US carries out airstrikes on Iran-linked sites in Syria

Pentagon says action follows series of attacks on American personnel in Iraq and Syrian by Iranian-backed milita groups

Lloyd Austin

The United States has carried out airstrikes on facilities in Syria used by Iran and its allies in the region.

The Pentagon said that the strikes were in response to “a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups” that began on October 17th.

US officials said the airstrikes had hit weapons and ammunition storage facilities.

Tensions between the US and Iran have been climbing since the Hamas attack on Israel earlier this month. Iran’s foreign minister this week warned that the US would not escape unaffected if the Hamas-Israel war turns into a wider conflict.


Speaking at the United Nations, foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran does not welcome an “expansion of the war in the region,” but the US would “not be spared from these fires” should the war in Gaza continue.

Defence secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday night that, at the direction of president Joe Biden, American military forces had carried out “precision self-defence strikes” on two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups.

He said Mr Biden had no higher priority than the safety of US personnel and that he had ordered the strikes to make clear that attacks such as those carried out over the last 10 days or so by Iranian-backed militia groups would not be tolerated.

Mr Austin said the US would defend itself, its personnel and its interests. He said that as a result of the attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups this month one US citizen, a contractor, had died from a cardiac incident while sheltering in place. He said 21 American personnel had suffered minor injuries but all had have since returned to duty.

“The United States does not seek conflict and has no intention nor desire to engage in further hostilities, but these Iranian-backed attacks against US forces are unacceptable and must stop,” he added.

“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 US forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people.”

Mr Austin said that the US air strikes were carried out in self defence and “were intended solely to protect and defend US 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,” he added. “We continue to urge all state and non-state entities not to take action that would escalate into a broader regional conflict.”

US officials said munitions stored at the facilities hit by the air strikes had been used in the recent attacks against its forces.

The strikes took place at roughly 4.30am on Friday in Syria (2.30am in Ireland) near Abu Kamal, a Syrian town on the border with Iraq. They were carried out by two F-16 fighter jets using precision munitions, a senior US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.

The United States has occasionally carried out retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed forces in the region after they attack American forces. In March, the US military carried out multiple air strikes in Syria against Iran-aligned groups that it blamed for a drone attack that killed an American contractor.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent