The United States military says it carried out attacks on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militia on Thursday, following recent rocket attacks on US troop locations in Iraq.
At least 17 pro-Iran fighters were reported killed in strikes, which Pentagon says was in response to recent rocket attacks on US troops in Iraq.
The Pentagon 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,”
“We are confident with the target we went for. We know what we did,” said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. “We are confident that target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes.”
“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 a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS).
Reports said that strike targeted Imam Ali airbase near Al Bukamal, a border area near Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than a dozen pro-Iran fighters were killed.
“The strikes destroyed three lorries carrying munitions… There were many casualties. Preliminary indications are that at least 17 fighters were killed, all members of Popular Mobilisation Forces,” SOHR director Rami Abdul Rahman, told AFP news agency.
The group said all the dead were from the Hashed al-Shaabi, an umbrella organisation that includes KH and KSS.
The United States move came after an attack nearly two weeks ago on the main military base inside the airport in Erbil, which killed one foreign civilian contractor and wounded at least nine others, including an American soldier.
Foreign troops deployed as part of the US-led coalition that has helped Iraq fight the armed group ISIL (also known as ISIS) since 2014, are stationed at the site.
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.