Israeli airstrikes on Syria’s Aleppo result in civilian and military casualties, Syrian state media reports

A series of Israeli airstrikes targeting areas close to the Syrian city of Aleppo on Friday have led to casualties among both civilians and military personnel, according to the Syrian state news agency SANA.

Thirty-eight people were killed, according to Reuters, including five members of the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah. One of the Hezbollah fighters was a local field commander whose brother was killed in an Israeli strike on southern Lebanon in November, Reuters said.

Israeli warplanes initiated an attack around 1:45 a.m., local time from the direction of Athriya, southeast of Aleppo, according to a military source quoted by SANA.

The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the attack.

Israel has previously launched attacks on Aleppo and the Syrian capital Damascus, including before the October 7 war, saying it feared that Iran would turn Syria into “a base for aggression” against the Jewish state.

Both Syria and Israel consider each other enemies and do not share diplomatic relations.

Friday’s strikes are some of the deadliest since Israel intensified its military campaign against Iran-backed groups in Syria and others last year, following the October 7 attack on Israel by the Iran-backed group Hamas.

Following the Hamas assault, clashes between Iran-backed groups in the region and Israel have notably increased. Armed groups have also engaged in attacks with US troops backing Israel in the Middle East.

While the attack may not be qualitatively different from other attacks Israel has launched against targets in Syria, it may now be focusing those attacks on Hezbollah and its assets there, said Heiko Wimmen, project director for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon at the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution and prevention organization.

“It’s probably a way for them to turn up the heat on Hezbollah outside Lebanon,” Wimmen said, adding that Israel’s calculation could be that targeting Hezbollah assets in Syria amounts to “a smaller step up the escalation ladder” than doing so in the group’s home country.

An Iran-backed Islamist movement with one of the most powerful paramilitary forces in the Middle East, Hezbollah has since October 7 been embroiled in intense cross-border fighting with Israel. Its involvement in the war has sparked fears that Israel’s war in Gaza could spill over into a wider regional conflict.

Hezbollah maintains a strong presence in Syria, having done so since the 2011 Arab Spring protests which in some parts of the Middle East spiraled into proxy wars. Hezbollah was an active participant, fighting alongside Iran-aligned forces in Syria and on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who brutally quashed the opposition.

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