The US military on Thursday morning struck a location in Syria used by two Iranian-backed militia groups including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) – in eastern Syria. This was done in retaliation to rocket attacks on American forces in the region in the last two weeks.
Per Washington Post, The US airstrike hit a cluster of buildings and is believed to have killed “up to a handful of people,” reporting the news on late Thursday, citing an anonymous US official. The amount of damage is yet to be determined
Defense Department Press Secretary, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stated on late Thursday, that the US had targeted the infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militias in retaliation to the February 15th rocket attack on the Erbil Air Base in Iraqi Kurdistan.
John Kirby said the strikes took place “at President Biden’s direction” and were targeted not only to respond to the recent attacks against American and coalition forces but also to manage the “ongoing threats to those personnel.”
Kirby also said, “Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada.” “The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American 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.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on a flight back to Washington from San Diego on Thursday. “We know what we hit. We allowed and encouraged the Iraqis to investigate and develop intelligence, and that was very helpful to us in refining the target.” According to him, the airstrike was carried out based on the data provided by the Iraqi intelligence services.
Kirby said Biden authorized the strikes after consulting with US allies, including coalition partners, and that they had taken place at about 6 p.m. ET.
The military last attacked the Kata’ib Hezbollah sites in March 2020, after a rocket attack by the Iranian-backed militia killed two US service members and a British medic and injured 14 others. The attack targeted Camp Taji, an Iraqi base that supports coalition forces engaged in the fight against ISIS.
In response to the detrimental rocket attack, the US struck five sites belonging to Kata’ib Hezbollah that were used for storing advanced weaponry provided by Iran the commander of Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said, “We assess that each location stored weapons that could enable lethal operations against US and coalition forces in Iraq. We also assess that the destruction of these sites will degrade Kata’ib Hezbollah’s ability to conduct future attacks.”
These strikes signify the US military’s first bombing of Syria under President Joe Biden 36 days after becoming the President of the United States. On a negative front, this strike has come under criticism anticipating that the strikes could complicate diplomatic relations with Iran.
The US strikes also came on delicate grounds at a time when Washington and Tehran were getting ready for negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program.
The US strike may initiate strain with lawmakers who would otherwise back Joe Biden’s agenda and whose backing he does need in his decisions to move ahead.
Authorization for Use of Military Force laws, Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee commented, “This makes President Biden the fifth consecutive US president to order strikes in the Middle East,” “There is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization. We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate.”
Khanna also said, “The President should not be taking these actions without seeking explicit authorization instead of relying on broad, outdated” Khanna said. “I spoke against endless war with Trump, and I will speak out against it when we have a Democratic President.”
Earlier, the former US President Donald Trump has called air attacks in Syria “on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities”. This was conducted in collaboration with the UK and France.