U.S. carries out airstrikes in Syria on Iranian-backed targets

The U.S. on Thursday conducted its first military action under President Joe Biden, targeting infrastructure utilized by Iranian backed militant groups in Syria in response to recent rocket attacks in Iraq. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters traveling with him Thursday night that he recommended the strike to Mr. Biden, who approved the authorization in a phone call that morning.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. 

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 and Kait’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, according to Kirby. 

Last week, a rocket attack in Erbil killed a contractor who was not an American citizen and injured four American contractors and one American service member.

A total of eight contractors were injured, two seriously enough to require evacuation. 

The United States had evidence the strike in Erbil was conducted with Iranian-supplied equipment. The attack on Erbil consisted of 14 rockets with six more left on the launcher rails. 

The most recent air strike against Iranian-backed militias was in December 2019, which hit targets in both Iraq and Syria. It remains to be seen how Iran will respond to Thursday’s strike. 

Eleanor Watson contributed reporting.

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