Ten people have been killed in Eastern Syria following a series of airstrikes targeting pro-Iranian militias. The first strike, which took place on the evening of January 29, destroyed a convoy of six trucks, killing seven “truck drivers and their assistants.” The victims were all classified as non-Syrians, and two were Iranian nationals. The convoy was attacked shortly after it entered the country from Iraq, and ambulances rushed to the scene.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the trucks were carrying weapons from Iraq meant for Iranian-backed militias active in Syria’s eastern region. However, a Syrian official working at the Al-Qa’im border crossing denied that the trucks contained weapons, instead claiming that they were carrying food aid from Iran and that they had permission to enter. An official from an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq confirmed that there was a strike, but did not specify what the trucks were carrying.
A second strike, on the morning of January 30, killed a Pro-Iranian commander and two other people as they inspected the wreckage of Sunday’s airstrike. The pickup truck they were in was destroyed, but no further claims were made.
A similar incident occurred in November of last year when airstrikes hit a convoy of fuel tankers and trucks allegedly carrying Iranian weapons from Iraq into Syria. At least 14 people were killed, and the Iranian government blamed the United States, which they denied.
Pro-Iranian militias have long held a presence in Syria, mostly due to strong diplomatic relations between Tehran and Damascus. Iran provides the country with both financial and political assistance as a result of an ongoing civil war, and it is estimated that Iran maintains over 20,000 armed militias in the country.
While responsibility has yet to be claimed for the attack, Israel has struck hundreds of targets in the region over the past few years. Most recently, the Israeli military fired missiles at Damascus International Airport in early January. U.S. Coalition forces are also known to be present in the region and have conducted strikes against pro-Iranian militias in the past.
While the Syrian government has yet to comment on the incident, a pro-government radio station reported that “unidentified warplanes targeted, in a number of raids, six refrigerated trucks.” Local reports also state that at least two similar convoys had entered Syria in recent days, offloading cargo to pro-Iran factions in the eastern town of Al-Mayadeen.
Cover image by: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters