Popular Mobilization Forces personnal stand by a burning truck after a drone attack, blamed on Israel, in western Iraq near the Syria border, August 25, 2019 (AP)
Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria, near the Iraq border, have been struck in the latest attack on Iranian positions in the country.
The pre-dawn attack targeted the Imam Ali compound in the al-Bukamal region, about 3 km (2 miles) from the border. Local activists said 21 fighters were killed and 36 wounded, including Iranian personnel and pro-Iranian militiamen.
The base was used by the Popular Mobilization Force, a group of Iraqi Shia militias long supported by Tehran. US and Israeli claim the Quds Forces, the branch of the Revolutionary Guards operating outside Iraq, oversees operations.
A PMF official in Syria claimed Israeli warplanes fired four missiles on a post manned by Iranian troops and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
An Assad regime official also blamed Israel. He claimed the “military camp” was deserted and there were no casualties.
“We hold the Americans and Israelis responsible for these acts of aggression which cross the red lines,” said the official, claiming assistance for the warplanes from the US base at Tanf near the Iraqi border.
Neither the Israel Defense Forces nor US Central Command commented on the attacks. However, the IDF said that a Shia militia in Syria, positioned outside Damascus, fired rockets toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights later Monday.
The IDF said the rockets landed short of their targets, inside Syrian territory.
Early Tuesday, there were explosions at PMF storehouses in Anbar Province in western Iraq, about 200 km (125 miles) from al-Bukamal. A private Israeli intelligence firm said at least eight storehouses were destroyed.
Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Assad regime, Iranian, and Hezbollah targets during Syria’s 101-month conflict. The attacks initially focused on Iranian transfers of weapons and missiles to Hezbollah and on the movement of Iranian and Hezbollah personnel to southwest Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and expanded across the country in the past 18 months as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded complete Iranian military withdrawal.
Since mid-July, there have also been a series of attacks on PMF arms depots and training camps in Iraq. Just over two weeks ago, an Israeli drone damaged a Hezbollah position in south Beirut in Lebanon — Hezbollah claimed the site was a media center, while Israeli sources declared that it was linked to the Lebanese militia’s missiles.
The US military has publicly distanced itself from the explosions inside Iraq, but the Pentagon says the Iranian positions in Syria are part of a “bridge” connecting Tehran with Hezbollah, asserting the Islamic Republic’s military influence in the Middle East.
US officials recently told media outlets that the IDF was behind at least some strikes on the Iran-linked sites in Iraq.