Group: Israeli strikes in Syria killed 5 foreign fighters
BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian war monitoring group said Tuesday that Israeli airstrikes the previous day on military posts south of the capital, Damascus, killed five foreign fighters and wounded several others.
Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group said in a statement that one of its fighters, Ali Kamel Mohsen, was killed in the Monday night strike near Damascus International Airport, south of the Syrian capital. Hezbollah said Mohsen’s family will not be receiving condolences due to the coronavirus, adding that a date will be set later for the funeral.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah had vowed in the past to retaliate for any fighter that Israel kills in Syria. The group fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles into Israel on Sept. 1 last year after two of its fighters were killed in an Israeli airstrike near Damascus days earlier.
That prompted a reprisal of heavy Israeli artillery fire in a rare burst of fighting between the bitter enemies. Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended in a draw.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it wasn’t immediately clear if the dead were Iranians or members of Iran-backed groups. The group, which tracks the Syrian civil war through a network of activists on the ground, added that the wounded included four foreign fighters and seven Syrian members of an air-defense unit.
It said the Monday night airstrikes struck arms depots and military posts on the southern edge of Damascus.
On Monday, the Syrian military said the country’s air defenses responded to Israeli air raids in south Damascus, saying they wounded seven soldiers and caused material damage.
Syrian state media cited an unnamed military official as saying that Israeli warplanes carried out the attack while flying over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. The official said several missiles were shot down before they reached their target.
Israel rarely comments on such reports but is believed to have carried out scores of raids targeting Iran’s military presence in Syria. In the past two months alone, Syria has accused Israel of carrying out at least eight air raids on its territory. The last reported strikes came in late June.
Iran has been a key ally of the Syrian government in the nearly decade-long civil war. Tehran sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters in the past years to fight alongside Syrian government forces.
Israel views Iran as a regional menace and has vowed to prevent any permanent Iranian military buildup in Syria, particularly near its frontier.