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Israeli Strikes Kill Iran Guards, Tehran-Backed Fighters in Syria: Monitor

Israeli air strikes killed two Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers and two pro-Hezbollah fighters when they hit sites Saturday belonging to the Lebanese group near Damascus, a war monitor said.

The strikes near the Syrian capital came less than 24 hours after the end of a seven-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hezbollah ally Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Two Syrian fighters working with Hezbollah and two IRGC officers were killed in Israeli air strikes on Hezbollah sites near Sayyida Zeinab,” south of Damascus, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The two IRGC officers were the target of the Israelis. They struck immediately after the pair went into the Hezbollah site,” said the head of the Britain-based monitor, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

The two officers died from their injuries, he said, adding that five other fighters were wounded.

On Saturday, the IRGC accused Israel of killing two of its members in Syria, where they had been on an advisory mission.

“Mohammed Ali Ataei Shoorcheh and Panah Taghizadeh … were martyred by the Zionist usurper enemy while conducting an advisory mission in the Syrian Islamic resistance front,” the Guards’ Sepah News website said.

It did not say when or where they were killed.

Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on its northern neighbor since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, primarily targeting Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah fighters, as well as Syrian army positions.

But it has intensified attacks since its war with Hamas began in October. Hamas last year said it had restored relations with Syria’s government.

“Israeli aggression”

Syria’s defense ministry also said Israel hit near Damascus, where an AFP journalist heard the loud sound of bombings.

“At approximately 1:35 a.m. … today, the Israeli enemy carried out an air assault from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting some points near the city of Damascus,” the ministry said in a statement. It gave no casualty figures.

Syrian state television reported an “Israeli aggression near the capital.”

The Israeli army did not comment when contacted by AFP.

Israel rarely comments on individual strikes targeting Syria, but it has repeatedly said it will not allow arch-foe Iran, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to expand its presence there.

Hezbollah is an ally of Damascus and has long fought alongside Assad in the country’s war.

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