BFF-43 Israeli strikes kill 23 Syrian, foreign fighters in Syria

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BFF-43

SYRIA-CONFLICT-ISRAEL

Israeli strikes kill 23 Syrian, foreign fighters in Syria

BEIRUT, Feb 6, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Israeli air strikes killed 23 Syrian and
foreign fighters in Syria Thursday, a monitor said, the latest in a spate of
raids Israel has said targeted an Iranian presence on its doorstep.

Israel has pledged to prevent its main enemy from entrenching itself
militarily in Syria, where it is backing President Bashar al-Assad’s
government alongside Russia and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The pre-dawn raids killed three Iranians and seven Tehran-backed foreign
fighters near Kisweh south of the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights said.

Eight Syrian air defence forces also lost their lives in both Mezzeh and
Jisr Baghdad, west of the capital, the Britain-based war monitor said.

Five Syrian members of pro-Iran group were killed in the Ezra area in the
southern province of Daraa.

A Syrian army source quoted by state news agency SANA said air defences
responded to two waves of Israeli strikes after midnight that targeted the
Damascus area and then positions in Daraa and the adjacent province of
Quneitra.

“The attack wounded eight fighters,” the source said, without elaborating
on where they had been stationed or their nationality.

He said the raids were carried out from the airspace above the Israeli-
occupied Golan Heights and southern Lebanon.

– Loud explosions –

AFP correspondents in Damascus heard loud explosions around 1:15 am (2315
GMT Wednesday).

State television broadcast images showing explosions in the sky.

An Israeli army spokesman declined to comment on the strikes when
contacted by AFP.

Israel has carried out repeated strikes in Syria since the civil war
erupted in 2011, mainly targeting government forces and their Iranian and
Hezbollah allies.

Israel’s political leadership has spoken publicly of the bombing campaign,
although the army rarely comments on individual strikes.

Last month, Damascus accused the Israeli air force of carrying out an
attack on the T4 airbase in central Syria, which the Observatory said killed
at least three Iran-backed militiamen.

In December, the Observatory said Israeli air strikes killed three
foreigners fighting alongside government forces south of the capital.

The previous month, the Israeli army claimed responsibility for a wave of
air strikes against Syrian military sites and Iranian forces that killed 23
people including 16 foreigners.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said positions of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards foreign operations arm were among the targets.

– ‘Will not save’ Idlib –

The war in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced
millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of pro-democracy
protests.

The reported Israeli strikes come as government forces press a blistering
offensive against Syria’s last major rebel bastion, in the Idlib region in
the northwest.

The Syrian army source said the strikes would not deter government forces
from retaking the region, which is dominated by jihadists of Syria’s former
Al-Qaeda affiliate.

“This escalation will not save the armed terrorist groups that are
collapsing in Idlib and western Aleppo under the strikes of the Syrian Arab
Army,” the source said.

The bombardment has killed around 300 civilians since mid-December, the
Observatory says.

The violence has seen more than 500,000 civilians flee their homes over
the past two months, the United Nations says.

BSS/AFP/FI/ 1015 hrs