Alleged Israeli airstrikes in eastern Syria killed at least 14 Iranian fighters and allied militiamen, a war monitor reported Tuesday.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, all of the fatalities in the bombardment of militia bases in the Deir Ezzor region were Iranian or Iraqi nationals.
It said the death toll was expected to further rise, as a number of people injured in the strike were in critical condition.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the strikes in the desert near the town of Mayadin, but observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said it was “likely” that Israel had mounted the operation.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State jihadist group said it was not responsible for the strikes.
The Britain-based monitor did not report any deaths in a separate strike late Monday — also blamed on Israel — on Iran-linked arms warehouses east of Aleppo that were adjacent to Syrian defense laboratories.
Monday night’s attacks were the sixth and seventh strikes attributed to Israel against Iran-linked forces in Syria in the past two weeks. There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces, which rarely comments on individual cross-border raids.
Citing a military source, Syrian state media outlet SANA reported that the attack outside Aleppo targeted several “military depots” in the al-Safira area southeast of the city.
“Syrian air defenses intercept an Israeli aggression on a research center in Aleppo province,” SANA reported.
The defense laboratory is believed by Western intelligence services to be used in the development of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime with help from Iran.
The official Syrian news outlet said that several of the incoming missiles were intercepted by the country’s air defenses. Security analysts generally see such claims as exaggerated if not outright fabrications.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett last Tuesday appeared to confirm that Israel was responsible for recent attacks against pro-Iranian forces in Syria, saying that the military was working to drive Tehran out of the country.
Jerusalem says Iran’s presence in Syria, where it is fighting in support of President Bashar Assad, is a threat, as Tehran seeks to establish a permanent foothold along Israel’s northern borders. Israel has also threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from providing the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group with advanced weaponry, specifically precision-guided missiles.
Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably Hezbollah, but the Israel Defense Forces has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.
Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.