U.S. military forces launched defensive precision airstrikes against three facilities near the Iraq-Syria border region on Sunday evening.
The airstrikes on two militia locations in Syria and one in Iraq came in response to recent drone attacks on U.S. troops in the region by Iran-backed militias. Recent drone strikes have targeted Americans in Baghdad and Erbil in northern Iraq.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, the locations were used by the Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada groups, both of which are linked to Iran.
“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks,” Kirby said in a statement. “The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.”
The Air Force used F-16s in the operation, which occurred around 6 p.m. Eastern time, according to Fox News. At least one facility used by Iran’s militia forces to launch and recover drones was destroyed, the report adds.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that five militia fighters were killed in the strikes, according to the BBC. A news agency in Iraq that supports the Iranian-allied militias reported that four of those killed were members of paramilitaries, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Syrian state news agency reported that a child was also killed and three other people were injured.
The airstrikes come months after President Biden’s first known military action in February: an airstrike targeting a compound in Syria operated by Kait’ib Hezbollah and Kait’ib Sayyid al Shuhada.
Lawrence J. Korb, the senior fellow at American Progress Action Fund and a former assistant secretary of defense, told Al Jazeera that the airstrikes were an example of Biden “serving notice” to Tehran.
“The first time he used military force was about a month after he was inaugurated,” Korb told the outlet. “I think it was no accident that he did it then to send that signal to Iran. The fact that he’s doing it now while they are about to undergo the seventh round of talks on the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is him saying: ‘Just because we are there, it doesn’t mean we are going to ignore [these other problems].”