Iran cuts Syria presence after strikes blamed on Israel

BEIRUT  -  Iran has reduced its military footprint in Syria after a succession of strikes blamed on Israel, a source close to Hezbollah and a war monitor said Wednesday. Iran has provided military support to Syrian government forces through more than a decade of civil war but a series of strikes targeting its commanders in recent months has prompted a reshaping of its presence, the sources said. “Iran withdrew its forces from southern Syria,” including both Quneitra and Daraa provinces, which abut the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, the source close to Hezbollah said. But it still maintains a presence in other parts of the country, the source added. Recent months have seen a series of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, widely blamed on Israel, culminating in an April 1 strike that levelled the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals. That strike prompted Iran to launch a first-ever direct missile and drone attack against Israel on April 13-14 that sent regional tensions spiralling.

But Iran had already begun drawing down its forces after a January 20 strike that killed five Revolutionary Guards in Damascus, including their Syria intelligence chief and his deputy, the source close to Hezbollah said.

Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Iranian forces had withdrawn from Damascus and southern Syria.

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