The Hezbollah terror group on Tuesday evening accused Israel of killing one of its members in an airstrike outside Damascus the night before, raising the possibility of retaliation against the Jewish state.
In a statement carried by Hezbollah-controlled media channels, the terror group said its operative Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad was killed in an act of “Zionist aggression,” apparently referring to a series of airstrikes south of Damascus late Monday night that were attributed to Israel.
In the past, Hezbollah has retaliated for confirmed deaths of its members at Israel’s hands with attacks on the Jewish state, generally along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Such an exchange occurred last August, when the Israel Defense Forces killed two Hezbollah members that the military said were taking part in an Iranian-run operation in southern Syria that attempted to attack IDF border positions with armed drones.
“If Israel kills any of our members in Syria, we’ll respond from Lebanon and not in the Shebaa Farms, and we tell the Israeli army on the border to be very cautious and to wait for us,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech at the time.
Days later, in response to their deaths — as well as an alleged Israeli drone attack in Beirut that occurred the same night — Hezbollah fired three anti-tank guided missiles at Israeli military targets along the Lebanese border, narrowly missing an IDF armored ambulance in with five soldiers inside.
A Britain-based Syrian war monitoring group reported that five Iran-backed fighters were killed in an Israeli missile strike south of the Syrian capital on Monday night. It was not immediately clear if Jawad was counted among the five.
The missile attack on Monday night hit weapons depots and military positions belonging to Syrian regime forces and Iran-backed militia fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The attack wounded at least seven Syrian troops, according to the official SANA news agency, which said the missiles were launched by warplanes from the Golan Heights.
The five killed were all non-Syrian paramilitary fighters, according to the Observatory.
It added that 11 combatants were wounded in total — four non-Syrian fighters and seven Syrian troops, of whom two were in critical condition.
The group said the aerial bombardments caused several explosions around the town of Kiswah, an area that has long been associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The attack reportedly came in two waves. The Reuters news service reported that the assault hit targets in the towns of Jabal al Mane, Muqaylabiya and Zakiya, causing “huge blasts” and allegedly killing Iranian personnel.
A military source quoted by SANA claimed that most of the missiles were shot down. Such claims of interceptions by Syrian state media are generally dismissed by defense analysts as empty boasts.
Reuters quoted a Syrian analyst with sources on the ground named Zaid al Reys as saying that the target of the attack was a “major ammunition depot.”
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. It has targeted government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah.
It rarely confirms details of its operations in Syria, but says Iran’s presence in support of President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah is a threat and that it will continue its strikes.
Monday’s attack came a week and a half after Iran and Syria signed an agreement that would see Tehran upgrade the Syrian military’s air defenses, apparently in response to ongoing Israeli strikes in the country.
It was the first strike in Syria to be attributed to Israel since June, when the Observatory said nine fighters were killed in airstrikes targeting positions of Iran-backed militias near the Iraqi border. Those strikes came hours after a similar raid killed six other Tehran-backed fighters.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.