Shi’ite forces loyal to Assad were killed in an airstrike along the Syria-Iraq border as ISIS and Iran battle for control of the Tehran-Damascus road.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
Syrian state media reported Monday that an airstrike against pro-government forces in the far east of the country near the Iraqi border resulted in several dozen deaths.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Hezbollah terrorists and other non-Syrians loyal to the Assad regime were targeted by warplanes. In all, about 40 were killed. The death toll was expected to rise because a number of individuals were injured critically.
SOHR said that it was unclear whether those killed were Lebanese Hezbollah or Iraqi Shi’ites – or both.
It added that hundreds of ISIS members were able to cross the Euphrates River from its east bank to the west, where ISIS is trying to close Iran’s most important strategic route: the Tehran-Beirut road.
The Syrian state TV report said the airstrike occurred around midnight in the village of al-Hari, to the southeast of the border town of Boukamal, and was carried out by the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group.
But a coalition spokesman said it had not carried out any strikes in the area.
The report, quoting an unnamed military official, gave no breakdown of the casualties other than saying there “were several martyrs and others were wounded.”
In Baghdad, Iraqi officials said Popular Mobilization Forces — the mostly Shiite state-sanctioned paramilitaries — came under attack south of the town of Qaim, just across the border from Boukamal.
They said 20 fighters were killed and dozens were wounded, adding that the cause of the attack was not immediately clear. The Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
US military spokesman Col. Sean Ryan said the coalition was looking into the reports.
“We are aware of the strike near Boukamal, however, there have been no strikes by US or coalition forces in that area,” he said. “We’re looking into who that could possibly be, but it wasn’t the US or the coalition.”
Syrian and Iraqi forces have driven ISIS from virtually all the territory it once held in both countries, but the terrorists still control some remote areas along the border.
Syrian troops and allied militias, backed by Russian airstrikes, have been conducting operations west of the Euphrates River, while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia, is operating on the eastern banks. The US-led coalition has struck pro-government forces in the past when they have tried to cross the river. The overnight attacks took place on the western side.