Report: Unidentified Warplanes Kill Eight Iraqi Militia in Syria

Smoke billows above buildings in the town of Maaret Al-Numan in Syria's northwestern Idlib province during a reported air strike by pro-regime forces on January 10, 2020. (Photo by Abdulaziz KETAZ / AFP) (Photo by ABDULAZIZ KETAZ/AFP via Getty Images)
ABDULAZIZ KETAZ/AFP via Getty Images

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and two Iraqi officials, an airstrike conducted by unidentified warplanes struck positions in Syria near the border with Iraq on Friday, killing eight members of an Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militia called the Imam Ali Brigades.

The Associated Press reported one of the anonymous Iraqi officials confirming the strike belonged to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella organization created by Baghdad to authorize Shiite militia forces fighting against the Islamic State. 

The Iraqi officials said the strike targeted two vehicles carrying missiles along the Syrian side of the border. Local news reports indicated the weapons belonged to the Imam Ali Brigade, an Iraqi Shiite militia, but were in the process of being transferred to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist organization.

Although the identity of the warplanes was officially regarded as “unknown” by all parties reporting the strike, the Iraqis quoted by the Associated Press said they thought the planes were probably Israeli. Israel has acted in the past to eliminate missile threats from Iranian proxy forces on Syrian territory. 

“In September, large strikes in the same area that destroyed major parts of a weapons storehouse known as the Imam Ali compound were attributed to Israel,” the Times of Israel recalled. The compound is believed to have been overseen by the Quds Force, the unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) overseen by Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. airstrike last week.

The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Syria denied launching the strike.

The SOHR said three villages in the border region known for housing Iran-backed militia have been hit by drone strikes since Wednesday, with no casualties reported. The area where the strikes occurred is considered a key part of the land passage Iran uses to move supplies and personnel across Iraq and Syria into Lebanon.

The Syrian Civil War is not over, as heavy Russian and Syrian Army attacks continue against rebel forces in the northern Idlib province. A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey, which also has forces in the region, went into effect early Friday morning. 

Several previous ceasefire arrangements have not succeeded at ending hostilities in Idlib despite mounting civilian casualties and displacements. The Syrian regime has denounced ceasefire efforts as outside disruptions preventing it from defeating jihadi rebel forces and achieving its stated goal of fully controlling all Syrian territory.

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