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Israel accused of killing dozens of Syria troops and Hezbollah fighters with major airstrikes near Aleppo

Israel, Hezbollah clashing on Lebanon border
Israel trading fire with Hezbollah at border with Lebanon amid fears of wider war 04:30

Beirut — The Syrian army said Friday that Israeli airstrikes near the northern city of Aleppo had killed or wounded "a number of" people and caused damage. A war monitoring group said the strikes killed 44 people, most of them Syrian troops.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor group, said Israeli strikes hit missile depots belonging to Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group in Aleppo's southern suburb of Jibreen, near the Aleppo International Airport, and the nearby town of Safira, home to a sprawling military facility.

The observatory said 36 Syrian troops, seven Hezbollah fighters and a Syrian member of an Iran-backed group died and dozens of people were wounded, calling it the deadliest such attack in years.

There was no immediate statement from Israeli officials on the strikes specifically, but Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was quoted by the Times of Israel's defense correspondent as saying hours after that the military would be expanding its ongoing campaign against the powerful Iran-allied group, and that Israel was "turning from defending to pursuing Hezbollah."

"We will reach wherever the organization operates, in Beirut, Damascus and in more distant places," Gallant said, according to Times reporter Emanuel Fabian.

Israel, which has vowed to stop Iranian entrenchment in its northern neighbor, has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but it rarely acknowledges them.

On Thursday, Syrian state media reported airstrikes near the capital, Damascus, saying they wounded two civilians.

Hezbollah has had an armed presence in Syria since it joined the country's civil conflict more than a decade ago, fighting alongside government forces.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once its commercial center, has come under such attacks in the past that led to the closure of its international airport. Friday's strike did not affect the airport.

The strikes have escalated over the past five months against the backdrop of the war in Gaza and ongoing clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces on the Lebanon-Israel border. 

Netanyahu agrees to reschedule Washington delegation to discuss Rafah 03:26

Hezbollah is an ally of Gaza's Hamas rulers, who sparked the current war with their bloody Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel. Both groups are considered part of the network of armed proxy forces backed by Iran across the Middle East.

In neighboring Lebanon, an Israeli drone strike hit a car near the southern port city of Tyre and killed a Hezbollah member, Lebanese state media reported. Israel's military said the targeted man was Ali Naim, the deputy head of Hezbollah's rocket and missile program. The group confirmed he was killed, without stating what his job was within the organization.

The drone strike that killed Naim came a day after Hezbollah fired rockets with heavy warheads at towns in northern Israel, saying it used the weapons against civilian targets for the first time in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes the night before that killed nine people, including what the group said were several paramedics.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, concerns have grown that near-daily clashes along the border between Israel and Lebanon could escalate into a full-scale war, which could draw in other countries including Iran.

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