The US conducted additional airstrikes on enemy positions and rocket launchers near Deir ez-Zor in northeastern Syria after a missile strike on coalition bases in the region injured three US troops on Wednesday, a US official said.
A number of enemy fighters were killed in the attacks, which were launched from an AC-130 gunship, the official said.
The US launched its latest strikes overnight in response to a rocket attack on two coalition bases housing US troops in Syria, in which three US servicemen suffered minor injuries. In the initial response to Wednesday’s missile strike, US attack helicopters destroyed three vehicles and the missile launchers used to carry out the attack, the US Central Command said in a statement. Two or three Iranian-backed militants were also killed in the helicopter strike, according to an initial assessment.
The military carried out the attacks using AC-140 gunships, Apache attack helicopters and M777 howitzers, the US Central Command said in a statement.
The Pentagon said a total of four Iranian-backed militants had been killed in the series of US attacks.
“We will continue to assess the situation,” Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder said at a news conference on Thursday.
“We will respond appropriately and proportionately to attacks against our military,” US Central Command commander Michael “Erik” Kurilla said in the statement. “No group will attack our troops with impunity. We will take all necessary measures to defend our people.”
A US official said the military believes it has once again created deterrence with the latest attacks and the rapid escalation has reached its peak.
The military exchanges come at a critical time for US-Iran relations as some progress has been made in reviving the Iran nuclear deal, which aims to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. On Wednesday, a senior government official told CNN there was no connection between the strikes launched Tuesday and efforts to revive the deal, saying the strikes were simply a response to recent Iranian attacks on US forces.
Still, the airstrikes seemed to send a clear signal that the US may or may not continue to respond to Iranian provocations.
The attacks are the latest in an ongoing back and forth between US forces and Iranian-backed groups in Syria that has quickly escalated. The US said it was not seeking a conflict with Iran, but promised it would respond to attacks on US troops in the region.
maj. Gene. John Brennan, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement: “We will not tolerate these brutal attacks, and we will respond aggressively by using every means at our disposal to protect ourselves, our partners and defend and innocent civilians.”
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes against Iran-backed groups in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor that targeted “infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said Colonel Joe Buccino, a spokesman for CENTCOM. , earlier. in the statement.
A senior administration official told CNN that Biden requested response options early last week, and the issue was discussed at a national security meeting in the Oval Office when the president was in Washington to sign the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 16. On Monday, Biden was briefed on the options by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, and he ordered the strike after that briefing, the official said.
Iran has condemned the US airstrikes and denied any association with the groups targeting the site in a statement citing Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani.
“The US attack on Syrian infrastructure and people is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.
This story has been updated with additional details.