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Shia militia blame Israel for deadly air raid

Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups blamed Israel on Sunday for raids by unmanned aircraft which they said killed at least one of their fighters near to the Syrian border.

Two unmanned aircraft had carried out the attack that killed one fighter and wounded another

Popular Mobilisation Forces says one of its fighters was killed by two unmanned aircraft. It accused the United States of providing air support to Israel for the strikes. (AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups blamed Israel on Sunday for raids by unmanned aircraft, which they said killed at least one of their fighters near to the Syrian border.

The strikes took place 15 kilometres away from the border, said a statement from the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a state umbrella grouping of mostly Iran-backed Shia Muslim factions.

It said one fighter was killed and another seriously wounded. An earlier statement from the PMF's Anbar operations command said two fighters were killed.

The PMF said two unmanned aircraft had carried out the attack. It accused the United States of providing air support to Israel for the strikes.

A security source told Reuters there were two air strikes, one of which struck the headquarters of a local paramilitary brigade, while the other struck a convoy of cars leaving the building.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment.

The attack, which took place in the afternoon, happened after a series of explosions in recent weeks at weapons depots belonging to Iran-backed PMF groups.

The militias have blamed Israel and the United States for some of the attacks. The Pentagon has denied any involvement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday of possible Israeli involvement in the recent destruction of PMF weapons depots in Iraq.

"We are operating — not just if needed, we are operating in many areas against a state that wants to annihilate us. Of course I gave the security forces a free hand and instructed them to do anything necessary to thwart Iran's plans," he said.

Israel strikes at Iranian forces

Israeli aircraft on Saturday struck Iranian forces near Damascus that were allegedly planning to launch armed drones at targets in Israel, an Israeli military spokesperson said.

"The strike targeted Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shia militias, which were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel from within Syria over the last number of days," the military said in a statement.

An Israeli military spokesperson said Shia fighters, seen in this file photo, were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel on Saturday. (REUTERS)

Israeli military spokesperson Jonathan Conricus told reporters the forces were preparing to launch "killer drones" armed with explosives at northern Israel.

Syrian state media said that Syrian air defences intercepted "hostile targets" over the capital Damascus on Saturday night.

Witnesses in Damascus said they heard and saw explosions in the sky.

"The aggression is ongoing and air defences are confronting hostile targets and are downing most of them in the southern region," state media outlet SANA said, indicating areas south of Damascus.

The Syrian army said in a statement that "the majority of the Israeli missiles were destroyed before reaching their targets."

Conricus, however, said the impact of the Israeli sites was "significant."