Unclaimed airstrikes in eastern Syria have killed 18 Iranian and pro-Iranian fighters, according to a war monitoring group, as tensions over Tehran's military presence in the region intensify.
The British-based Syrian Human Rights Observatory said the attacks in and around Abu Kamal city began late Sunday and continued after midnight, hitting bases, weapons depots and vehicles.
The suspicion is likely to fall on Israel, which has carried out hundreds of bombings in the country, often against Iranian assets and military personnel. He accuses Tehran of using Israel's neighbor Syria as a base to attack him.
The Israeli Defense Forces did not comment on whether it was behind the attack. Later on Monday, the Israeli military said an Iranian-backed Shiite militia outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, fired “several rockets” at Israel. All failed to reach Israeli territory. It was unclear whether rocket attacks on Israel were a response to the bombing.
Separately, Iran's main replacement force in Lebanon, Hezbollah, claimed to have shot down an Israeli drone that crossed the border a week after bitter enemies fired fire for the first time in years.
The unmanned aircraft was flying near the southern city of Ramyah, the Iranian-backed group said, adding that the fighters had removed the wreckage.
Asked about the drone shot down in Lebanon, the Israeli military confirmed that it had lost a drone, but said it "crashed into Lebanon during a routine mission." An army spokesman did not say what caused the crash, adding that the drone was "standard size, nothing too big ... There is no worrying information to be drawn from it."
Hezbollah and the Israeli army exchanged brief but intense shots on September 1, the most violent fight since the 2006 war. It all began when a Hezbollah squad fired anti-tank missiles at an Israeli border military vehicle, to which Israel responded immediately with heavy bombing and helicopter attacks in the area.
This outbreak was also triggered by allegations of use of Israeli drones in Lebanon. Days earlier, Hezbollah had accused Israel of trying to attack it with two drones in its southern Beirut fortress. Those drones, which Israel would not comment on, were suspected of aiming at precision missile equipment.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, blamed Israel for the alleged drone attack and promised to retaliate. He also promised that his fighters would target Israeli drones entering Lebanon's airspace in the future.
The two opponents faced a deadly conflict in a month in 2006, which killed about 1.200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and approximately 160 in Israel. Since then, incidents of hostile actions have been rare, but renewed violence fears the potential of another conflict.
Israel says it has information that Iran is helping Hezbollah build guided missiles in Lebanon, which it said it would not tolerate.
It targets Hezbollah in Syria, whose forces entered the civil war in support of President Bashar al-Assad, but refrained from attacks on Lebanese soil, fearing it could lead to reprisals.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Iran "had no immunity anywhere." He added: "We will act and we are currently acting against them whenever necessary."
A crisis between Iran and the US over a collapsing nuclear deal, heavy sanctions imposed by Washington and Iran's support for the Shiite militia in Iraq have raised fears of a growing conflict in the Middle East.