BEIRUT (AP) — A wave of Israeli strikes on suspected military positions in Syria this week killed 42 people, including at least 19 Iranians, a Syria war monitor reported Saturday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll from attacks early Thursday has risen from 23 to 27, including at least 11 Iranians and six Syrian soldiers, including three officers.
Late Tuesday, Syrian state-run media said Israel struck a military outpost near the capital Damascus, saying that its air defenses intercepted and destroyed two of the incoming missiles. The Observatory said at least 15 were killed, eight of them Iranians, including a member of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s elite force.
This brings to 42, including 19 Iranians, the total killed during the two days of strikes.
Syria blamed Israel for the Tuesday strikes that hit near the capital. Israel said its Thursday strikes were in response to a barrage of Iranian rockets on its positions in the occupied Golan Heights, the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.
The escalating confrontation between Israel and Iran has raised fears the region may be sliding into an unprecedented direct conflict between the two archenemies.
Israel’s defense minister called on Syria’s President Bashar Assad on Friday to rid his country of Iranian forces based there — warning their presence will only cause more trouble to the already war-ravaged country.
Avigdor Lieberman’s comments were followed by threats from an Iranian cleric that Tel Aviv or Haifa would be in danger if Israel did “anything foolish.”
The extent of the damage inflicted by the Israeli airstrikes was not immediately clear.
Israel said its rockets on Thursday were in response to a barrage of Iranian missiles at its positions in the occupied Golan Heights on Syria’s southern borders. Israel said Iran has been deploying its allied militias in the area.
Iran said Israel’s repeated attacks are based on “fabricated” reasons. Israel, however, said it hit targets near the capital, in southern and central Syria, hitting weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also said it destroyed several Syrian air-defense systems after coming under heavy fire and that none of its warplanes were hit.
The Syrian military acknowledged that the strikes destroyed a radar station and an ammunition warehouse, and damaged a number of air defense units. It said three people were killed and two were wounded.