A regional official and Syrian activists said Wednesday that Iran and its proxy militia in Lebanon have poured in hundreds of fighters to central and northern Syria in recent days.
They said the Iranian and Hezbollah fighters are taking advantage of Russian air cover to go on the offensive against insurgents in those areas.
Iranian and Syrian officials have long maintained that Iran has advisers and military experts in Syria. Wednesday’s news is the first confirmation of Iranian fighters taking part in combat operations in Syria.
The official with knowledge of operational details in Syria spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss military affairs.
Russia began carrying out airstrikes in Syria on September 30, and Syrian troops and allied militiamen began a ground offensive a week later.
Two senior Iranian commanders, one a general, were killed fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces, local media reported Wednesday.
On Tuesday, an Iranian state television reporter working in Syria, in two posts on the Instagram photosharing service, named them as Brigadier General Farshad Hasounizadeh and Hamid Mukhtarband.
The two belonged to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and were killed Monday, the reporter said.
Mukhtarband, whose rank was not given, was formerly a brigade commander in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz.
There was no official confirmation in Tehran of the deaths. Iran’s Fars and Tasnim news agencies and Tabnak, a news website, reported the state television reporter’s account.
Neither the reporter nor the agencies said where the deaths had occurred.
If confirmed, they would come the same week the Guards announced their highest-profile casualty in the effort to shore up Assad.
General Hossein Hamedani, who had undertaken 80 missions in Syria according to a eulogy at his funeral in Iran, was killed in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign wing, Major General Qassem Soleimani, is said to be heavily involved in guiding military strategy.