The US is carrying out another round of airstrikes against Iran-related targets

The United States launched a new round of airstrikes against facilities used by Iran and its proxies in eastern Syria late Sunday in retaliation for a series of recent attacks on American troops, Pentagon officials said Sunday.

Officials said the attacks likely killed or injured an unspecified number of people at the locations.

The airstrikes appeared to mark an escalation by the Biden administration, which had previously carried out two series of airstrikes that officials said were aimed at deterring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the militias it supports in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials said the attacks caused no known casualties.

On Sunday night, Air Force F-15E fighter jets hit several buildings in Abu Kamal used for training, logistics and ammunition storage, as well as a safe house in Mayadin used as a command headquarters, officials said. The strikes came just four days after US warplanes hit an ammunition depot in eastern Syria. An earlier series of US retaliatory strikes followed on October 27.

US officials blame Iran and militias linked to it for what has become a daily barrage of missile and drone attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria.

But President Biden has in recent weeks rejected more aggressive bombing options proposed by the Pentagon for fear of provoking a wider conflict with Iran. Republican critics in Congress and some air force advocates said the White House’s narrow response only prompted more frequent and dangerous attacks on American troops in the region.

The Pentagon and other Biden administration officials dismissed the criticism on Sunday, saying the latest US airstrikes were aimed at disrupting militia activities and threatening their personnel, not just their ammunition or buildings.

“The president has no higher priority than the safety of American personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel and its interests,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement during a trip to Asia.

Pentagon officials said fewer than a dozen members of the Iran-backed militia were present at the sites bombed on Sunday and that some were likely killed or injured in the attack. But American analysts could not give a more precise estimate of the casualties.

The Pentagon said on Sunday that there had been at least 48 attacks on US forces in Syria and Iraq since October 17 and that at least 56 US soldiers had been injured. About half of them suffered traumatic brain injuries, and two had to be taken to Landstuhl Military Hospital in Germany for treatment.

The United States has 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria, mostly to help local forces fight the remnants of the Islamic State.

The United States has been shifting military assets to the Middle East since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on October 7 to try to prevent a regional war that could pit American forces against Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

One aircraft carrier is deployed in the eastern Mediterranean near Israel, and the other has recently left the Red Sea and is sailing towards the Arabian Sea. The Pentagon has also sent dozens of additional warplanes to the Persian Gulf region, as well as additional Patriot anti-missile batteries and other air defenses to several Gulf countries to protect US troops and bases in the region.

These air defenses have so far been largely successful in thwarting incoming threats to U.S. military personnel, but U.S. military officials say soldiers are lucky no one was killed as attacks are on the rise.

“It is abundantly clear that Iran and its proxy groups are escalating against US forces in Iraq and Syria, and we have a number of options available to defend ourselves,” said Dana Stroul, the Pentagon’s top Middle East policy official. committee last week.

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