Suicide attack on police station in Syrian capital kills 17

Associated Press

Two suicide bombers stormed a police station in the Syrian capital on Monday, killing at least 17 civilians and police, state TV reported, while a drone strike in eastern Syria killed 10 Hezbollah fighters who were helping Syrian troops battle the Islamic State group.

The Syrian government is at war with the IS group as well as a local al-Qaida affiliate and an array of rebel groups, none of which immediately claimed the attack. It was also unclear who struck the Hezbollah fighters.

Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Shaar, Syria's interior minister, told reporters that two "terrorists" attacked the police station in the al-Midan neighborhood of Damascus with a number of bombs on Monday, before one of them blew himself up. He said the other bomber made it inside the compound, where police killed him, causing his bomb to explode.

The blasts damaged the lower floors of the building, and shattered the windows along one side. Blood stained the floors.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said the Hezbollah fighters were killed Monday morning when their position came under attack from the sky. The Lebanese militant group is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces.

A Hezbollah official confirmed the strike but not the toll. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

It was not immediately clear who was operating the drone. Unmanned aerial vehicles are now widely used in Iraq and Syria by armies and militant groups alike.

Israel has been targeting Hezbollah's convoys in Syria with growing regularity, saying it cannot allow advanced weapons provided by Iran to be sent to Lebanon. Iran has sponsored and supplied Hezbollah since establishing the group in the 1980s to fight Israel's occupation of south Lebanon.

But Israel's strikes are generally confined to western and southern Syria, near Lebanon and Israel. It has also been accused of striking Syrian government positions.

The U.S. has also attacked Syrian pro-government forces by air, but only once in any connection to the war on the Islamic State group, in September 2016, when an air raid killed at least 60 Syrian soldiers. The White House called the raid a mistake, and said it was committed to the war against the jihadist group.

Syrian pro-government forces have faced a series of fierce counterattacks after months of advances against the IS group in central and eastern Syria.

The jihadists briefly cut off a major highway last week, isolating pro-government forces in the east and sparking a battle to win back the artery, activists said. The Observatory said two days of fighting in the desert area left 120 Syrian troops, Hezbollah fighters and other pro-government gunmen dead.

Syria's military has heavily relied on Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and other Iranian-sponsored militias throughout the civil war.

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