Airstrikes Kill 18 Pro-Iran Fighters in East Syria: Monitor

Though tensions along the volatile border have remained relatively calm, the recent uptick in attacks shed light on the strained relations between Israel and the Iran-backed Shia movement, which dominates Lebanese politics.

It was not clear who carried out the raids near Al Bukamal, close to the Syria-Iraq border, the UK-based activist group said.

The incident happened a week after Hezbollah and Israel exchanged cross-border fire marking their fiercest shelling exchange since the 2006 Lebanon war.

The Israeli drone is now in the hands of Hezbollah's fighters, the Iran-backed group said in a statement.

The Israeli military said a "drone on a routine mission in northern Israel fell", without elaborating on what it was doing nor how it was downed.

Hizbollah had issued a statement saying that some of its fighters "confronted with the appropriate weapons an Israeli drone" heading towards the Lebanese border village of Ramyeh overnight. The Israel Defence Forces said the drone had crashed instead of being shot down and that it contained no sensitive information.

Later on Monday, the Israeli army said rockets had been fired from Syria but failed to reach their targets.

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The military said the rockets were launched from an area near Damascus.

"If indeed it is an Iranian base, it is probable that the strike is part of the struggle with Tehran to prevent its effort of establishing the land corridor to its allies in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon", the Israeli satellite imagery analysis company ImageSat International wrote. It wants to stop Iran establishing a permanent military presence there and has struck against advanced weapon shipments to Hezbollah.

Any new war between Israel and Hezbollah would raise the risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East, at a time when Iran is defying US attempts to force it to renegotiate a 2015 nuclear deal it reached with world powers. The latest tension came after Hezbollah, whose forces have fought in support of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's war, said two of its men were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria late last month.

It also admitted to hundreds of missile attacks on Syria, claiming it is targeting Iranian-backed militias which it deems a threat to Israel.

Hezbollah has denied having production sites in Lebanon, but says it does possess precision-guided missiles. Israel retaliated with artillery fire into southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah pledged a swift response along the border and said that it would also shoot down any intruding Israeli drone in the future.

According to the Israeli military, shortly before the airstrike "Shi'ite militias" under Iranian command attempted to launch several missiles from Syria into Israel.

  • Sonia Alvarado