This picture taken from northern Israel shows an Israeli Air Force fighter jet flying over the border area with south Lebanon on March 27, 2024.
This picture taken from northern Israel shows an Israeli Air Force fighter jet flying over the border area with south Lebanon on March 27, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Beirut: A war monitor said Israeli air strikes Friday on Syria's north killed 36 soldiers and six Hezbollah fighters, the latest deadly raid on Iran-backed forces in the country since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes in Syria since civil war there broke out in 2011, targeting army positions as well as Iran-backed fighters including Hezbollah, an ally of Damascus and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The strikes have increased since Israel's war with Hamas began on October 7, and Friday's was the second such attack in 24 hours.

"Israeli strikes" targeted "a rockets depot belonging to Lebanon's Hezbollah" close to Aleppo airport, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

It reported "42 killed, including six from Lebanon's Hezbollah group" and "36 soldiers", the highest Syrian army toll in Israeli strikes since the Israel-Hamas war began.

State news agency SANA, quoting a military source, reported that "at approximately 1:45am, the Israel launched an air attack from the direction of Athriya, southeast of Aleppo", adding that "civilians and military personnel" were killed and wounded.

Contacted by AFP from Jerusalem, the Israeli military said it would "not comment on reports in the foreign media".

The Observatory also reported strikes targeting "defence factories" controlled by pro-Iran groups elsewhere in Aleppo province.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said the strikes were a "violation of Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and are a serious threat to regional and international peace and security".

He called the attacks "a blatant and desperate attempt to continue and expand the crisis in the region".

New Lebanon strike

The attack came just hours after a reported Israeli strike in the Damascus countryside.

Syrian state media said "two civilians" were killed in an "Israeli air attack that targeted a residential building" on Thursday, also reporting material damage.

The Observatory said the Sayyida Zeinab area, a stronghold of pro-Iran armed groups including Hezbollah south of the capital, was targeted.

Israeli raids in Syria also seek to cut off Hezbollah supply routes to neighbouring Lebanon.

Israel has exchanged near-daily cross-border fire with Hamas ally Hezbollah in Lebanon since the Gaza war began, sparking fears of a major regional conflagration.

A military security source said an Israeli strike on Friday on a car in south Lebanon killed a Hezbollah official, while the group claimed attacks on an Israeli position.

Hezbollah on Friday announced the deaths of six of its fighters, without specifying where or when they were killed.

In Lebanon, cross-border fire since October has killed at least 347 people, mostly Hezbollah fighters, but also including at least 68 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in southern Lebanon and in northern Israel, where the military says 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed.