US air strikes target Iran-backed militias in Syria in Biden’s first military action
The US carried out its first military action on ThursdayThe target is the infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militant groups in Syria in response to recent missile attacks in Iraq. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that he recommended the strike to Mr Biden, who approved it in a phone call Thursday morning.
“The operation sends a clear message: President Biden will act to protect the staff of the American coalition,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.have attacked US forces in Iraq and Syria for years, most recently in a rocket attack on the northern Iraqi city of Erbil last week that injured four American contractors and a member of the military.
The strikes destroyed several facilities at a border checkpoint in al-Bukamal, Syria, used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, includingand Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada to Kirby.
The Pentagon spokesman made no mention of casualties, but the UK-based surveillance group, the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, said Friday that the strikes killed 22 people who were alleged to have hit three trucks carrying ammunition from Iraq transported to Syria.
The organization, which draws on a wide network of local sources in Syria and provides generally reliable information, said all those killed were members of Iran-backed militias, most of them from Qataib Hezbollah. The observatory said the death toll is likely to rise as some of the wounded are in serious condition. According to the group’s sources, Iran-backed groups rushed to evacuate several locations in al Bukamal immediately after the strikes, fearing further US attacks.
Carefully chosen destination
In the first military strike of his presidency, Mr Biden approved a target along the Syrian-Iraqi border that would serve as repaymentPut US personnel at risk – but don’t let tensions with Tehran escalate any further as it attempts to withdraw the Islamic Republic back to the US .
An administrative official confirmed that the Biden team had selected the targets as part of a calibrated response designed to achieve three things: Send a signal to Iran that the new US president would not tolerate missile attacks that the US Would put personnel at risk; Avoid angering US partners in Iraq who must have good relations with Tehran and Washington, and avoid provoking Iran into further retaliation.
Two former Trump administration officials told CBS News that the al-Bukamal area has been the target of numerous Israeli strikes in recent months as it serves as a hub for Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq. Both officials affirmed the choice of location.
One of the former officials said, “It’s easier to send messages there because we’re less exposed.”
The Biden government’s strike against Iran-backed militias follows immediately after its first strikeabout American hostages in the country and about the public offer by European diplomats to resume talks on Tehran’s nuclear program. Both diplomatic initiatives were taken last week.
Last week, a missile attack in Erbil, northern Iraq, killed a non-American citizen and injured four American contractors and one American service member. A total of eight contractors were injured, two serious enough to be evacuated.
The United States had evidence that the attack was carried out using Iranian-supplied equipment. The attack on Erbil consisted of 14 missiles, six more were still on the carrier rails.
The most recent air strike against Iran-backed militias took place in December 2019. There was no immediate response from Iranian officials to Thursday’s US strike.
Eleanor Watson and Tucker Reals contributed to the coverage.
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