Unidentified Aircraft Strikes Iran-Backed Group in Syria, 8 Dead: Rights Group

January 10, 2020 Updated: January 10, 2020

Unidentified aircraft struck targets in Syria near the border with Iraq on Friday, killing eight Iran-backed Iraqi militiamen, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The rights group, which is based in the United Kingdom, obtains information through a network of activists on the ground in Syria, documenting the war in Syria over the past decade.

The attack, carried out by “unknown drones,” targeted vehicles and armories, according to the organization. However, the head of the Syrian Observatory said it was “unidentified aircraft” that launched the attacks, without elaborating.

“Unidentified aircraft targeted vehicles and arms depots in the Albu Kamal area, causing a large explosion. At least eight Iraqi Hashed fighters were killed,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported the Times of Israel. He was referring to Iraq’s Iran-backed Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Force) militia.

In a post on its website, the Syrian Observatory said the strikes “targeted Iranian-backed militias at the Syrian-Iraqi border, Friday morning, where at least eight people of non-Syrian citizens were killed in the airstrikes.” It said the death toll is likely to rise.

As noted by the Times of Israel, the area where the drones struck is a corridor for Iran to link the regime across Iraq and Syria into Lebanon.

No governments or militant groups in the area have confirmed the airstrikes.

The strike follows high tensions in the region after the United States last week killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who headed the Iran Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and has been blamed by American officials for facilitating terrorist attacks on troops, before Tehran launched about a dozen missiles at U.S. soldiers in Iraqi bases.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran. Two days ago, President Donald Trump, in confirming no American soldiers died in the Iran missile attack, said Washington desires peace with Iran.

“The goal of our campaign is to deny the regime the resources to conduct its destructive foreign policy,” Pompeo told reporters at the White House on Friday. “We want Iran to simply behave like a normal nation and we believe the sanctions that we impose today further that strategic objective.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a rare visit to Syria this week and spoke with President Bashar Assad in Damascus. The two didn’t mention the airstrike to kill Soleimani.

“The situation didn’t just change—in fact, we’re witnessing the restoration of Syria’s statehood, Syria as a state, the country’s territorial integrity,” Putin said, reported The Associated Press.