Monitor claims 3 pro-Iran fighters killed in alleged Israeli strike in Syria

Casualties were from group linked to Hezbollah set up to attack Israel from Syrian Golan, says Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Illustrative: Smoke billows following an alleged Israeli airstrike south of Damascus, Syria, on July 20, 2020. (AFP)
Illustrative: Smoke billows following an alleged Israeli airstrike south of Damascus, Syria, on July 20, 2020. (AFP)

BEIRUT — Three Iran-backed paramilitary fighters were killed in an overnight Israeli strike that hit Syria’s southern province of Quneitra, a war monitor said Wednesday.

The three were from the Syrian Resistance to Liberate the Golan, a group linked to the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based pro-opposition group.

It was impossible to confirm the claim.

The Syrian group was formed more than six years ago to launch attacks against Israel in the Golan Heights.

At least one of the killed fighters was Syrian, the Observatory said, but the nationalities of the other two remained unclear.

The official SANA news agency reported the Israeli strike on a “school” in Quneitra’s northern countryside shortly after midnight, but did not mention casualties.

Abdul Rahman said that Iran-backed fighters were staying inside the facility the night of the attack.

A convoy of UN vehicles drive through damaged buildings in the Syrian town of Quneitra, in the Golan Heights on March 26, 2019. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

Along with Russia, Israel’s nemesis Iran has been a key backer of the Damascus regime in its nine-year-long civil war.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops.

The Israel Defense Forces has not commented on the matter, in line with its so-called “policy of ambiguity” regarding its military activities against Iran and its proxies in Syria. Israel has repeatedly accused the Hezbollah terror group and other Iran-backed militias of setting up bases and operating along the Golan border.

However, Defense Minister Benny Gantz seemed to hint earlier Wednesday that Israel was behind the latest strike.

“I won’t go into who fired what last night. We won’t allow terrorist operatives from Hezbollah or Iran to set up on the Golan Heights border and we will do what is necessary to drive them out of there,” he said in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster.

Asked if that was the reason behind the alleged Israeli strike, Gantz responded opaquely: “Listen, things happen.”

Syria’s war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions more since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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