An Iraqi militia official told The Associated Press on Friday (Feb. 26) that a U.S. airstrike in Syria, targeting a facility affiliated with an Iranian-backed Iraqi militant group, killed a militiaman of the targeted group and wounded several others.
Another U.S. airstrike killed one soldier and wounded four others, according to information revealed by an Iraqi militia official with close ties to Iran, as cited by Reuters. The U.S. official said the limited scope of the strike indicated that the Biden administration would take firm action while trying to avoid a major escalation of the situation in the region.
The Iraqi militia official said Friday’s airstrikes hit Kataib Hezbollah positions along the border.
Local sources in eastern Syria and a medical source told Reuters that at least 17 people were killed, but gave no further details. That number also could not be confirmed.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday (Feb. 25) directed U.S. forces to conduct airstrikes in eastern Syria, against pro-Iranian militia groups. This was in response to a Feb. 15 rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq that killed a civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member as well as other coalition personnel.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the strike destroyed border positions where a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including the Hezbollah Brigades (Kataib Hezbollah) and the Sayyid Martyrs Battalion (Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada), are based.
The Syrian War Monitoring Group said the U.S. airstrikes hit multiple trucks that were delivering weapons to an Iranian-backed militia base in Syria’s Abu Kamal.
“I’m confident in the targets that we seek (to strike), and we know what we hit.” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters shortly after the U.S. military executed the airstrike Thursday night EST.
Austin said he was “confident” the U.S. airstrike would strike back at the Shiite militants who attacked coalition forces with rockets on Feb. 15.
Austin said he recommended to President Biden that the operation be carried out.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the U.S. action was a proportional military response, accompanied by diplomatic measures, including consultations with coalition partners.