The US military says it has targeted Iranian-backed militias in Syria in response to rocket attacks at Erbil airport in northern Iraq last week. The attack killed a civilian specialist working for the US-led coalition fighting the terrorist organization Daesh (Islamic State, IS, ISIS – banned in Russia) in Iraq and Syria, and wounded a US soldier. The attack in eastern Syria on the night of February 26 was the first American strike against Iranian-backed groups in the region under President Joe Biden, the Associated Press reported.
“In the course of the American aggression at dawn, air raids were carried out near the Syrian-Iraqi border”, – the Al-Ikhbariya state TV correspondent reports. No other details of the attack were reported.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said late Thursday that President Biden had directly ordered strikes on multiple targets at an unspecified Iraqi-Syrian border crossing. Other reports indicated that the targets belonged to Iranian-backed groups operating in the strategically located Syrian border town of Al Bukamal.
The Pentagon press release also mentions two Iranian-backed groups – Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada – among those targeted. “Kataib Hezbollah” is one of the most powerful pro-Iranian groups based in Iraq, in the past it was the target of US retaliatory strikes after rocket attacks in this Arab republic, the AR notes.
According to sources in Washington, the operation is an unambiguous signal: President Biden will act to protect American personnel and the military coalition. At the same time, it is indicated that the United States “acted deliberately, seeking to de-escalate the general situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq”.
“I’m confident in the target we were pursuing, we know we hit”, – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the reporters accompanying him on a plane from California to Washington when news of the strikes became known.
“We are confident that this target was used by the same Shiite fighters who were striking”.
“We have repeatedly stated that we will respond in a timely manner”, – the Pentagon chief continued, adding that he personally recommended striking President Biden.
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reported that the US Air Force F-15 multirole fighters were used to launch the strikes. Presumably, the Central Command of the US Armed Forces (CENTCOM, the area of responsibility includes the Middle East) has engaged aviation, which is based in neighboring Iraq and Syria, Jordan.
The United States will take steps to bring to justice the group behind the missile attack in northern Iraq that killed one person and injured nine others, including a US soldier. This was announced on February 17 by the representative of the US State Department Ned Price. The US Foreign Office then warned that “any faction responsible for this attack will have to deal with the consequences”.
The missile attack was carried out on the evening of February 15, in the vicinity of Erbil airport, the administrative center of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, and a nearby military base in the north of the Arab republic, which houses US troops. The shelling killed one foreign civilian contractor and wounded at least nine people, including one American soldier. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the group “Sarayya Awliya al-Dam”, which, according to the Iraqi authorities, enjoys the support of Iran.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken earlier expressed his outrage over the missile attack on a US base in northern Iraq.