Israel accused of carrying out attack on Imam Ali Brigades near Albu Kamal amid simmering tensions following Soleimani killing
A picture taken on November 12, 2018 from al-Qaim in Iraq’s border al-Anbar province shows the Syrian border city of Albu Kamal in the Deir Ezzor region. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
Explosions were reported late Thursday at a base near the Iraqi-Syria border thought to be used by Shiite militias, in what was a suspected airstrike.
Reports in Arabic-language media indicated the attack took place near Albu Kamal, Syria, just west of the border with Iraq at al-Qaim. The area is thought to be a key smuggling corridor used by Iran to ship weapons to Syria and Lebanon.
According to local news site DeirEzzor24, a weapons shipment to Lebanese terror group Hezbollah was targeted in the attack. The weapons reportedly included ballistic missiles belonging to the Imam Ali Brigade, a Shiite militia under the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces umbrella.
The Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news outlet claimed that the raid was carried out by Israeli aircraft, citing sources in the field. It said the raid targeted a weapons transport.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the planes targeted positions belonging to pro-Iran militias near the border with Israel. The Britain-based organization which documents the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground said the planes struck among other targets weapons depots and vehicles belonging to the militias.
It reported several explosions in the border area. The Sound and picture, an activist collective in Syria’s eastern Deir el-Zour area, said “unidentified planes” struck militia targets in Boukamal.
There was no confirmation from official sources in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere.
There was also no immediate response from Israel, which does not generally comment on foreign reports of individual strikes.
The strike came amid sky-high tensions in the region, following a deadly US drone strike on Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the effective head of the PMF, last week.
In September, large strikes in the same area that destroyed major parts of a weapons storehouse known as the Imam Ali compound were attributed to Israel.
Israel reportedly believed the base, which was overseen by Soleimani’s Quds Force, was a key element in Tehran’s effort to develop a so-called “land bridge” that would allow the Islamic Republic to easily move weapons, fighters, and war materiel from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Shortly after that strike, members of a Shiite militia in Syria fired a number of rockets toward Mount Hermon on the Israeli Golan Heights from the outskirts of Damascus, according to the Israeli military.
The projectiles fell short of the border and landed inside Syrian territory.
Israel views Iran as its greatest threat, and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria in recent years aimed primarily at preventing the transfers of sophisticated weapons, including guided missiles, to the Iran-backed Hezbollah.