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Israeli air strikes on Syria bases kill pro-Iran fighters

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the strikes, while Syrian state media claimed most missiles were shot down
Israeli military vehicles are pictured during a military drill in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on 30 December 2020 (AFP)

Israeli air strikes in Syria have left three fighters from Iran-backed groups dead, according to a monitor on Thursday, while state media said Syrian air defences brought down several missiles.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation with an extensive network on the ground, was not immediately able to provide the casualties' nationalities.

Syrian state media had reported an "Israeli aggression" overnight against targets in the south of the country, adding that its anti-air defence system had intercepted most missiles.

"Our air defences responded to an aerial Israeli aggression... on some targets in the southern region," state media quoted a Syrian army spokesman as saying.

Two military defectors said the strikes hit the Kisswa area in the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus, and military bases used by Lebanon's pro-Assad Hezbollah group.

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There was no immediate comment from an Israeli military spokesman but Israel's Defence Force Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said last month the missile strikes had "slowed down Iran's entrenchment in Syria".

“We have struck over 500 targets this year, on all fronts, in addition to multiple clandestine missions,” Kochavi said in comments published in Israeli media.

The bases in eastern, central and southern Syria hit by Israel in recent months are believed to have a strong presence of Iranian-backed militias, according to intelligence sources and military defectors familiar with the locations.

Western intelligence sources say Israel’s stepped up strikes on Syria in the last few months are part of a shadow war approved by the United States and part of the anti-Iran policy that has undermined in the last two years Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.

They say that the past year has seen an expansion in the targets hit by Israel across Syria, where thousands of Iranian-backed militias have been involved in regaining much of the territory lost by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to insurgents in a nearly decade-old civil war.

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