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Israel kills three in Syria strike on pro-Assad militia

April 23, 2017 10:35 AM
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Israel kills three in Syria strike on pro-Assad militia

An attack by Israeli military on pro-government forces in southern Syria has killed three fighters, the militia and a monitoring group said. Israel rarely publicly acknowledges its occasional strikes in Syria.

Britain-based war monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, along with the National Defense Forces (NDF) militia in southern Syria reported that a military base in Quneitra province was attacked on Sunday.

It remained unclear whether the bombardment came from an air strike or shelling, the British watchdog said, adding that it had struck a "weapons warehouse" in the camp.

Three members of the pro-government NDF were reportedly killed while two were wounded; an unnamed militia official was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.

The Israeli army did not immediately comment on Sunday after the attack. On Friday it said it had struck positions inside Syria in response to mortar fire near the border.

Israel captured part of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move which was never recognized by the international community. Technically, Syria and Israel are still at war, but the disputed area remained more or less quiet for decades.

There have been several instances of cross-border fire in the six years of the Syrian conflict but Israel has largely refrained from intervening; launching only occasional strikes mainly targeting Hezbollah forces.

Syria's army, officially known as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) suffered mass defections in the fall of 2011 to what would become the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army. The SAA is assisted by a number of pro-Assad militias such as the National Defense Force.

The Free Syrian Army grew out of protests against the Assad regime that eventually turned violent. Along with other non-jihadist rebel groups, it seeks the ouster of President Assad and democratic elections. After suffering a number of defeats, many of its members defected to terrorist groups. It garnered some support from the US and Turkey, but its strength has been greatly diminished.

Taking advantage of the chaos, "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists captured vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014. Seeking to establish its own "caliphate," IS has become infamous for its militant and fundamentalist brand of Islam as well as for the mass murder and torture carried out under its black flag. It established a stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa (pictured above).

IS is not the only terrorist group that holds sway in Syria. A number of Islamist militant groups, such as the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, are fighting in the conflict. Warring with each other and well as with Assad and moderate rebels, al-Nusra Front merged with several other entities under the umbrella name Tahrir al-Sham in January 2017.


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