The U.S. military on Thursday launched strikes against alleged Iran-backed groups in Syria in the latest attack in a rapidly escalating conflict between both sides, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed Thursday.
Hours after the Iran-backed groups fired rockets at two U.S. military installations in Syria, wounding three U.S. soldiers, officials in CENTCOM confirmed it targeted the groups with a counterattack using Apache helicopters, AC-130 gunships, and M777 artillery.
In all, four militants were killed and seven rocket launchers were destroyed or disabled, the statement said. No other details were provided by the military.
“We will respond appropriately and proportionally to attacks on our servicemembers,” said Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of CENTCOM, in the statement. “No group will strike at our troops with impunity. We will take all necessary measures to defend our people.”
A day before, three American troops were wounded in rocket attacks in Syria, it also confirmed in a statement.
The rocket attacks targeted the U.S. military base at Green Village and the Conoco gas fields located in eastern Syria, said CENTCOM. One soldier was treated for a minor injury, and two are under evaluation for minor injuries.
Authorities said the rockets landed “inside the perimeter of Mission Support Site Conoco in northeast Syria” at around 7:20 p.m. local time in Syria. Later on, rockets landed inside Green Village, officials said.
The rockets prompted the U.S. forces to respond by destroying three vehicles and equipment that were used to launch the attacks, according to the statement.
“Initial assessments indicate that two or three suspected Iran-backed militants conducting one of the attacks were killed during the U.S. response,” the statement said.
CENTCOM reiterated that the United States “does not seek conflict with Iran” but will use its military to take measures “to protect and defend our people.”
It’s not clear what group launched the rockets. But the attack occurred after the United States launched airstrikes in the country on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, CENTCOM said that President Joe Biden authorized precision strikes in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, in retaliation to Aug. 15 attacks launched by Iranian militants.
“Today’s strikes were necessary to protect and defend U.S. personnel. The United States took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of casualties,” said Joe Buccino, a CENTCOM spokesman, in a statement. “The President gave the direction for these strikes pursuant to his Article II authority to protect and defend U.S. personnel by disrupting or deterring attacks by Iran-backed groups.”
As for why U.S. soldiers are still in Syria, Buccino said they will remain “to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
The strikes against alleged Iran-backed groups come as the United States and Iran are again negotiating a deal to revive the controversial “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” deal that seeks to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said Wednesday that the Syria airstrikes show that the United States will respond to such groups regardless of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“What the strikes last night illustrated is that our commitment to push back against Iran’s support for terrorism, militancy and the threats that they engage in against our people in the region or elsewhere are not linked to wherever we end up on the nuclear deal,” Kahl said Wednesday at an Aug. 24 press conference.