JERUSALEM - A British monitoring group says Israeli missile strikes killed at least 23 pro-Iranian fighters near Damascus Thursday. Israel is not commenting, but Syrian state media said their air defense repelled a number of attacks.
A resident of Damascus filmed the airstrikes on his cellphone.
The Syrian state news agency said that Syrian troops shot down a number of missiles. But Rami Abdul Rahman of the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there is more to the story.
He said at least 23 fighters were killed, possibly including some Iranians, and that the missiles caused extensive damage.
In the past, Israel has confirmed similar airstrikes, saying that Israel will not allow Iran to expand its control of Syria, and will not allow weapons convoys to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
This time, Israel did not confirm or deny its involvement in the air assault, perhaps due to the high reported death toll.
The attacks in Syria came amid growing tensions between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians following the announcement of President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. At least 14 Israeli soldiers were wounded in three separate incidents, and Hamas has called for more attacks in protest.
The reported strikes in Syria also came just over a month after the killing of Iranian Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike earlier this month in Iraq. Iran has vowed to avenge those attacks.
Iran is a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has survived a long Syrian civil war that is still going on in some areas. Iran has helped Assad fight Islamic State. Israel says it is concerned about growing Iranian influence in Syria.