Israeli air raids kill 31 in deadliest attacks on Syria since 2018'. Print Edition | Subscribe