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Israeli strikes kill six near Damascus

DAMASCUS: At least six pro-government

fighters, including Syrian troops, were

killed in Israeli air strikes on Thursday

targeting positions held by Iran-backed

groups near the capital Damascus, a

war monitor reported. It is the fourth

time this month that Israeli strikes have

been reported inside Syria, keeping up

a campaign against pro-Iranian forces

supporting the Damascus government

in the more than decade-old civil

war.”Israeli strikes killed six people,

including two Syrian troops and four

Iran-backed militia fighters whose

nationalities remain unknown,” the

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

said.The Britain-based monitor, which

has an extensive network of sources

across the country, said the raids

“targeted positions and arm depots”

operated by Iran-backed groups

near Damascus airport, destroying

several weapon caches. The strikes

also targeted air defences south of

Damascus, said the Observatory,

which did not elaborate on any

damage.Syrian state media said the

attack came at around 1:10 am.The

official SANA news agency said air

defences intercepted most of the

missiles but three soldiers were killed. The

latest raids follow Israel’s bombardment

this week of a Syrian town near the

armistice line on the Golan Heights,

and strikes on a Syrian military post

on February 17, and on anti-aircraft

batteries at the start of the month.The

Observatory said Israel has carried out

raids in Syria at least six times since

the start of the year.Asked about the

latest strikes, an Israeli army spokesman

said: “We don’t comment on reports

in foreign media”.Since civil war broke

out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried

out hundreds of airstrikes inside the

country, targeting government positions

as well as allied Iran-backed forces

and fighters of the Shiite militant

movement Hezbollah.While Israel

rarely comments on individual strikes in

Syria, it has acknowledged mounting

hundreds since 2011. According to the

Israeli military, it hit around 50 targets

inside Syria in 2020. Last year, Israel

hit Syria roughly 30 times, killing 130

people – five civilians and 125 loyalist

fighters, according to Observatory

figures.In December, it carried out

a strike targeting an Iranian arms

shipment in Latakia – in the heartland

of President Bashar al-Assad’s minority

Alawite community – its first on the

port since the start of the civil war.The

Israeli military has defended the strikes

as a necessary measure to prevent its

arch-foe Iran from gaining a foothold

on its doorstep.lsrael’s head of military

intelligence, Major General Aharon

Haliva, has accused Iran of “continuing

to promote subversion and terror” in the

Middle East.Published in Dawn, February

25th 2022

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