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U.S. launches more airstrikes against Iranian facilities in Syria

The Pentagon on Sunday announced a new round of airstrikes on Iranian facilities in Syria that officials said were linked to dozens of recent attacks targeting U.S. troops there and in neighboring Iraq, this time causing an undetermined number of fatalities among proxy fighters backed by Tehran.

The operation marked a significant escalation by the Biden administration, which has sought to deter the sharp rise in violence against American forces in the Middle East without provoking a broader regional conflict as tensions flare over the war in Gaza.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that these latest strikes had been carried out in eastern Syria on facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and groups affiliated with it. They hit a training facility near the city of Bukamal and a “safe house” near Mayadin, he said.

President Biden directed the operation, Austin added, “to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary assessments following the strikes, said the training facility in Bukamal also was used to store weapons and that secondary explosions were observed.

The safe house had functioned as a headquarters for groups affiliated with the IRGC, the senior defense official said. Militia personnel were present when the strikes occurred there, and the Pentagon believes some were killed, the official added. The fatalities were first reported by Fox News.

American fighter jets conducted the strikes late on Sunday, the official said. In a break with similar operations in recent weeks, the Pentagon has not identified the precise type of aircraft that carried out the mission.

“We continue to message to Iran that we hold them accountable for these [attacks on U.S. personnel], and that their leaders must take action to constrain the activities of the groups Iran directs, trains, and equips,” the official said. “We will not hesitate to take further measures to protect our people, if necessary.”

The operation followed similar actions targeting facilities in Syria that U.S. officials said were linked to Iran, first on Oct. 26 and again on Nov. 8. As of late last week, at least 46 attacks against U.S. troops had been documented since the middle of October, with dozens of American personnel sustaining what U.S. officials have characterized as minor injuries.

The Pentagon released footage showing a U.S. strike targeting a weapons storage facility in Syria on Nov. 8. (Video: Department of Defense)

The Pentagon said Thursday that, after the Nov. 8 strikes, U.S. personnel had come under attack three more times in Syria and once more in Iraq.

About 2,500 U.S. troops are based in Iraq and 900 in Syria as part of an enduring mission to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group. For years, those personnel have periodically come under fire from one-way attack drones and rockets, but such incidents have spiked in the weeks since Israel declared war on the militant group Hamas following the militants’ deadly cross-border attack on Oct. 7.

Hamas and other militant groups in the region receive weapons and training from Iran, raising concerns that the war in Gaza could widen. Biden has faced criticism from some Republicans who called previous strikes insufficient and argued they would not deter Iran.

Austin, speaking to reporters in India on Friday, said “we’re going to continue to do everything that we need to do to protect our people.”

“We won’t ever project or predict or advertise when we’re going to conduct a strike, but we will — rest assured that we will strike at a time and place of our choosing,” he said. “These attacks against our people must stop, you know?”

Israel-Gaza war

Israeli tanks, amid explosions and falling shells, surrounded overcrowded hospitals in Gaza City on Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel does not “seek to occupy Gaza,” marking a shift in tone after his previous comments that raised red flags in the Biden administration. Understand what’s behind the Israel-Gaza war.

Hostages: Officials say Hamas militants abducted about 239 hostages in a highly organized attack. Four hostages have been released — two Americans and two Israelis — as families hold on to hope. One released Israeli hostage recounted the “spiderweb” of Gaza tunnels she was held in.

Humanitarian aid: The Palestine Red Crescent Society said it has received over 370 trucks with food, medicine and water in the Gaza Strip through Egypt’s Rafah crossing. However, the PRCS said, there hasn’t been permission yet to bring in fuel to power the enclave’s hospitals, water pumps, taxis and more.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has a complicated history, and its rulers have long been at odds with the Palestinian Authority, the U.S.-backed government in the West Bank. Here is a timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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