May 9 (UPI) — At least 15 people, including eight Iranians, died in missile strikes carried out by Israel in Syria, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The organization said it is unclear whether the rest of the victims are affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or if they belong to militias loyal to Iran in Syria. A man and his wife were also killed near the site of Tuesday’s missile strikes.
Israeli fighter jets struck a Syrian army position south of Damascus, a pro-Assad commander said. The Israeli military didn’t confirm the strike, as it has a policy against commenting on Syrian airstrikes.
But the Israeli military said it identified what it claimed was the unusual movement of Iranian forces in Syria. Iran is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest allies.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said Iran “threatened … to harm Israel. We are defending our soldiers and citizen and acting through intelligence gathered, through all our capabilities to detect and prevent” attacks.
Earlier Tuesday, the Israeli military ordered communities in the Golan Heights, which borders Syria, to open public shelters. Israeli military bases were said to be preparing for a possible Iranian attack.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv warned against traveling to Golan Heights due to “recent tensions in the region.” That day, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal.
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin, an Assad ally.
Dmitry Peskov, the acting Kremlin spokesman, said Putin and Netanyahu discussed the situation in Syria, including “Israeli night airstrikes” and the Iran deal.
“With regard to this theme, a detailed exchange of opinions was held in view of Vladimir Putin’s upcoming talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today,” Peskov said, adding Russia “expressed deep concern over” to Netanyahu over Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran accord.