Monitor: 42 killed in Israeli strikes in Syria this week

Will Iran and Israel Go to War? Trump Backs Israel's Right to Use Force As Rockets Fly Across Border From Syria

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll from attacks early Thursday has risen from 23 to 27, including at least 11 Iranians and six Syrian soldiers, including three officers. At least 15 people were killed in the strike, including eight Iranians, according to the Observatory.

The strikes dramatically ramped up tensions in the region days after US President Donald Trump announced a withdrawal from an global deal that had aimed at easing tensions between Iran and the West. For months now the Iranians have been conducting a military build-up in southern and south-western Syria with the single goal in mind of encroaching on Israel's sovereignty and their security.

Israel launched airstrikes against dozens of Iranian targets in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired around 20 rockets into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

The Israeli airstrikes capped months of rising tension between Jerusalem and Damascus, which have been poised for a fight over the presence of Iranian military assets inside Syrian territory.

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There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah on the latest Israeli strikes or how it might respond. Israel told Russian Federation about the imminent attack as part of the two countries' ongoing security coordination in Syria.

Speaking while touring the Israeli side of the occupied Golan Heights, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel is not looking for friction.

Israel had previously warned that Iran has been deploying its allied militias in the area.

The brief but intense confrontation raised fears the region may be sliding into an unprecedented direct conflict between the two archenemies.

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The rising tension in Syria came just as the United States chose to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and impose new sanctions, adding to the pressure on Tehran. Soleimani is the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds expeditionary force which is fighting in both Iraq and Syria.

"The holy system of the Islamic Republic will step up its missile capabilities day by day so that Israel, this occupying regime, will become sleepless and the nightmare will constantly haunt it that if it does anything foolish, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground", he said, according to state television.

A prominent Iranian cleric on Friday threatened two Israeli cities with destruction if the Jewish state "acts foolishly" and attacks its interests again, while thousands of protesters demonstrated against President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers. Thursday's attack was a "blatant violation of Syria's sovereignty", Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying Friday.

Iran has an ally in Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.

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