The U.S. military launched an air assault on dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Friday night, in the opening salvo of retaliation for the drone strike that killed three U.S. troops in Jordan last weekend.
The massive barrage of strikes hit more than 85 targets at seven locations, including command and control headquarters, intelligence centres, rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites and other facilities that were connected to the militias or the IRGC’s Quds Force, the Guard’s expeditionary unit that handles Tehran’s relationship with and arming of regional militias. President Joe Biden made it clear in a statement that there will be more to come.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that 18 people were killed after 27 targets were hit.
The U.S. strikes appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force within its borders, as the U.S. tries to prevent the conflict from escalating even further. Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan attack.
It was unclear what the impact will be of the strikes. Days of U.S. warnings may have sent militia members scattering into hiding. With multiple groups operating at various locations in several countries, a knockout blow is unlikely.
Though one of the main Iran-backed militias, Kataib Hezbollah, said it was suspending attacks on American troops, others have vowed to continue fighting, casting themselves as champions of the Palestinian cause while the war in Gaza shows no sign of ending.
“Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing," Biden warned, adding, “let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.” He and other top U.S. leaders had been saying for days that any American response wouldn't be just one hit but a “tiered response” over time.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the targets "were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on clear, irrefutable evidence that they were connected to attacks on U.S. personnel in the region.” He declined to detail what that evidence was.
Syrian state media reported that there were casualties but did not give a number. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 18 militants were killed in the Syria strikes.