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World & Nation

Up to 10 fighters killed in Syria in Israeli airstrike

ISRAEL-SYRIA-CONFLICT
Israeli soldiers maneuver a Merkava tank in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on June 2.
(Jalaa Marey / AFP/Getty Images)

As many as 10 fighters were killed when Israel fired rockets at military sites in Syria early Sunday after rockets launched from Syria struck near a ski resort in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said that a military source reported three Syrian troops were killed and seven wounded in the Israeli airstrike.

The British-based watchdog group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 10 were killed in the Israeli strike, seven of whom were Iranian or Hezbollah troops.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese-based, Iranian-funded Islamist militia closely allied with Iran and Russia in the Syrian civil war, now in its ninth year.

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The Israeli army confirmed in a statement that it had struck several military targets in Syria after two rockets were fired toward the Golan Heights, one landing near a popular winter resort.

The army said it “holds the Syrian regime accountable for every action taken against Israel and will firmly operate against any activity from within Syrian territory against Israel.”

Iran did not immediately comment on the reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also confirmed the strikes during a Cabinet meeting Sunday morning.

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He said he had ordered “strong action” in retaliation for the rocket launches from within Syria, adding that “we will not tolerate firing at our territory and we will respond with great force to any aggression against us.”

On Monday, the Israeli army said it had struck a Syrian military target after the launch of an antiaircraft missile at an Israeli fighter jet on patrol over the Golan Heights, a disputed territory Israel took control of during the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel’s 1980 annexation of the Golan Heights is not recognized internationally, but in March, in the run-up to Israeli elections, President Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the plateau.

Israeli intelligence has recently warned that as part of Iran’s efforts to oppose U.S. sanctions and Israeli strikes against Iranian forces in Syria, Tehran and Hezbollah could provoke incidents intended to lead to an escalation of fighting in the Golan Heights.

The Trump administration and Iran have been on a diplomatic collision course since May 2018, when the United States withdrew from a multi-nation nuclear deal with Iran negotiated during the Obama administration.

Despite the escalating tensions, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said Sunday that the United States is prepared to negotiate with Iran with “no preconditions.”

At a meeting in Bellinzona, Switzerland, with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, Pompeo also said the United States expected to see Iran behave like “a normal nation” and until then, would continue to counter Iran’s “malign activity.”

In a statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the offer amounted to mere “wordplay.”

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Foreign Mnistry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted by the state-run Mehr news agency as saying that “the Islamic Republic of Iran does not pay attention to wordplay and expression of hidden agenda in new forms. What matters is the change of U.S. general approach and actual behavior towards the Iranian nation.”

Trump’s still-murky Israeli-Palestinian peace plan already meeting stiff opposition »


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