The US military carried out air strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria and Iraq on Friday, the first response to a drone attack that killed three American soldiers at a US base in Jordan.
The airstrikes against Iranian forces and Tehran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria were in response to the death of US soldiers in a drone strike on Sunday that Washington blamed on Iran-backed forces.
“Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing,” US President Joe Biden said.
“The United States is not seeking conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let anyone who would try to harm us know this: If you harm an American, we will respond,” Biden added.
The strikes targeted the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and “militant groups linked” to Iran. US forces hit “more than 85 targets” and the strikes were carried out by numerous aircraft, including long-range bombers from the US, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said.
Among the targets of the strikes were command, control and intelligence centers, as well as missile, missile and drone depots belonging to militant groups and Iranian forces “that have facilitated attacks on US and coalition forces,” CENTCOM added.
The London-based non-governmental organization “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” (SOHR) reported that “at least 23 pro-Iranian fighters” were killed in the strikes in eastern Syria.
SOHR reported that at least 26 key locations of pro-Iranian groups, including weapons depots, had been destroyed. The strikes in eastern Syria were carried out in a strip more than 100 kilometers long from the city of Deir ez-Zor to Albukamal on the Iraqi border.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said US warplanes struck “more than 85 targets at seven facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its sponsored militias,” three of which are in Iraq and four in Syria.
“These targets were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties,” he added.
But Iraqi government spokesman Bassem al-Awadi said civilians were among the 16 killed in US strikes in western Iraq, while the Syrian army said strikes in Syria had killed “several civilians and soldiers”.
“The security of Iraq and the region will be on the brink of an abyss because of these strikes,” Awadi said.
Syria’s foreign ministry said the strikes would “escalate the conflict in the Middle East in an extremely dangerous way”.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said the night operation was “another strategic mistake by the US government that will have no other results than increasing tensions and instability.”