Iranians killed in missile attack in Syria
A missile attack targeting government outposts in Syria’s northern region killed 26 pro-government fighters, mostly Iranians, a Syria war monitoring group said Monday.A publication called Behind the News said an Israeli air strike was responsible for the attack.
Iranian media gave conflicting reports about the overnight incident amid speculation it was carried out by neighboring Israel.
The attack came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked to President Donald Trump on the phone. The White House said the two leaders discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East, “especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the late Sunday night attack appears to have been carried out by Israel and targeted an arms depot for surface-to-surface missiles at a base in northern Syria known as Brigade 47. The Observatory said four Syrians were also among casualties.
It said the death toll could rise as the attack also wounded 60 fighters and there were several others are still missing.
Iranian state television, citing Syrian media, reported the attack.
However, an Iranian semi-official news agency denied reports that Iranian fighters were killed or that Iranian-run bases were hit. The Tasnim news agency quoted an unnamed Iranian informed official in its report but did not elaborate on the denial.
Another semi-official news agency, ISNA, said the strike killed 18 Iranians, including a commander, in a suburb of the central city of Hama. It cited “local sources and activists” for its report.
Arabs report that Israeli warplanes bombed a huge underground Iranian rockets warehouse near Hama in Homs province. Following the airstrikes, explosions from the surface-to-surface missiles destroyed, caused a 2.6 earthquake.The explosion was said to be powerful enough to trigger an earthquake registered in neighboring countries. The missiles hit in the attack appear to be ones Iran could have used to attack Israel. They were apparently stored in an underground bunker and were hit with a bunker buster missile that caused secondary explosions. With the report of Iranian dead, the suggestion of an Israeli attack looks valid. Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate Syria becoming a base for attacks by Iran on Israel.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling targeted a Syrian army base, home to the 47th Brigade, near the city of Salhab, west of Hama, where Iranian forces are stationed.
The monitor said rockets also hit Syrian government bases in the region surrounding Nairab military airport, which is close to Aleppo International Airport.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel will maintain freedom of operation in Syria.
“We have no intention to attack Russia or to interfere in domestic Syrian issues,” Liberman said. “But if somebody thinks that it is possible to launch missiles or to attack Israel or even our aircraft, no doubt we will respond and we will respond very forcefully.”