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Israel Warns of 80,000 Iran-Backed ‘Extremists’ Operating in Syria

© AP Photo / Bilal Hussein / Hezbollah fighter stands at a watchtower (File)
Hezbollah fighter stands at a watchtower (File) - Sputnik International
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that 80,000 “extremist” Shia Muslim militants are operating under Iran’s command in Syria

"There are over 80,000 extremists from all over the Middle East who are members of Shia militias in Syria under Iranian control," said Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon. Wednesday, Danon was elected vice president of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly. 

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The ambassador showed the UNSC an aerial photograph of what Israel alleges is an Iranian base just on the outskirts of Damascus, the Syrian capital, which Danon said serves as "Iran's central induction and recruitment center in Syria," but reportedly did not offer up any evidence to support his statement.

It is likely that Danon is referring to Hezbollah, and possibly to the Badr Organization, among the most active Shia militias in Syria, which have fought alongside the Syrian Arab Army and Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in a number of battles in the war-torn nation against the Free Syrian Army, al-Nusra Front, Daesh and a number of other Islamic extremist groups.

Hezbollah is a Shiite political party and military based in Lebanon, labelled a terrorist organization by the United States in 1997. It has evolved from a cell-based structure largely involved with counterinsurgency to a full-fledged army, now considered the strongest non-state force in the world. The Badr Organization is an Iraqi political party that fought Daesh in Iraq and helped the Syrian government retake Aleppo from al-Nusra Front and other extremist groups. 

An Israeli Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter plane performs at an air show during the graduation of new cadet pilots at Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on June 29, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Danon's announcement comes following the April 9 Israeli attack on Syria's T-4 air base, which killed seven Iranians operating in the country on behalf of the Syrian government.

An IDF member told the New York Times, "It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people," although the paper issued a correction after the IDF lodged protests, arguing he did not speak for the military.

Since then, Israel has been bracing for potential conflict. On Monday, Sputnik reported that the country pulled its F-15s from scheduled drills in Alaska to keep them instead on high alert in Israel.

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