JEDDAH: The US vowed on Friday to protect its forces in Syria after killing 14 pro-Iranian fighters in airstrikes targeting Deir Ezzor in the east of the country.
The latest bloodshed began when an Iranian-built suicide drone struck a maintenance facility at an anti-Daesh coalition base near Hasakeh. A US contractor was killed, and another contractor and five US service personnel were wounded in Thursday’s attack.
President Joe Biden ordered precision air strikes in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “The air strikes were conducted in response to Thursday’sattack as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards,” Austin said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with a wide network of sources on the ground, said 14 people had been killed by US strikes, including nine Syrians.
“US strikes targeted a weapons depot inside Deir Ezzor city, killing six pro-Iran fighters, two other fighters were killed by strikes targeting the desert of Al-Mayadeen, and six others near Albu Kamal,” said the Observatory’s head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The violence continued on Friday when a US base at Al-Omar oil field in Syria was targeted in a missile attack. The attack was ineffective and there were no US casualties, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.
It is not uncommon for Iranian-backed groups to lob missiles at US bases in Syria after they are hit with airstrikes. “We’re going to work to protect our people and our facilities as best we can. It’s a dangerous environment,” Kirby said.
US Army General Erik Kurilla, who oversees American troops in the Middle East, said: “We will always take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing.”
Iran-backed militias have a heavy presence across Syria, especially around the border with Iraq and south and west of the Euphrates in Deir Ezzor province.
The latest violence could further aggravate already strained relations between Washington and Tehran amid stalled efforts to revive a nuclear deal and Iran’s military support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
US forces first deployed into Syria during the Obama administration’s campaign against Daesh, in partnership with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. About 900 US troops are in Syria, most of them in the east. They have come under attack by Iranian-backed groups about 80 times since the beginning of 2021.