The Pentagon is seen from the air in Washington on March 3, 2022.
Two US F-15 fighter jets conducted an airstrike on a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
“This precision self-defense strike is a response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”
“The United States is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities,” he added. “We urge against any escalation.”
A senior military official said Wednesday evening that the facility, located in Maysalun in Deir Ezzor, Syria, is believed to have housed weapons used in “many of the airstrikes that have taken place against our forces here in the region.”
“We’ve been watching it for a bit to ensure that when we struck the target, we would strike it at a time that we would be able to eliminate the use of the facility to the IRGC. … I watched the engagement, I can tell you that we’re pretty certain there were some secondary explosions that indicated that the facility was housing weapons that we believe are likely used in many of the strikes that have taken place against our forces here in the region,” the official said.
The official added that they are “very certain” Wednesday’s strike “did not involve civilian loss.”
The US, the official said, “did use the deconfliction line” with Russia. The US speaks with Russia regularly over a deconfliction line regarding military operations in Syria.
The US strike is the second time the US has hit facilities used by Iranian-backed groups in response to nearly daily attacks by Iranian proxies on US forces in Iraq and Syria. On October 26, a US F-15 and two F-16s used precision-guided munitions to strike two facilities linked to Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria.
01:01 – Source: CNN
Retired Col. on what messages the US is sending to Iran with first strike
US and coalition forces have been targeted at least 41 times since October 17 by one-way attack drones or rocket attacks — the latest being a multi-rocket attack on US and coalition forces at Shaddadi, Syria.
Wednesday’s attack did not result in casualties or any damage to infrastructure, according to a US official.
More than 40 troops sustained minor injuries in attacks before the US’ strike on October 26, including at least 20 traumatic brain injuries.
A senior defense official said that Wednesday’s strike was meant to convey “a clear message to Iran that we hold it accountable for the attacks on US forces,” and that the US expects Iran to “take measures to direct its proxies to stop.”
“In light of heightened tensions stemming from the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, we have undertaken additional measures to communicate directly with Iran, Iran-aligned groups in Iraq, Lebanon, and our regional partners,” the defense official said. “We aim to clarify that our military actions do not signal a change in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict, and we have no intentions of escalating conflict in the region. Our commitment to self-defense and the protection of US personnel remains the same.”
The US strike comes the same day that an unmanned US MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down off the coast of Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi forces. US Central Command is investigating the incident.
CNN previously reported that Iran-backed groups are planning to increase its attacks on US forces in the Middle East as Iran seeks to take advantage of backlash in the region to US support of Israel in the wake of Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7.
Since October 7, and the increasingly frequent attacks of US troops in the region, the US has sent significant firepower to the Middle East as a deterrence to widening the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and in support of forces in the region.
Among the deployed capabilities are two carrier strike groups, which each employ thousands of sailors and several guided missile destroyers; various aircraft including F-15 and F-16 fighters; and roughly 1,200 troops including those attached to Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries.
The senior defense official said Wednesday that the US has fortified its bases in the region “with additional Patriot batteries, and increased defensive counter air-patrols to further deter attacks and defend our forces.”
This story has been updated with additional details.