15 ‘Iranian-backed’ Fighters Killed in Weekend Israel Strikes on Syria

Quds Force leader visited targeted Iraqi border base, vowed to oppose Israel

Israeli airstrikes in Syria are becoming increasingly common,  with two over the weekend killing at least 15 people. They were described as “Iran-backed” fighters, though indications are that they were overwhelmingly Iraqis, not Iranians.

Saturday’s attack in Sweida killed six people, four of them Syrians. The nationality of the other two weren’t disclosed, but they were called Iranians in most media reports. Less than 24 hours later, Israel attacked a base in Abu Kamal.

The base in Abu Kamal gets attacked fairly regularly. At the main Syria-Iraq border crossing, this base is overwhelmingly manned by Iraqi Shi’ite militia members, who helped Syria expel ISIS from the border region. The nine killed in this strike are believed to all be Iraqis, even though press reports call them Iranians as well.

Israel tends to present its attacks against Syria as “targeting Iran,” which is why they label the victims Iranian as a matter of course. In practice, Iran has few troops in Syria, and most of the “Iranians” are just Shi’ite militia members from Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

Quds Force commander Gen. Esmail Ghaani was at the Abu Kamal base shortly before this attack. He accused Israel and the US of backing ISIS in the area, and vowed to see Iranian forces continue to resist Israel in the region.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.