BEIRUT: Israeli air strikes in Syria overnight killed at least eight fighters operating in pro-Iran militias, a war monitoring group said on Wednesday.

The strikes targeted an arms depot and a position held by Iranian forces and their Lebanese ally Hezbollah near the capital Damascus, and a pro-Iran militia position in southern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The nationalities of the dead fighters was not immediately know, the Britain-based monitor said.

Syrian state media SANA earlier said an air strike by “the Zionist enemy” had hit an area “south of Damascus” just before midnight local time.

SANA also reported another strike against the village of Rwihinah in the southern province of Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, without reporting any casualties from either attack.

The Israeli army rarely acknowledges individual strikes and refused to comment when contacted on Wednesday.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria, targeting government troops as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces which support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Last week, Israeli warplanes struck Iranian targets in Syria, in what the Israeli army called a retaliatory attack for what it said were explosive devices found near one of its bases on the Golan Heights.

SANA said those strikes had killed three Syrian soldiers, while the Observatory said seven allied foreign fighters also died.The Syrian army said early on Wednesday that Israel launched air strikes on an area in the southern outskirts of Damascus, where military defectors believe has a strong Iranian military presence in the second such attack within a week.

The Israeli aerial strike on a strategic area that Israel had hit in the past came from the occupied Golan Heights and caused only material damages, the army statement said.

Military defectors said the strike targeted an military base in Jabal Mane Heights near the town of Kiswa, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards have long been entrenched in a rugged area almost 15 km (9.3 miles) south of the centre of Damascus.

Strikes that occurred in July also hit towns near Kiswa, where Lebanese pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia are deployed with other pro-Tehran militias in strength, according to a senior army defector.

The area has anti-aircraft missiles that are stationed to defend the Syrian Golan Heights along the border with Israel, the military sources said.

“We don’t comment on these kind of news reports,” an Israeli military spokesman said.

The aerial strikes hit a territory, which is situated in a zone that extends from the southern countryside of Damascus to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights where the growing Iranian presence is viewed as a strategic threat by Israel.

The Syrian army statement said the Israeli aerial strike came from the occupied Golan Heights and caused only material damages.

Israel launched air raids against what it called a wide range of Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria last Wednesday, sending a signal that it will pursue its policy of striking across the border despite US President Donald Trump’s election defeat.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has never publicly acknowledged that there are Iranian forces operating on his behalf in Syria’s civil war, saying Tehran only has military advisers on the ground.

Western intelligence sources say Israel’s stepped-up strikes on Syria in the last few months are a part of a shadow war, approved by Washington and part of the anti-Iran policy that has undermined in the last two years Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.

Israeli defense officials have said in recent months that Israel would step up its campaign against Iran in Syria, where Tehran has expanded its presence with the help of its proxy militias.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020

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