US says targeted Al-Qaeda in northwest Syria, while Israel attacks on another front

The site where the US military carried out a strike against Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in Syria's northwestern Aleppo province.
The site where the US military carried out a strike against Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in Syria's northwestern Aleppo province.PHOTO: AFP

BEIRUT (AFP) - The United States said on Monday (July 1) it had carried out a strike against Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in northwestern Syria, its first such operation there in two years.

On another front in Syria's complex eight-year civil war, Israeli air strikes killed 15 people including civilians late on Sunday, a monitor said.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and drawn in world powers since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

The United States has carried out several strikes in northwestern Syria, but they appeared to have petered out since 2017.

The US military said on Monday it had targeted militants in an embattled opposition bastion in the northwest of the country the previous day.

"US forces conducted a strike against Al-Qaida in Syria (AQ-S) leadership at a training facility," US Central Command said in a statement. "This operation targeted AQ-S operatives responsible for plotting external attacks threatening US citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians," it added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raid in Aleppo province killed six commanders and other militants from the Hurras al-Deen group.

The leaders included two Tunisians, two Algerians, an Egyptian and a Syrian, the Britain-based monitor said.

Hurras al-Deen released a statement on social media channels on Monday saying a "group of brotherly jihadists" were killed in an attack on a "religious centre" and not a training facility.

Hurras al-Deen was established in February 2018 and has some 1,800 fighters, including non-Syrians, according to the Observatory.

The group maintains ties to Al-Qaeda and fights alongside the global militant network's former Syria branch, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

HTS has since January controlled most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Latakia and Hama.

Late on Sunday, Israeli air strikes near Damascus and in Homs province killed nine mostly foreign pro-regime fighters and six civilians, including three children, the Observatory said. It was not immediately clear if the civilians died in the strikes or in their aftermath, it added.

The strikes hit several Iranian positions near Damascus, also targeting a research centre and a military airport west of the city of Homs where the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and Iranians are deployed, the war monitor said.

One of the pro-regime fighters killed was Syrian, while the rest were of other nationalities, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

State news agency SANA earlier said four civilians had been killed after its air defences responded to an Israeli attack. An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, targeting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the regime's allies Iran and Hezbollah.