Despite years of cooperation and support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, pro-Iran Shi’ite militias have reportedly been fighting Syrian army forces on multiple occasions over the last two weeks, with fatalities and injuries on both sides.

Reports from various media outlets report that fighting is focused on securing control of the towns of Al-Bukamal and Al-Mayadin near a border crossing between Syria and Iraq that is considered a strategic trade route between the two countries, as well as an indirect access point for Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.

Fatalities include an estimated 25 people, including a high-ranking Iranian officer and members of the Afghan Fatemiyoun Division, a militia funded and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Top Israeli security officials have been following the unfolding of events, as an Iranian corridor to the Mediterranean could pose a significant threat to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed to leaders from around the world to force Iran to remove its presence from Syria.

According to reports, Shi’ite militias have partially occupied Al-Bukamal, taking over the abandoned homes of Syrian refugees and setting up religious institutions in accordance to Shia beliefs.