Israeli strikes in southern Syria, near Israeli border (archive)
Israeli strikes in southern Syria, near Israeli border (archive) Reuters

Presumed Israeli air strikes on eastern Syria killed 16 Iran-backed fighters Thursday, a war monitor said, hours after Damascus said it intercepted Israeli missiles fired at a central air base.

Those killed were "Iraqi paramilitary fighters loyal to Iran, seven of whom were killed outside the city of Mayadeen," Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

The other nine were killed in strikes south of the city of Albu Kamal, on the Iraqi border further east.

Abdul Rahman said Israel was "likely" responsible for the attack, which if confirmed, would mark the second such strike in less than 24 hours and the third this week.

Earlier, local media reported that Syria’s air defense systems were activated following an attack over the city of Homs on Wednesday evening.

The Syrian army claimed that Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the T4 air base located in the area.

A Syrian military source told the country's official news agency that "at 10:23 p.m., an Israeli fighter jet fired missiles at the airport and the defense systems intercepted most of the missiles."

On Monday evening, the Syrian news agency reported that the country’s air defense systems had been activated against hostile targets on the outskirts of Damascus.

According to the report, some of the missiles that were fired were intercepted.

11 people were killed in the air strike, which Syrian media attributed to Israel, according to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.