The United States has struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran and its proxies in response to attacks against U.S. troops in the region, the Pentagon announced late Thursday.
President Biden ordered U.S. military forces to carry out “self-defense strikes” on a weapons storage facility and an ammunition storage area used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups in eastern Syria, according to a Defense Department statement.
“These precision self-defense strikes are a response to a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups that began on October 17,” the release states.
“The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” the statement adds.
U.S. and coalition forces have been attacked at least 19 times in the Middle East since last week, including four times in Syria and 12 times in Iraq — with three new attacks on Thursday, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.
The United States has not provided evidence as to who is to blame for the assaults — which have consisted of a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets — but claims that Iran is behind them.
Twenty-one American troops have suffered minor injuries from the attacks, many of them traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
One U.S. citizen contractor also died of a heart attack during a false alarm while sheltering in place at al-Asad Airbase in Iraq.
The Pentagon stressed that the United States “does not seek conflict and has no intention nor desire to engage in further hostilities,” but that the Iranian-backed attacks “are unacceptable and must stop.”
It added: “Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them. If attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people.”
Attacks on American forces have jumped since Hamas first attacked Israel on Oct. 7, with U.S. officials concerned that Iran and its proxies may seek to widen the conflict and destabilize the region.
The Pentagon said the U.S. strikes in Syria — which it called “narrowly-tailored” and “intended solely to protect and defend U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria” — were separate from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The DOD added that the strikes “do not constitute a shift in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict. We continue to urge all state and non-state entities not to take action that would escalate into a broader regional conflict.”
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