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Pro-Iran fighters killed in unidentified strikes near Syria-Iraq border

Ten said to be dead in overnight air strikes, which come a week after drones carried out attacks on the same area
Iraqi fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units secure the border area with Syria in al-Qaim in Iraq's Anbar province, opposite Al Bukamal in Syria's Deir Ezzor region, on November 12, 2018. (File pic - AFP)

Overnight air strikes in eastern Syria have reportedly killed 10 members of a pro-Iranian Iraqi militia group and caused extensive material damage.

It was not clear who carried out the strikes in the Hiri area on the outskirsts of Al-Bukamal, close to the border with Iraq, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

The activist group said the attack targeted “three positions of the (Iranian) Revolutionary Guards and allied (Iraqi) militias", including an arms depot, which it said was destroyed.

A pro-Syrian government source confirmed the strike on the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs), or Hashd al-Shaabi, but said it caused no casualties, according to Reuters.

Last week, air strikes in and around Al-Bukamal hit the positions of pro-Iranian forces in eastern Syria, killing 18 fighters, according to the Observatory.

Hezbollah-run media also reported last week that Israeli planes had struck a Syrian army camp being built in the Al-Bukamal area.  

Disputed area

The city of Al-Bukamal lies in the Deir Ezzor province, which covers much of Syria's remote eastern desert, where the Islamic State (IS) group's "caliphate" made its last stand earlier this year.

Control of the area is split between US-backed Kurdish fighters and groups aligned with the Damascus government of Bashar al-Assad.

Citing Western intelligence sources, Fox News reported early in September that Iran’s elite Quds forces were constructing a new military base in Syria, located where last week’s strikes took place.

Alarmed by Tehran’s growing presence in the region, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in neighbouring Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets, but rarely acknowledges them.

In June 2018, strikes near the Iraqi border killed 55 pro-government forces, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, the Observatory said.

A US official said at the time that Israel was responsible. Israel declined to comment.  

The Al-Bukamal border crossing has remained closed since it was recovered from IS in late 2017 by pro-Syrian government forces, including Hashd al-Shaabi and Hezbollah.