On Thursday, the United States launched two precision airstrikes in Syria, reportedly killing eight Iranians in a retaliatory move for an Iranian drone strike on a coalition base earlier in the day that killed one U.S. contractor and wounded five U.S. service members and another U.S. contractor.
Around 1:38 pm local time, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRCG) crashed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into a building in northeast Syria near Hasakah. The suicide drone took the life of a U.S. contractor.
Six others were wounded in the strike, including another U.S. contractor and five U.S. service members. These individuals were rushed to medical facilities in Iraq for treatment.
The suicide drone that attacked the coalition base is believed to be of Iranian origin.
In retaliation the U.S. Defense Department authorized two precision airstrikes in eastern Syria, striking Iran-affiliate facilities and killing at least eight Iranian fighters. The first target was an arms depot in Harabesh that killed six Iranian-backed fighters. The second target was near the town of Mayadeen and killed two more fighters.
The Pentagon reported that the U.S. “took proportionate and deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.”
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In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “At the direction of President Biden, I authorized U.S. Central Command forces to conduct precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.”
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” said Austin. “As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing. No group will strike our troops with impunity.”
“Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of the contractor who was killed and with those who were wounded in the attack earlier today,” added Austin.
General Michael Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), testified to the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, telling them that there have been 78 attacks, mainly by rocket or drone, against facilities housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since January 2021.
“What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies,” said Kurilla. “That’s either UAVs or rockets to be able to attack our forces in either Iraq or Syria.”
Kurilla also warned that Iran’s drone fleet has been used by Russian forces in the war against Ukraine, and is suspected of being deployed in attacks throughout the Middle East.
“The Iranian regime now holds the largest and most capable unmanned aerial vehicle force in the region,” he said.
In a statement Thursday evening, Kurilla confirmed that, if there are more attacks against the US, there would be further retaliatory measures.
“We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks,” he said.