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Israeli strikes kill several Hashd al-Shaabi members near Iraq-Syria border: Reports

Israel has repeatedly struck pro-Iranian targets in the country over recent years
The Hashd al-Shaabi militia is backed by Iran (File pic/MEE)

Air strikes against trucks and weapons depots in eastern Syria killed eight fighters of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi militia force overnight, according to a UK-based activist group.

Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen news outlet said Israel was responsible for the strikes early on Friday in Albu Kamal on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Through a spokesman contacted by the AFP news agency, the US-led military coalition operating in Syria and Iraq denied carrying out the strikes.

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"Unidentified aircraft targeted vehicles and arms depots in the Albu Kamal area, causing a large explosion. At least eight Iraqi Hashed fighters were killed," said the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman.

Abdurrahman said several others were wounded.

The Observatory head said three villages in the Albu Kamal area, known for housing forces loyal to Tehran, have been targeted by drone strikes since Wednesday, causing no casualties, AFP reported.

There was no immediate comment from Syria, Iraq or Israel, and the reports could not be independently confirmed.

Israel has repeatedly struck Iranian or Iran-backed targets in Syria in recent years, as Tehran and its proxies such as Lebanon's Hezbollah seek to cement their influence in the country.

A series of strikes in Iraq have also been recently attributed to Israel, some of them near the Syria-Iraq border and the Albu Kamal-Qaim crossing. 

The attacks targeted Iran-backed militias and their convoys tasked with smuggling weapons into Syria, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.

In August, the New York Times quoted senior US officials as saying that Israel had carried out "several strikes" in Iraq.

Spiralling tension

The deadly strikes come in a context of spiralling tension between the United States and Iran, much of which has played out in Iraq.

Late last year, a US air strike in Iraq killed 25 Hashd fighters from the Kataeb Hezbollah militia, considered one of the closest to Iran.

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Hashd al-Shaabi supporters subsequently stormed the huge US embassy compound in central Baghdad, further escalating the situation.

On 3 January, a US strike near Baghdad airport killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran's top general, in one of the Middle East's highest-profile assassinations of recent years.

Also killed in the strike was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a founder of Kataeb Hezbollah and Iran's point man in Iraq.

Tehran has vowed revenge and has so far responded with ballistic missiles on two bases in Iraq hosting US troops.

Following Soleimani's killing, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised US President Donald Trump for "acting swiftly, forcefully, and decisively," and said "Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security, and self-defence".

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