Israeli Strikes Kill Iran Guards, Tehran-Backed Fighters In Syria

Two Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers and two pro-Hezbollah fighters were killed when Israeli air strikes attacked installations affiliated to the Lebanese group near Damascus on Saturday, according to a war monitor.

The strikes near Syria’s capital come less than 24 hours after Israel and Hezbollah ally Hamas ended a seven-day cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

“Two Syrian fighters working with Hezbollah and two IRGC officers were killed in Israeli air strikes on Hezbollah sites near Sayyida Zeinab” south of Damascus, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The two IRGC officers were the target of the Israelis. They struck immediately after the pair went into the Hezbollah site,” said the head of the Britain-based monitor, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

The two officers died from their injuries, he said, adding that five other fighters were wounded.

On Saturday, the IRGC accused Israel of killing two of its members in Syria where they had been on an advisory mission.

“Mohammed Ali Ataei Shoorcheh and Panah Taghizadeh… were martyred by the Zionist usurper enemy while conducting an advisory mission in the Syrian Islamic resistance front,” the Guards’ Sepah News website said.

It did not say when or where they were killed.

Since Syria’s civil conflict began in 2011, Israel has undertaken hundreds of air strikes on its northern neighbor, largely targeting Iran-backed forces such as Hezbollah militants and Syrian army locations.

However, since its battle with Hamas began in October, it has increased its strikes. Last year, Hamas announced the restoration of contacts with Syria’s government.

‘Israeli aggression’

Syria’s defence ministry had also said Israel hit near Damascus, where an AFP journalist heard the loud sound of bombings.

“At approximately 1:35 am (2235 GMT) today, the Israeli enemy carried out an air assault from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting some points near the city of Damascus,” the ministry said in a statement. It gave no casualty figures.

Syrian state television had reported an “Israeli aggression near the capital”.

The Israeli army did not comment when contacted by AFP.

According to the Observatory, on November 8, Israeli air attacks on the same area near Damascus killed three Hezbollah fighters as they attacked sites connected to the formidable Lebanese group.

On November 26, Israeli air attacks made Damascus airport inoperable, barely hours after flights resumed following a similar attack the month before.

Following Israeli bombings on October 12 and 22, both Damascus and Aleppo airports were closed.

Israel seldom comments on specific operations against Syria, but it has frequently stated that it will not let arch-foe Iran, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to strengthen its influence there.

Hezbollah is a Damascus ally that has long fought with Assad in Syria’s war.

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