At least 17 pro-Iran fighters reported killed in strikes, which Pentagon says was in response to recent attacks on US troops in Iraq.
Baghdad: The United States military Friday said it carried out attacks on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed forces. The Iran backed forces are deployed in Syria to counter Daesh threat to sacred Islamic shrines, many of which were targeted and desecrated by the shadowy group over the years.
“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby in a statement.
“These strikes were authorised in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” he said.
According to the Pentagon, US fighter jets dropped seven 500-lb Joint Direct Attack Munition-guided precision bombs, hitting seven targets, which includes a crossing used by the armed groups to move weapons across the border.
Kirby said the strikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters, including members of Kata'ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada groups.
Reports said that strike targeted Imam Ali airbase near Bukamal, a border area near Iraq.
An Iraqi militia official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least one fighter had been killed and four others were wounded.
A medical source at a hospital in the area and several local sources told Reuters 17 people had been killed. That toll could not be independently confirmed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP at least 22 fighters were killed when the strike hit three trucks loaded with munitions coming from Iraq near the Syrian border. Militia border posts were also destroyed, the war monitor said.
The group said all the dead were from the Hashed al-Shaabi, an umbrella organisation that includes KH and KSS.
However, an KH official told The Associated Press only one person was killed, while several others were wounded.
The US move came after an attack nearly two weeks ago on the main military base inside the airport in Erbil, which killed one foreign contractor and wounded at least nine others, including American soldiers.
Another salvo hit a base hosting US forces north of Baghdad days later.
A shadowy group calling itself Awliya al-Dam – or the Guardians of the Blood – claimed responsibility for the attack and said it would continue to attack “occupation” American forces in Iraq.
US troops are based across the border in al-Tanf in Syria, where militants fighting the Syrian government are reportedly trained and armed and used for operations in Iraq and elsewhere.
The Pentagon statement described the US military response as “proportionate”, co-ordinated with diplomatic measures and carried out in consultation with coalition partners.
“We have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” it said.
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the United States did not want to escalate the situation into a bigger conflict.
The official said Biden was presented with a range of options and one of the most limited responses was allegedly chosen.
“The administration is trying to portray this first military attack as measured. Biden spoke to the Iraqi prime minister earlier this week. Importantly he spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia today.
“The rocket attacks that US administration is saying were perpetrated, were not only in Iraq. There are reports that they were in Saudi Arabia as well. The call included a determination to protect Saudi Arabia from external threats,” she added.
Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with links to Kata’ib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass US forces without being held accountable.
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