Israel strikes Iranian-linked targets in Syria as Golan Heights come under attack

Islamic Resistance in Iraq claims drone attack on Israeli airbase

Syrian forces members stand on a tank next to vehicles waiting to transport Islamic State (IS) group members in the Qara area in Syria's Qalamoun region on August 28, 2017 as part of a deal between Hezbollah and IS fighters where the jihadists would leave to eastern Syria.
Syria's state news agency SANA, quoting a military source, confirmed Hezbollah and IS had agreed that "the remaining Daesh (IS) fighters will leave to eastern Syria". And a Lebanese military source told AFP the jihadist group would quit territory it held in eastern Lebanon.
 / AFP PHOTO / Louai Beshara
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Israel has struck targets linked to pro-Iranian militias in southern and central Syria in the past 24 hours, members of the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Al Assad said on Monday, in the latest regional violence related to the war in Gaza.

The attacks occurred as Israeli positions in the Golan Heights came under attack, two people gathering reconnaissance on behalf of the opposition said.

On Monday, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed militias with bases in Syria, claimed responsibility for a drone attack on an Israeli airbase in Golan. The attack happened a day after a Grad rocket was fired towards the Golan area from near Nawa, in Syria's southern governorate of Deraa, the sources said.

No casualties were reported in the attack on Sunday, which the sources believed was carried out by the Quds Brigade, a group comprised mainly of Palestinians in northern Syria that is regarded as an Iranian proxy.

Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which is made up of Kataib Hezbollah, Harakat Al Nujaba and other Iran-backed groups, said in a statement on Monday it would "continue and double" attacks against Israel during Ramadan.

Israel retaliated to the attacks by firing rockets at a military hill fortification near Nawa, which faces Israeli positions on Mount Hermon, another occupied area beside the Golan Heights, sources said.

Official Syrian media said the military intercepted Israeli rockets fired at "several positions" in the south of the country. One soldier was wounded in the attack, which caused material damage, the official reports said.

Israeli planes also attacked the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus. The area, which lies between the capital and the central city of Homs, is regarded as a core position in the Iranian zone in Syria, with local militias in the region formed and supervised by Hezbollah.

In Amman, the Jordanian army said it had sent aircraft to examine "suspicious" flying objects at the Syrian border, without elaborating.

Despite the recent spate of combat, the sources from the Syrian opposition said there has actually been a decrease in attacks on Israel launched from Syria in recent weeks.

By the end of last year, the attacks on the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, had intensified, reaching almost one a day, before lessening to a current average of once a week, one of the sources told The National from Amman.

"Two sides are now just saying to each other that 'we are here'," he said. "The militias want to keep the Israelis busy while averting open warfare. Israel does not want that sort of conflict either."

Syria has been part of Tehran's "unity of fronts" response to the war in Gaza. Its stated aim is to relieve pressure on Hamas in Gaza through attacks by pro-Iranian militias in Yemen, Syria and Iraq on Israeli and US targets, as well as cross-border attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanon.

Iran, the most powerful regional supporter of Mr Al Assad, is one of several powers who have carved zones in Syria since the 2011 civil war started after a crackdown by authorities on a pro-democracy revolt that broke out in March of that year.

Tehran's reach in Syria is mainly through the militias it organised in the country in support of the President in the initial stages in the conflict. Although the Russian intervention in 2015 appears to have secured Mr Al Assad's position, Tehran has been strengthening the capabilities of its militia allies, arming them with drones and missiles.

This has given the militias the capability to harass US forces in eastern Syria and pose a threat to Israeli troops in the Golan Heights.

Additional reporting by Sinan Mahmoud from Baghdad

Updated: March 18, 2024, 3:23 PM