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At least 11 foreign fighters reported killed in Israeli strikes on ‘Iranian targets’ in Syria

Israel Defense Forces ( Israel Defense Forces/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Israeli military says it has struck Iranian targets in Syria in what it said was retaliation for rockets fired on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights region.

Fighter jets on November 20 hit targets belonging to the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), including surface-to-air missiles, weapons warehouses, and military bases, the Israeli military said.

It added that a number of Syrian aerial-defense batteries were also destroyed, after Syria’s military fired an air-defense missile.

A monitoring group said 11 “fighters” were killed in the air strikes, including seven non-Syrians.

Syrian state media earlier reported that two civilians were killed and several others were wounded by Israeli missiles near the capital, Damascus.

Iranian officials have not immediately commented, but Russia called the Israeli strikes a “wrong” move.

Israel has frequently targeted Iranian interests in Syria with hundreds of strikes in a bid to prevent Tehran from establishing a permanent military presence there.

Iran, along with Russia, has provided crucial support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s civil war, which began with a violent government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the latest Israeli strikes targeted arms depots belonging to the Quds Force in two Damascus suburbs, the Mazzeh air base, where air-defense units are stationed, and other areas.

Syria’s state SANA news agency claimed that the country’s air defenses destroyed most of the Israeli missiles before they reached their targets.

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the Israeli strikes in Syria contravened international law and escalate tensions.

On November 19, Israel said its missile-defense system shot down four rockets fired from Syria toward the disputed Golan Heights, a week after an Israeli air strike targeted a top Palestinian militant based in Syria.

Akram al-Ajouri of the Islamic Jihad group survived the attack but family members were killed.

“Yesterday’s Iranian attack towards Israel is further clear proof of the purpose of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, which threatens Israeli security, regional stability, and the Syrian regime,” the Israeli military said.

“Whoever harms us, we will harm them. That’s what we did tonight,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, adding that Israel “will continue to aggressively protect Israel’s security.”

Iran has sent forces to Syria, and supports Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hizballah movement and the Islamic Jihad militant group in the Gaza Strip.