A Syrian war monitor says at least 40 government soldiers and allied paramilitaries have been killed in alleged Israeli air strikes apparently targeting positions and arms depots of Iran-backed forces.
The Israeli Air Force carried out more than 18 strikes in an area stretching from the eastern town of Deir Ezzor to the Iraqi border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on January 13.
The British-based group said the overnight raids killed nine Syrian soldiers and 31 pro-government fighters, whose nationalities were not immediately known.
More than 30 others were wounded in the attack, it added.
Fighters belonging to the Lebanese Shi’ite Hizballah movement and the Fatimid Brigade, a militia mainly made up of pro-Iranian Afghan fighters, operate in the region, the Observatory said.
The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that “the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial assault on the town of Deir al-Zor and the Albu Kamal region.” It did not provide further details.
Israel’s military did not immediately comment.
Along with Russia, Iran has provided crucial military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s civil war, which began with a crackdown on anti-government protesters in March 2011. More than 400,000 people have since been killed and millions displaced.
Israel has pledged to stop Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, carrying out hundreds of air strikes there against what it describes as Iranian targets and those of allied militia.
The Israeli Army rarely acknowledges individual strikes.
Reuters quoted Western intelligence sources as saying that the latest raids focused on the most important land route for deliveries of Iranian weapons and fighters into Syria.
A senior U.S. intelligence official told the Associated Press that the strikes were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States and targeted a series of warehouses in Syria that were being used in a pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.