Airstrikes on Syria pro-government positions kill 12

File photo showing airstrike survivors in Syria (Reuters)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Airstrikes on Syria pro-government positions kill 12

  • At least 12 pro-government fighters who are reportedly foreigners, were killed in a series of overnight airstrikes in eastern Syria.
  • The Syrian government-run media blamed the strikes on the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.

BEIRUT: At least 12 pro-government fighters who are reportedly foreigners, were killed in a series of overnight airstrikes in eastern Syria, said a war-monitoring group on Thursday. The Syrian government-run media blamed the strikes on the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.
In Damascus, the SANA news agency said coalition aircraft struck military positions between the towns of Boukamal and Hmeimeh in Deir Ezzor province. It did not report any casualties.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war through a network of activists on the ground, said the fatalities were not Syrian nationals but foreign fighters. It said the coalition was likely behind the strikes.
The Pentagon said it had “no information” to substantiate reports the coalition was behind the latest airstrikes.
Syria’s government forces have relied on the support from the Lebanese group Hezbollah and other regional militias, organized by Iran to wage war on Syrian rebels and Daesh militants.
Their reach in Syria has alarmed the Trump administration in Washington and Netanyahu’s government in Tel Aviv, which say that Iran’s expansive networks in the war-torn country threaten Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will not allow Iran to threaten Israel from Syria. The Israeli military is believed to be behind dozens of airstrikes in recent years against Hezbollah, Iran, and Syrian military positions.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, days after President Donald Trump revoked America’s participation in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has threatened Iran with the “strongest sanctions in history” unless Tehran withdraws all its forces from Syria and terminates its support for Hezbollah.
Iran has dismissed those threats, saying its forces are in Syria at the invitation of President Bashar Assad’s government.
The strikes targeted “movements” of pro-government forces, near the T2 oil pumping station, the Observatory said.
In February, coalition forces struck pro-government forces in eastern Syria that the US said had attacked US-backed Kurdish forces battling IS militants. It was later revealed the fatalities included a number of Russian private contractors. Russia is a key ally to Assad.
The Iraqi air force is also known to strike targets in eastern Syria. Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi has said it is part of his country’s effort to defeat Daesh militants at its borders, after the government declared it had defeated the jihadist group inside Iraq last year.
The United States, Britain and France bombed government facilities in April in retaliation for a suspected gas attack blamed on Assad’s forces.
Earlier this month, Israel bombed Iranian military positions in Syria in what it said was retaliation for Iranian strikes on the occupied Golan Heights. Israel called it its most serious operation in Syria since the 1973 Mideast war.


Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

Updated 19 June 2018
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Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

  • The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria
  • Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

JERUSALEM: Israel declined to comment on Tuesday on a weekend air strike against an Iraqi paramilitary base in eastern Syria after its US ally implicated it in the attack.
The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria.
Fighters of Iraq’s Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, mainly composed of Iran-trained Shiite militia, have played a major role in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Daesh group in Syria as well as Iraq.
But their presence has sparked confrontations with both Washington, which has been supporting a Kurdish-led alliance that controls other parts of eastern Syria, and Israel, which fears Iranian-inspired attacks on its forces in the occupied Golan Heights.
Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
But US officials denied any involvement and instead pointed the finger at Israel.
“We have reasons to believe that it was an Israeli strike,” one US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Israeli military declined to be drawn on the US claims. “We are not commenting on foreign reports,” a spokeswoman said.
The military has carried out previous strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, but most have been significantly closer to Israel or the Israeli-occupied Golan.
Last month, Israel launched a large-scale attack on what it said were Iranian targets in Syria, raising fears of a major confrontation.
Those strikes followed a barrage of rockets that Israel said was fired toward its forces in the occupied Golan by Iran from Syria.
Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, Netanyahu reiterated his position that “Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria.”
“We will take action — and are already taking action — against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria,” the prime minister said.
“We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria.”
Israeli seized a large swathe of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
Iran has been a close ally of the Syrian regime for some four decades and, with Russia, has been a key supporter in the civil war that broke out in 2011.