ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Airstrikes on multiple areas in a Syrian town near the Iraqi border resulted in the death of 18 militiamen and Iranian personnel early Monday, a local watchdog reported.
The targeted area was the Damascus-controlled Syrian town of al-Bukamal. The Iranian presence is due to the Syrian regime drawing heavy support from Iran, which sends its own units from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as well as militias it arms and trains throughout the Middle East, most notably in Iraq.
Witnesses said IRGC members and Tehran proxies in Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi group, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), were present at one of facilities that was targeted. An informed security source told Kurdistan 24 that two of the present Iraqi militia groups were the notorious Kata’ib Hezbollah and Harakat al-Abdal, or “The Replacements Movement.”
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on its website said that it had “documented heavy casualties from airstrikes that targeted sites, vehicles, ammunition depots and a weapon of Iranian forces and their militias in and around the city of al-Bukamal with several raids and missiles.”
The strikes had killed “at least 18 Iranians and militias loyal to them,” SOHR reported, adding that the death toll was likely to rise.
The unidentified aircraft targeted “Iranian positions in the Imam Ali Center, the Green Belt area, the industrial zone, the al-Abbas village near al-Bukamal, the border crossing with Iraq and other sites” in the city, SOHR wrote.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the air raids but they have been attributed to Israeli forces.
In the past two months, Israel appears to have hit multiple Iranian and Iran-backed targets in Iraq, with Jerusalem giving strong hints they were behind them. In another operation, for which Israel confirmed it was responsible, the country’s airforce hit Iranian forces near the Syrian capital Damascus.
In late August, aircraft alleged to have belonged to Israel hit a Kata’ib Hezbollah convoy near the town of al-Qaim, which is located just across al-Bukamal. The militia group confirmed that one ranking member had been killed while photos emerged that showed two vehicles completely destroyed by the strikes.
The Israeli operations are part of an increasingly overt conflict between the US ally and Iran. Tehran is locked in tensions with the West amid its ongoing reduction in commitments to the nuclear deal as well as tanker tensions in the Strait of Hormuz.
Editing by Nadia Riva