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US airstrikes pound Iranian militia in response to deadly drone attack on US base

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U.S. aircraft carried out multiple air strikes in Deir Az Zo in eastern Syria against Iranian-aligned militias after an Iranian drone killed one American contractor and wounded five American troops and another contractor. 

The drone attack occurred at the U.S.-coalition base in northeastern Syria near the city of Hassakeh.

“At the direction of President Biden, I authorized U.S. Central Command forces to conduct precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin.

“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” said Austin adding that no group will attack U.S. forces with impunity.

The United States took proportionate and deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties, the Pentagon said in its statement. 

Related: ISIS has access to thousands of recruits in Syria, according to the US

Paratroopers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct a training exercise in NE Syria on Dec. 3, 2020. The 82nd Airborne Division 2nd Brigade Combat Team is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sidney Perry)

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based watchdog of the Syrian Civil war which also uses many contacts inside Syria, six Iranian-backed fighters were killed in the U.S. airstrikes in the eastern city of Deir Az Zor.

SOHR added that two other Iranian-backed fighters were killed in a U.S. airstrike on a post near the town of Mayadeen and that another strike hit a military post near Boukamal along the border with Iraq.

Videos posted to social media on Thursday showed large explosions, supposedly around Deir Az Zor. However, there has been no acknowledgment of the attacks from Iran or from Syria.

Large groups of Syrian troops, Iranian proxy militias, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops are stationed near Deir Az Zor.

U.S. Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, the head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), warned that U.S. forces could carry out additional strikes if needed.

Testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee Kurilla referenced Iran’s strengthened military and growing arsenal of ballistic missiles and said that the “Iran of today is exponentially more militarily capable than it was even five years ago,”

“What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies;  that’s either UAVs or rockets to be able to attack our forces in either Iraq or Syria,” Kurilla added that since January 2021, Iranian proxy militias have made 78 attacks on U.S. bases in Syria.

Feature Image: A Syrian Democratic Forces deputy commander advises his soldiers of an incoming missile attack on ISIS vehicles in Deir ez-Zor province, Syria, Nov. 28, 2018. Continued assistance to partner forces is essential to setting conditions for regional stability. The Coalition and its partners remain united and resolved to prevent the resurgence of ISIS and its violent extremist ideology. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Crane)

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Steve Balestrieri