The US said it had carried out multiple airstrikes against military outposts affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria following an Iranian-linked drone attack upon a US base that killed one US contractor.
The US Defence Department released a statement saying that the airstrikes were in retaliation for the attack upon the base in Hasakeh in northeast Syria – which also wounded five US troops and another contractor – as well as other recent attacks on coalition forces in Syria by groups linked to the IRGC.
"We will take all necessary measures to defend our people and always respond at a time and place of our choosing. No group will strike our troops with impunity,” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
The strikes were authorised by President Joe Biden, said Austin, and were aimed to protect and defend US personnel while minimising casualties and reducing the risk of escalation.
The US has several outposts in Syria as part of the anti-ISIS coalition. An estimated 900 US troops are deployed in the country, with more contractors in the northeast of the country controlled by Kurdish armed groups. Iranian forces and proxies are in the country at the invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – Iran-backed proxy groups have played a crucial role in keeping the regime in Damascus in power.
Iran-backed groups have sporadically targeted US bases with locally made drones and rockets, but casualties are rare
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that eight fighters were killed in the positions in the cities of Al-Bokamal, Al-Mayadeen, and Deir Ezzor that were hit by the US airstrikes.
Iran's international state broadcaster Press TV reported that no Iranians were killed in the airstrikes and denied Iran's link to the locations targeted. The broadcaster also said that "resistance groups" in Syria had stated they would "reserve their right to respond" to the US airstrikes.
"A military source in Syria told Press TV that the resistance groups reserve their right to respond to the American attack and will take reciprocal action," the broadcaster reported.
Tensions between the US and Iran have been on the rise since the US withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The attack on the US military base in Syria is a continuation of the proxy war and rivalry between the two countries in the region.