Missile strikes against Syrian regime forces in the central province of Hama overnight killed 26 pro-regime fighters, mostly Iranians, a monitor said Monday.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said the fighters had been killed in a raid, “probably” carried out by Israel, on the 47th Brigade base in Hama.
“At least 26 fighters were killed, including four Syrians,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based war monitor. “The others are foreign fighters, a vast majority of them Iranians.”
“Given the nature of the target, it is likely to have been an Israeli strike,” he said, adding that strikes also hit an air base in nearby Aleppo province where surface-to-surface missiles were stored.
State media reported overnight that “enemy missiles” had struck government targets in Hama and Aleppo provinces, without mentioning any casualties or who may have been responsible.
There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties: Syrian opposition officials have reportedly said that 18 Iranians, including a senior Revolutionary Guards military official, were killed, according to Israel Radio. Other opposition-linked outlets placed the overall number of fatalities at 38.
While some sources blamed Israel for the strikes, Syrian state-owned news site Tishreen said late Sunday the raids were carried out by United States and British forces. The Western troops launched nine ballistic missiles from military bases in northern Jordan that struck Syrian bases near Aleppo and Hama, the news outlet said on its Facebook page.
Other media outlets claimed the attacks were carried out by aircraft bombers, and Hezbollah-linked sources and other regime outlets attributed the strikes to Israel.
There was no official statement from the US or Britain about the attack. As a rule, the Israeli Air Force does not comment on its activities abroad.
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio on Monday morning that he was “not aware” of the latest strikes.
But, he said, “all the violence and instability in Syria is the result of Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence there. Israel will not allow the opening of a northern front in Syria.”
انطلقت من مملكة #الأردن..مصادر ميدانية: العدوان على ريفي #حلب و #حماة تم بنحو 9 صواريخ بالستية انطلقت من القواعدة الأمريكية والبريطانية شمال #المملكة_الأردنية_الهاشمية
The official SANA news agency reported that some “enemy missiles” targeted the Syrian regime’s military positions in the provinces of Hama and Aleppo, without identifying the attackers.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights monitor confirmed the firing of missiles, adding that “Iranian elements” were stationed at two of the targeted bases.
Videos of the blast show a fireball light up the night sky.
فيديو للإنفجارات في ريف حماه ..نسأل الله السلامة للرجال هناك ..????الشفاء العاجل للجرحى ..حتى الآن لم يصرح مصدر مسؤول عن ماهية الإنفجارات ..#محردة_الآن
Posted by محردة الآن on Sunday, 29 April 2018
The Hama facility was said to house a weapons depot, which accounted for the size and intensity of the blast, which could be seen from kilometers away and reportedly registered on seismographs in the area.
The Orient news outlet noted that the base was known to be the headquarters of Iranian militiamen and had been “heavily involved” in attacks against rebel forces in the area.
Earlier this month, seven Iranian military personnel were killed in an airstrike on Syria’s T4 air base in Homs. Syria, Iran and Russia blamed Israel for that attack. Israel did not confirm or deny it.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel will uphold its right to operate in Syria against any threats, and will not be deterred if Russia supplies the Syrians with advanced air defense systems. He added that Israel will stop at nothing to prevent Iran from using Syrian territory as a base to attack Israel.
“We will maintain freedom of operation in all of Syria,” Liberman said, when asked about Russia equipping Syria with advanced systems.
Israel has repeatedly voiced concerns that, as well as trying to deliver advanced weaponry to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, Iran has been using the unrest in Syrian as a means to establish forward operating bases that could be used to launch rocket attacks and other military action against Israel.
Israel, Liberman said, “will prevent Iran from establishing a forward base in Syria at any cost.”
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.