Unidentified aircraft strike Iranian militias in Syria: report

Militias along the Iraq-Syria border have been on high alert since the strike that killed Soleimani two weeks ago; dozens of the Syrian regime force members and a pro-regime militia are defecting.

An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots  (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Dozens of militants and Syrian regime forces have defected and Iranian militias are on high alert after a series of airstrikes in recent days have targeted their positions in areas near Al-Bukamal in the Deir Ezzor area of eastern Syria.

The reported airstrikes come as tensions remain high in the region in the aftermath of the US assassination of former Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and a subsequent retaliatory missile attack by the IRGC on US bases in Iraq.

 
Airstrikes last Thursday targeted warehouses storing weapons belonging to Iranian militias in a village near Al-Bukamal, according to the STEP news agency. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), drones flew over the area to monitor the movements of pro-Iranian militias in the region.
At least eight people of non-Syrian nationality were killed and a large number were wounded in attacks by unidentified aircraft on pro-Iranian militias along the Syrian-Iraqi border near Al-Bukamal on Thursday night, according to SOHR.
On Friday, ammunition depots and vehicles belonging to Iranian militias in Al-Bukamal were targeted by airstrikes.
On Saturday, unknown aircraft destroyed the headquarters of Iranian militias that were holding weapons and ammunition in the villages of Majawda and al-Abbas in the vicinity.
On Monday morning, Iranian militias in orchards near Al-Bukamal were hit by two airstrikes while attempting to transport arms from the Syrian-Iraqi border. Reconnaissance aircraft that may have belonged to the international coalition flew over areas controlled by Syrian regime forces west of the Deir Ezzor area, according to local news source Deir Ezzor 24.
Strong explosions were heard in areas controlled by Iranian militias near Al-Bukamal last week, according to the online news source, which reported that they were caused by either an airstrike or rockets. The observatory reported an attack by ISIS in the area at around the same time, to which Syrian regime forces responded. It is unclear if the exchange of fire is connected to the explosions reported by Deir Ezzor 24.
SOHR reported last week that Iran-backed militias had reportedly evacuated their headquarters in Al-Bukamal and spread throughout orchards on the banks of the Euphrates River. The IRGC is reportedly seizing civilian houses in the Deir Ezzor area in eastern Syria.
The land crossing between Iraq and Syria at Al-Bukamal that reopened in November was closed again last week, according to Deir Ezzor 24. SOHR reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar Assad that the US intended to close the Tehran-Beirut road that passes through Al-Bukamal.
Over 20 Syrian fighters defected from an Iranian-backed militia in the area of Al-Mayadin due to fears of attacks by ISIS and the United States, according to the observatory. Dozens of the Syrian regime force members and a pro-regime militia in Deir Ezzor defected and moved to areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a largely Kurdish force, after repeated airstrikes on positions in Al-Bukamal carried out by the coalition and unidentified aircraft.
Militias along the Iraq-Syria border have been on high alert since the strike that killed Soleimani two weeks ago. An airstrike reportedly struck an Iranian-militia base near the border within Syrian territory last week, according to Arab media.
On Wednesday, heavy weapons and armored vehicles were transferred from several headquarters of pro-Iranian militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist movement in Al-Bukamal to other areas outside the city as part of preparations amid fears of possible strikes by the US in the area.
Several people were killed and injured in the airstrike targeting a base belonging to the Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) along the Iraqi-Syrian border, according to Al Arabiya.
Three military vehicles were destroyed in an airstrike on Iranian-backed militias in Deir Ezzor along the border with Iraq, according to Deir Ezzor 24. The news site earlier reported a possible strike in Al-Bukamal, which is home to a major Iranian base.
Last week, a new Iranian-backed militia called the "al-Sayyida Zeinab Regiment," arrived in Al-Bukamal along the Iraq-Syria border.
Multiple airstrikes have targeted Iranian forces and militias in eastern Syria in the past few months. A strategic border crossing between Iraq and Syria and the Iranian-controlled Imam Ali military base is located in the border town of Al-Bukamal.
Rossella Tercatin contributed to this report.