The airstrike targeted structures in the eastern Syrian town of Al Bukamal that belong to two Iranian-backed militias that have launched rocket attacks in the past against American facilities in Iraq, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to a U.S. official.
“At President Biden‘s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement issued Thursday night.
“These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” Kirby continued. “Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS).”
“This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with Coalition partners,” said Kirby. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
The airstrike was in retaliation for a Feb. 15 rocket attack against a U.S. base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil that killed a coalition contractor and left several American contractors and a U.S. military service member wounded.