The United States struck two Iranian-linked sites in Syria on Sunday in response to recent attacks on American forces, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
At least six Iranian-aligned terrorists were killed in strikes, Fox News reported, citing American defense officials.
This was the third time in less than three weeks that the U.S. military has targeted locations in Syria it said were tied to Iran, whose terror proxies have wounded dozens of American troops in a series of attacks in the Middle East since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.
“U.S. military forces conducted precision strikes today on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to continued attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria,” according to a statement by Austin.
The strikes targeted a training facility and a safe house near the cities of Abu Kamal and Mayadin, respectively, the statement said.
“The President [Joe Biden] has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” added Austin.
On Wednesday night, separate U.S. and Israeli airstrikes in Syria targeted Iranian proxies.
A Pentagon official told reporters that U.S. aircraft struck a weapons warehouse belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in eastern Syria. The official said the strike triggered secondary explosions, suggesting the presence of weapons.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israel had struck Hezbollah facilities near Damascus, as well as a Syrian air defense site. Israeli officials did not confirm the attacks.
On Oct. 27, Austin announced that U.S. military forces had struck two facilities in eastern Syria.
A senior U.S. military official told the Associated Press that the precision strikes hit weapons and ammunition storage areas connected to the IRGC. Two F-16 fighter jets carried out the attacks near the town of Bukamal near the Iraqi border, said the official. The area is a main conduit for weapons transfers between Iran and Syria or Lebanon, via Iraq.
Austin stressed at the time that Washington “does not seek conflict and has no intention nor desire to engage in further hostilities, but these Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. forces are unacceptable and must stop.”
He went on to state that “Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them. If attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people.”
Austin emphasized that the strikes in Syria were not connected to Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“These narrowly tailored strikes in self-defense were intended solely to protect and defend U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. They are separate and distinct from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, and do not constitute a shift in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict,” said Austin.
“We continue to urge all state and non-state entities not to take action that would escalate into a broader regional conflict,” he said.
Last month, Austin ordered the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean.
The announcement came just after Austin completed his visit to Israel, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
In a statement, Austin said that this was being done “as part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts towards widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”
The Strike Group includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Mason, and Carrier Air Wing 3, with nine aircraft squadrons and embarked headquarters staffs.
The Eisenhower CSG joined the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which includes the USS Normandy, USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt.
The U.S. Air Force also announced deployment to the region of squadrons of F-15, F-16 and A-10 fighter aircraft.
Overnight Saturday, Israeli Air Force jets struck terrorist infrastructure in Syria in response to projectiles launched towards the Israeli Golan Heights several hours earlier.
The Israel Defense Forces said that two projectiles landed in open fields, causing no injuries or damage. The military did not elaborate on the nature of the targets in Syria.
Overnight Thursday, the military struck assets in Syria belonging to the group responsible for launching a drone that hit a school in Eilat the previous day. The IDF did not reveal the name of the organization.
“The Syrian regime is fully responsible for all terror activity that is carried out from Syrian territory. The IDF will respond severely to any attempt to attack the territory of the State of Israel,” the IDF said in a statement on Friday.
Israeli airstrikes have repeatedly put Damascus and Aleppo airports out of service.
Israel has struck hundreds of targets in Syria in recent years as part of an effort to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in the country. However, Jerusalem rarely acknowledges these incidents.
Iran has in recent weeks boosted the presence of Shi’ite terror forces in Syria and also in Lebanon as backup for Hezbollah.
Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Iran is assisting Hamas by supplying it with intelligence, and is also boosting anti-Israel incitement worldwide.
Iran also helped Hamas with training, weapons, funding and technological knowledge, said Hagari.