WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. launched an airstrike on a facility in eastern Syria linked to Iran-backed militias in retaliation for several weeks of increasing attacks on bases hosting U.S. troops in the region, according to reports the Pentagon said.
The attack by two US F-15 fighter jets took place on an Iranian Revolutionary Guard weapons depot.
“The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he ordered today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Explanation.
This is the second time in less than two weeks that the U.S. has bombed facilities used by militant groups, many of which operate under the umbrella of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which U.S. officials said has been active since Oct. 17 has carried out at least 40 such attacks.
That day, a massive explosion rocked a hospital in Gaza, killing hundreds and sparking protests in several Muslim countries. In retaliation for Hamas’ devastating rampage in southern Israel on October 7, the Israeli military has relentlessly attacked Gaza.
Israel denied responsibility for the explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital and the US said its intelligence analysis concluded Tel Aviv was not responsible. But the Israeli military has continued its fierce assault on Hamas, with ground troops now deep in Gaza City in a war that has claimed a staggering death toll of more than 10,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry Hamas-controlled territory.
The latest U.S. attack aimed to take supplies, weapons and ammunition to undermine the ability of Iran-backed militants to attack Americans stationed in Iraq and Syria. And it reflects the Biden administration’s determination to maintain a delicate balance. The U.S. wants to hit Iran-backed groups suspected of targeting the U.S. as hard as possible to deter future aggression that may be fueled by Israel’s war on Hamas, while also working to prevent another flare-up the region and to avoid provoking a major conflict.
Similar U.S. airstrikes on Oct. 27 also targeted facilities in Syria, and officials said at the time that the two sites were linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Asked why these sites in Syria were chosen – since many of the attacks took place in Iraq – officials said the US was looking for storage sites for munitions that could be linked to the attacks on US personnel.
The U.S. has often avoided bombing locations in Iraq to reduce the risk of killing Iraqis or angering the Iraqi leadership.
While officials said the attacks were intended to deter further attacks, they did not have that effect. Rocket and drone attacks occurred almost daily, but in almost all cases they resulted in minor damage and few injuries.
According to the Pentagon, a total of 45 people were injured, all of whom were involved in attacks on October 17th and 18th. Of these, 32 were at al-Tanf Garrison in southeastern Syria with a mix of minor injuries and traumatic brain injuries, and 13 occurred at al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, with four cases involving traumatic brain injuries and Nine cases involved minor injuries. One person was injured at the Irbil air base in Iraq.
The Pentagon has repeatedly faced questions about whether deterrence against Iran and its proxies is working as attacks have only increased.
At the same time, the ministry has deployed a number of air defense systems to the region to strengthen the protection of US forces. And the systems have intercepted incoming attacks on several occasions.
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