Strikes reported on Iran-backed militia on Syria-Iraq border, 10 said killed

UK-based Syrian war monitor says several dead in bombing by unidentified UAVs in area previously hit by airstrikes attributed to Israel

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

This photo released by Popular Mobilization Forces shows shows the aftermath of a drone attack near Qaim border crossing with Syria, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (Popular Mobilization Forces via AP)
Illustrative. This photo released by Popular Mobilization Forces shows shows the aftermath of a drone attack near Qaim border crossing with Syria, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (Popular Mobilization Forces via AP)

Unknown unmanned aircraft attacked posts of Iranian-backed fighters in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, killing at least 10 people, according to Arabic media reports.

Some Syrian and Iraqi outlets said Israel was suspected of being behind the strikes, which targeted positions controlled by Shiite militias in the Boukamal region of Syria. There were no such public allegations by Syrian or Iraqi officials.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 10 pro-Iranian fighters were killed in the early morning airstrike by unmanned aerial vehicles, which reportedly targeted a training camp and ammunition storehouse.

The Israeli military has been accused of conducting air raids on Iran-backed militias in the Boukamal region in the past, including earlier this month in a series of airstrikes in which at least 18 militiamen were reportedly killed.

The Tuesday blasts reportedly targeted a base belonging to the Popular Mobilization Force, an umbrella group of largely Iran-backed militias.

The Observatory and activist collective Deir Ezzor 24 said the strikes occurred near a newly constructed, but not yet operational Syrian border crossing with Iraq. The opening of the crossing, planned by Iraq and Syria, had been postponed several times in recent weeks.

Satellite image showing the aftermath of an overnight airstrike on an alleged Iranian military base in Syria’s Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, on September 9, 2019. (ImageSat International)

On September 9, aircraft also targeted an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in the Boukamal region, killing at least 18 fighters and destroying at least eight storehouses. A Syrian security official said at the time that Israeli jets were behind the attack but denied there were casualties.

Apparently in response to that strike, an Iran-backed militia in Syria fired several rockets toward northern Israel several hours later, but they fell short of the border, the army said, laying the attack at the door of operatives of a Shiite militia operating under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.

The Israeli military has warned Syria’s Assad regime that it would “pay the price” for allowing Iran and its proxies to use Syria as a base of operations against the Jewish state, either by turning a blind eye to their actions or by actively cooperating with them.

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019. (video screenshot)

Since mid-July, six arms depots and training camps belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces have been targeted in apparent attacks.

The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network has reported that the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group also maintains a presence in the Boukamal region.

The PMF has blamed both Israel and the US for the string of blasts and drone sightings at its bases. Israeli officials have not publicly commented on these allegations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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