Thursday 23 January 2020

'Huge explosion' after planes reportedly strike targets in Syria

The air base after Iran’s missile attack on January 8 (Planet Labs Inc/PA)
The air base after Iran’s missile attack on January 8 (Planet Labs Inc/PA) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Unidentified planes have struck targets in Syria near the border with Iraq, according to reports, triggering "a huge explosion".

The incident comes amid soaring tensions in the region between the US and Iran.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the planes targeted positions belonging to pro-Iran militias in the Boukamal area, near the border with Iraq.

The Britain-based organisation which documents the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground said the planes struck, among other targets, weapons depots and vehicles belonging to the militias.

It reported several explosions in the border area.

Deir Ezzor 24, an activist collective that reports on news in the border area, said that the plane strikes hit trucks carrying weapons and depots for ballistic missiles in the area.

Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based activist from Deir el-Zour who runs the group, said the attack triggered "a huge explosion" heard near the Syria-Iraq border.

Another activist collective in Syria's eastern Deir el-Zour area said "unidentified planes" struck militia targets in Boukamal.

The US carried out military strikes in the area on December 29, killing 25 members of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia in retaliation for a rocket attack on a military base in Iraq that killed a US contractor. The US blamed that attack on a Iranian-backed Iraqi militia.

Israel has also struck Iran-backed militias in the area in the past.

The reported air strikes came days after a US drone strike killed Iran's most powerful general after he landed at Baghdad airport, drawing calls for revenge and escalating tensions between the two sides.

Iran responded by firing a barrage of missiles at military bases in Iraq that host US troops. Since then, both sides have signalled they were stepping back from further escalation but tensions remain high and the region on edge.

Amid the soaring tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a rare visit to Syria this week for talks with President Bashar Assad in Damascus.

Russia has been a key ally for Assad, offering crucial military and political backing throughout the country's civil war.

PA Media

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