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US carries out strikes against Iranian targets in Syria after attacks on its troops

Washington: TheUS military on Thursdaycarriedoutstrikesagainsttwo facilitiesineasternSyriaused by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and groups it backs, thePentagonsaid,inresponse to a spate of attacksagainstUS forcesinboth Iraq andSyria.

As tensions soar over the Israel-Hamas conflict,US and coalition troops have been attacked at least 12 timesinIraq and four timesinSyriaby Iran-backed forces.

A total of 21US forces have suffered minor injuries, the vast majority of them traumatic brain injuries.

“These precision self-defense strikes are a 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 17,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

Thestrikeswere ordered by President Joe Biden.

“TheseIranian-backed attacksagainstUS forces are unacceptable and must stop,” Austin saidinthe statement.

“If attacks by Iran’s proxiesagainstUS forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people.”

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.

President Biden has sent a rare message to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warning Tehran against targeting US personnel in the Middle East, the White House said earlier on Thursday.

The United States has 900 troopsinSyria, and 2,500 moreinneighboring Iraq, on a mission to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State, whichin2014 seized large swathes of both countries but was later defeated.

There is growing concern that the Israel-Hamas conflict could spread through the Middle East and turnUS troops at isolated bases intotargets.

Last week off the coast of Yemen, aUS warship shot down more than a dozen drones and four cruise missiles fired byIranian-backed Houthis.

During a false alarm at Al-Asad air baseinIraq last week, a civilian contractor died from cardiac arrest.

The United States has sent warships and fighter aircraft to the region since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted on Oct 7, including two aircraft carriers, to try to deter Iran and Iran-backed groups. The number of troops added to the region isinthe thousands.

Reuters reported this week theUS military was taking new measures to protect its Middle East forces during the ramp-upinattacks by suspected Iran-backed groups and was leaving open the possibility of evacuating military families if needed.

The measures include increasingUS military patrols, restricting access to base facilities and boosting intelligence collection, including through drone and other surveillance operations, officials say.

(Published 27 October 2023, 03:13 IST)

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