Israel said to carry out airstrike on IS-linked group in Syria

BEIRUT — At least 10 members of a small jihadist faction linked to the Islamic State terror group were killed Monday in air strikes in southern Syria, a monitor said, blaming Israel but offering no evidence.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit the town of Sahm al-Jolan in the west of Daraa province.

The monitor said 10 fighters from the Jaish Khaled Bin Walid group were killed, along with two women believed to be the wives of fighters from the faction.

The strike hit a base belonging to the group, which has pledged allegiance to IS but was never formally incorporated into it.

The Observatory offered no evidence that Israel carried out the strike. It relies on a network of sources inside Syria, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had no comment on the report.

Israel has acknowledged several strikes in Syria, almost always at shipments of arms, or on facilities producing weapons for the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

In other cases it has retaliated for rockets and shells fired into Israel.

Five rockets were fired at the Golan Heights in Israel over the weekend. Defense Minister Avidor Liberman blamed Hezbollah, but the IDF said it was still not clear who had fired the rockets. Israel fired back into Syria, hitting three rocket launchers, in response to the rocket fire, and warned that further fire would prompt a more intensive response.

The Observatory said Monday’s strike came several months after 16 fighters from the group were killed in suspected Israeli air strikes in the same area.

Jaish Khaled Bin Walid was formed in May 2016, and is an alliance of several jihadist groups, the largest of them the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, which was listed by Washington as a terrorist group.

The Observatory said Jaish Khaled Bin Walid is estimated to have some 1,200 fighters, and controls territory in western Daraa province, along the border with the Golan Heights.In November 2016, Israel’s army said it had targeted members of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade after they fired at an Israeli soldier in the Golan Heights.

Israel captured 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

The two countries are still technically at war.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

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