'Israeli missile' kills dozens of pro-Assad fighters in Syria
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack appears to have been carried out by Israel and targeted an arms depot for surface-to-surface missiles at a base in northern Syria known as Brigade 47. The Observatory said four Syrians were also among the casualties.
It said the death toll could rise as the attack also wounded 60 fighters and several others are still missing.
Syria's state news agency SANA said the attack occurred on Sunday evening around 10:30pm, targeting military positions in Hama and Aleppo.
The attack comes amid rising tensions between Iran and Israel following an airstrike earlier this month on Syria's T4 air base in central province of Homs that killed seven Iranian military personnel. Syria, Iran and Russia blamed Israel for that attack. Israel did not confirm or deny it.
Israel Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview published last Thursday that his country will strike Tehran if attacked by its arch-enemy, escalating an already tense war of words between the two adversaries.
Tehran has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters to back President Bashar Assad's forces in the country's seven-year civil war.
Iranian state television, citing Syrian media, reported Monday's attack. The semi-official ISNA news agency, citing "local sources and activists," said the strike killed 18 Iranians, including a commander, in a suburb of the central city of Hama.
The missiles targeted buildings and centres which likely include a weapons depot, ISNA reported.
However, Iran's Tasnim news agency said on Monday the reports of Iran's base in Syria being hit by rockets were baseless and no Iranians had been killed.
"All these reports over attack on an Iranian military base in Syria and the martyrdom of several Iranian military advisers in Syria are baseless," an unnamed source told Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.
Agencies contributed to this report.