The strike targeted location where the IRGC Quds Force commander had visited hours earlier.
Smoke rises after an air strike during fighting between members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria
(photo credit: REUTERS/ZOHRA BENSEMRA)
At least six pro-Iranian militia members were killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting military positions in Syria’s al-Bukamal on Saturday night, just hours after the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani had reportedly been at the site.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said six members of pro-Iranian militias, including four Syrian nationals, were killed in the airstrikes “targeting positions of regime forces and Iranian militias in the village of Al-Abbas in the countryside of Al-Bukamal city, east of Deir ez-Zor.”
The strikes, blamed on Israel, came hours after Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported that Ghaani had traveled to al-Bukamal to visit troops. The Syrian town near the Iraqi border is known as a key weapons conduit and where Iran has a network of pro-Iranian militias.
The report was quickly deleted by Tasnim but photographs of Ghaani were published and shared online. During the visit, he also gave a speech accusing Israel and the United States of establishing ISIS and describing them as “two criminal regimes whose conspiracies have not yet ended.”
Ghaani, who was making his first trip to the war-torn country since his predecessor Qassem Soleimani’s assassination in January, stated that Iran would continue to fight the “Zionist regime.”
According to a 2018 report in Foreign Policy, Iran has 11 bases around the country, and another nine bases for their militia forces in southern Aleppo, Homs, and Deir Ezzor, as well as another 15 bases belonging to Hezbollah.
The report stated that Iran has spent over $30 billion and lost over 2,000 troops in Syria – both Iranian and militia forces that Tehran recruited from across the Middle East and Central Asia.
Israel has warned repeatedly about Iran’s nuclear ambitions as well as aspirations of regional hegemony and has admitted to hundreds of airstrikes as part of its campaign of “war-between-wars” (known as Mabam in Hebrew) to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of its forces in Syria where they could easily act against Israel.
Over the past several months, Israel has been accused of dozens of strikes. While in the past Israel was accused of targeting weapon convoys which arrived via Iraq, the strikes over the past few months are targeting Iranian infrastructure and presence on the ground.
Not only have the strikes killed dozens of Iranian troops and destroyed an immeasurable amount of advanced weaponry, but over the last six months, Iran has also significantly reduced the number of cargo flights into Syria which are used to smuggle weapons into the war-torn country.
Dozens of airstrikes have targeted the al-Bukamal region alone which, due to its proximity to the Iraqi border, is seen as a strategic location in Tehran’s land corridor to smuggle weapons and fighters from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.
SOHR reported that the last alleged Israeli airstrike targeting positions belonging to Iranian-backed militias occurred on June 23 in the area of Al-Sukhna in the Deir ez-Zour area of eastern Syria. The strike killed five militia members and destroyed a military center.
Israel’s military does not comment on the foreign reports.