Missile fire is seen from Damascus, Syria May 10, 2018.

Large Attack On Iran-Affiliated Forces In Syria Causes Casualties

Tuesday, 03/26/2024

Multiple military sites related to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Syria were hit early Tuesday local time, causing destruction and casualties, according to several local media.

Sabereen News and Al-Mayadeen, affiliated with the IRGC and Hezbollah respectively, say 20 have been injured in airstrikes targeting both “security and residential” buildings.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says “nine pro-Iranian fighters, including a leader and a Syrian” have been killed in a villa that served as a “communication center.”

Some sources reported that the commander of IRGC-affiliated forces in eastern Syria, an individual named Haj Askar, a clear nom de guerre, was killed in the strikes. The sources say that he had left Syria in in recent weeks, when the US had threatened retaliatory attacks, but that he had recently returned and was meeting with affiliated militia groups.

The airstrikes seem to have been more powerful than many similar strikes in Syria in recent weeks. Shortly after the explosions, multiple Syrian outlets attributed it to ‘Americans.’ But Al-Jazeera quoted an unnamed US official who denied the country’s involvement in the attacks.

Recent history would suggest that the operation has been carried out either by Israel or the United States, but the reason, the timing, and the actual targets are all unclear at the time of writing.

Unconfirmed reports from Syrian sources claim that “a meeting” was being held at one of the targeted sites, involving IRGC personnel and members of IRGC-affiliated armed groups in Syria and Iraq. This is yet to be confirmed by any official or affiliated outlet.

The airstrikes seem to have hit a-Bukamal and al-Mayadin in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, bordering Iraq. The IRGC and its allied forces in the region are known to have a strong presence in these areas.

Israel has repeatedly –almost regularly– struck these areas, often claiming to be destroying weapons storages or shipments. Last month, the US also launched several airstrikes in this region, killing several high-ranking members of the IRGC and its allied groups in retaliation for an attack on a remote US base in Jordan that had killed three American soldiers.

Those US operations reportedly forced Iran to recall its commanders. Regular attacks on American bases and troops –that had started after October 7th and the ensuing Israeli onslaught against Gaza– all but stopped following the US retaliatory strikes. Some reports suggest, however, that after a few weeks of relative calm, IRGC commanders have reappeared.

And on Sunday, reports emerged of a drone and rocket attack on the Kharab al-Jir base used by the US-led coalition in northeast Syria. It’s unclear if the airstrikes Tuesday morning have had anything to do with those reports.

Notably, the airstrikes came only hours after the UN Security Council demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, finally passing a resolution with 14 members of the Council voting in favor and the US abstaining.

The US government’s decision to withhold its veto led to a bitter clash between President Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu –whose office called off a visit to Washington by two members of the Israeli cabinet.

It is still too early to say if the airstrikes Tuesday was an isolated incident or would mark a new phase of escalation –where IRGC and its allies in Iraq and Syria resume their attacks against American interests in the region.

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