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Damascus air base, Iranian warehouse said hit in alleged Israeli strikes

Strikes come as reports indicate Iranians co-opting bases, soldiers, with IRGC head reportedly visiting Syria recently to discuss bad blood between militias and regulars

Illustrative: The Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood of the Syrian capital Damascus on July 14, 2022. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP)
Illustrative: The Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood of the Syrian capital Damascus on July 14, 2022. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP)

Alleged Israeli strikes in Syria overnight targeted Iranian forces being hosted on Syrian military bases, according to an unverified report Friday, days after the head of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was reportedly in Syria for talks.

Israeli fighter jets struck areas near the Syrian capital Damascus shortly after midnight on Friday, killing three soldiers and wounding seven others, Syria’s official state media reported earlier.

Among the sites hit was a base in Damascus used by a brigade within Syria’s powerful Fourth Division, led by Maher Assad, brother of dictator Bashar Assad and considered by some to be an army within an army, Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya reported Friday.

Al Arabiya attributed the information to unspecified “sources.”

According to the outlet, members of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force militia host their own arms stores and warehouses on bases used by Syria’s Fourth Division and First Division, as well as the Syrian navy. The situation means some Syrian soldiers have wound up working as guards under de facto Iranian command, the outlet said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that eight people were killed in the strikes. The dead included three non-Syrians, two Syrians working with Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and three Syrians guarding an air defense battery. The state-run SANA news agency earlier reported three members of Syria’s military were killed.

The Britain-based opposition monitor, which relies on a network of informants inside Syria and has been criticized for having unclear funding sources, said the missiles hit intelligence offices at al-Mazzah air base in Syria’s capital and an Iranian warehouse in the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyidah Zaynab.

Images that circulated on social media purportedly from the site showed heavy damage to a building.

There was no comment on the strikes from the Israel Defense Forces, which does not comment on individual strikes, except for those in retaliation to specific attacks against Israel.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in the last decade, mostly to stymie attempts by Iranian forces to transfer weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, or establish a foothold on Israel’s northern frontier.

Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, who commands the IRGC, was in Syria last week to discuss the treatment of Iran-backed militias in the country, according to al-Arabiya, citing the same unspecified sources.

The report said the two also discussed deployment positioning.

Reports have indicated growing bad blood between Iran-backed militias and Syrian forces in Syria over the co-opting of Syrian soldiers as well as disputes over where certain groups deploy and who controls smuggling routes.

The last strike in Syria attributed to Israel was on July 6, when a Syrian soldier was reportedly killed in an Israeli drone strike near the border with Israel.

Before that, on July 2, Israel reportedly attacked a site in the town of al-Hamidiyah, south of Tartus, close to the border with Lebanon.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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