Israeli warplanes carried out intense airstrikes against eastern Syria early on Wednesday, apparently targeting positions and weapons depots of Iranian-backed fighters. Dozens of fighters were killed or wounded, according to an opposition war monitor.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said the strikes hit areas in and near the cities of Deir el-Zour, Mayadeen and Boukamal along the border with Iraq. It gave no further details.
An opposition war monitor reported at least 18 strikes in Deir el-Zour as well as along the border with Iraq, saying several weapons depots were hit. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 people were killed, including seven Syrians, and the rest were Iranian-backed fighters. It said 28 were injured.
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A senior U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of the attack told The Associated Press that the airstrikes were carried out with U.S. intelligence and targeted a number of warehouses in Syria that were used as part of the pipeline to store and stage Iranian. arms.
The official said the warehouses also served as a pipeline for components supporting Iran’s nuclear program.
“They burned Iranian positions in Deir el-Zour,” said Omar Abu Laila, a European activist from Syria’s eastern Deir el-Zour province who runs an activist group that reports news in the border area.
Israel has over the years launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets, but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
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The strikes came amid rising tensions in the region and concerns that Iran might carry out attacks to avenge last year’s killing of one of its top leaders, General Qassem Soleimani.
Israel considers Iranian anchoring at the northern border a red line, and it has repeatedly hit Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah.
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The U.S. official, who asked for anonymity to speak on sensitive national security issues, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday discussed airstrikes with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, Israel’s spy agency, at Café Milano in Washington on Monday.