The US military said it targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, reports Asian Lite News
US strikes on eastern Syria near the border with Iraq killed at least five Iran-backed militia fighters, a war monitor reported on Monday.
“At least 5 Iran-backed Iraqi militia fighters were killed and several others were wounded in an attack by US warplanes” on the Syrian side of the frontier, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The war monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria to collect information, said that military positions were among the targets hit.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said one child had been killed, and that at least three other people were wounded.
The US Defense Department on Sunday said it carried out another round of air strikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria, this time in response to drone attacks by the militia against US personnel and facilities in Iraq.
In a statement, the US military said it targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq. It did not disclose whether it believed anyone was killed or injured but officials said assessments were ongoing.
The strikes came at the direction of President Joe Biden, the second time he has ordered retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militia since taking office five months ago. Biden last ordered limited strikes in Syria in February, that time in response to rocket attacks in Iraq.
“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect US personnel,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The facilities were used by militia groups, including Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid Al-Shuhada, two hard-line Iraqi military factions with close ties to Tehran, the Pentagon added.
“These facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
US interests in Iraq have come under repeated attack in recent months, with the United States consistently blaming Iran-linked Iraqi factions for rocket and other attacks against Iraqi installations housing its personnel.
In February, US strikes on facilities in east Syria used by Iran-backed militia groups left more than 20 fighters dead, according to the Observatory.
The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and other coalition troops.
The strikes came even as Biden’s administration is looking to potentially revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The strikes appear to show Biden’s efforts to compartmentalize defensive strikes to protect American personnel, while simultaneously engaging Tehran in diplomacy.
His critics say Iran cannot be trusted and point to the drone attacks as further evidence that Iran and its proxies will never accept a US military presence in Iraq or Syria.
Biden and the White House declined comment on the strikes on Sunday.
US officials believe Iran is behind a ramp-up in drone attacks and periodic rocket fire against US personnel and facilities in Iraq, where the US military has been helping Baghdad combat the remnants of Islamic State.
Two US officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Iran-backed militias carried out at least five drone attacks against facilities used by US and coalition personnel in Iraq since April.
The Pentagon said the facilities targeted were used by Iran-backed militia including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid Al-Shuhada.
One of the facilities targeted was used to launch and recover the drones, a defense official said.
The US military carried out strikes with F-15 and F-16 aircraft, officials said, adding the pilots made it back from the mission safely.
“We assess each strike hit the intended targets,” one of the officials told Reuters.
Iraq’s government is struggling to deal with militias ideologically aligned with Iran which are accused of rocket fire against US forces and of involvement in killing peaceful pro-democracy activists.
Earlier in June, Iraq released Iran-aligned militia commander Qasim Muslih, who was arrested in May on terrorism-related charges, after authorities found insufficient evidence against him.
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