BEIRUT (AP) — Unknown warplanes targetted an arms depot and posts of militias in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least 18 fighters in a night-time attack, Syrian opposition activists said on Monday. A Syrian security official said Israeli jets staged the airstrikes, but denied there were any casualties.
An official with the militia in Iraq also blamed Israel for the airstrikes that hit in the eastern Syrian town of Boukamal early Monday. There was no immediate comment from Israel.
Israel frequently attacks Iranian targets in Syria and is believed to have recently crash-landed drones in southern Beirut in a stronghold of the Hezbollah group.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that the Israeli military forces “will act — and currently are acting — against them.”
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the airstrikes began late Sunday and continued after midnight, killing 18 fighters and also causing extensive damage.
The Sound and Pictures, a local activist collective in eastern Syria, gave a higher death toll, saying 21 fighters were killed and 36 wounded. The collective said the strikes targetted positions belonging to militias and those of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, but did not say who the dead and wounded were.
A Syria-based official for the Iraqi militia claimed that Israel was behind the attack, adding that four missiles fired by warplanes hit a post manned by gunmen and members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, said there were no Iraqi casualties in the strike, which he said hit about three kilometres from the Iraqi border.
A Syrian security official cited by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said the Israeli planes targetted a military camp that was being set up by the Syrian army and its allies. It said the structure was deserted at the time and the strike did not cause any casualties, contrary to the reports.
The official claimed the planes used Jordanian airspace and were “aided” by American forces stationed at the Tanf garrison, near Syria’s eastern border with Jordan. “We hold the Americans and Israelis responsible for these acts of aggression which cross the red lines,” said the official, who was not named.