After more than 40 attacks on US forces by Iran-backed militants, two US F-15 fighter jets struck a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria used by the IRGC.
The operation took place in early hours of Thursday local time. The Pentagon called it a response to attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria.
US Central Command issued a brief statement on X, saying it will take “all necessary measures” to defend Americans against “those who are responsible for the attacks and will respond at a time and place of our choosing.”
One day earlier, the Pentagon confirmed that militants backed by the regime in Iran had again attacked bases hosting American troops.
Announcing the airstrike Wednesday evening (US time), Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said “the President has no higher priority than the safety of US personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”
However, the nature of the US retaliatory attacks have been limited to one or two targets and has so far failed to deter Iran and its proxies. Critics have been demanding a more robust response. The say Biden’s lenient approach towards the Islamic Republic has emboldened not just the regime but its proxies in the region. Armed militant groups backed (and often guided) by the Islamic Republic are targeting US troops almost daily.
“If you want to strangle Iran, you cut off their oil,” said Republican Senator John Kennedy on Monday. “The Biden admin is choosing not to do that, and now they wonder why Iran’s proxies thought they could get away with attacking Israel and, by extension, America.”
Earlier in the week, reports emerged that the Biden administration had warned Iran and Hezbollah via Turkey that the US will intervene immediately if they attack Israel.
“The United States is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities,” said Austin Wednesday evening, reiterating the warning to Iran and its proxies in the region, “We urge against any escalation.”
CNN quoted a senior military official that the targeted facility had been utilized in several attacks against US troops in recent weeks.
“We’ve been watching it for a bit to ensure that when we struck the target, we would be able to eliminate the use of the facility to the IRGC,” the official said.
There have been unconfirmed reports in Syrian state media that several members of the IRGC have been killed and injured in the airstrike. Media in Iran was mostly silent about the attack on Thursday morning, but highlighted Hezbollah capabilities in threatening the US Navy in the Mediterranean.
This marks the second occasion in recent weeks that the US has targeted facilities linked to Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.
The recent strike can be read as a message to the Islamic Republic, holding it accountable for the attacks on US forces by its proxies.
Coinciding with the US airstrike, Houthis in Yemen downed an unmanned American MQ-9 Reaper drone. The Houthis have officially entered the war in support of Hamas.
Iranian officials have been threatening for weeks that the Israel war on Hamas would trigger a wider, regional war involving actors that are mostly backed by the Islamic Republic.
Amid growing fears of a full blown war, AP is reporting that negotiations are underway for a three-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza in exchange for the release of “about a dozen hostages held by Hamas.”
One Egyptian official has told AP that the details of the deal were discussed earlier this week in Cairo with the CIA chief and Israeli officials.
A ceasefire would crucial to get aid into Gaza, where 2.3 million Palestinians are trapped in increasingly worrying circumstances.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization warned of disease spreading in Gaza.
“As deaths and injuries in Gaza continue to rise due to intensified hostilities, intense overcrowding and disrupted health, water, and sanitation systems pose an added danger: the rapid spread of infectious diseases,” WHO said.