- Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, did not report any strikes right away. A request for comment from the UN mission for Syria was not answered right away.
- The Pentagon said that two of the injured service members were taken care of at the scene, while three others and the injured contractor were taken to hospitals in Iraq.
The Pentagon said that on Thursday, March 23, a suspected Iranian drone hit a facility on a coalition base in northeast Syria, killing one US contractor and hurting five US service members and another US contractor.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement released late Thursday that US Central Command forces retaliated with “precision airstrikes” against facilities in eastern Syria that were used by groups linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The intelligence community told the Defense Department that the unmanned aerial vehicle came from Iran.
Austin said, “The airstrikes were done in response to today’s attack and a string of recent attacks on Coalition forces in Syria by groups linked to the Revolutionary Guard.”
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Friday, a war observer said that these airstrikes killed eight fighters who were helping Iran. “US strikes on weapons depots in the city of Deir Ezzor killed six pro-Iranian fighters, and strikes on the desert of Mayadine and near al-Boukamal killed two more fighters,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog group with a wide network of sources on the ground in the war-torn country.
Overnight, videos on social media showed what looked like explosions in the strategic Syrian province of Deir Ez-Zor, which borders Iraq and has oil fields. The area is controlled by Iranian-backed militia groups and Syrian forces. In recent months, the area is also thought to have been hit by Israeli airstrikes that were aimed at Iranian supply routes.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out attacks with bomb-carrying drones across the wider Middle East. In the last few months, as part of its war on Kyiv, Russia has started to use Iranian drones to attack sites all over Ukraine. Iran has said that it is not behind these attacks, but Western countries and experts have found parts of the drones that can be traced back to Tehran.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been working toward reopening their embassies in each other’s countries. The attack and the US response to it could throw those plans off track. The kingdom also said it was working to reopen its embassy in Syria. During Syria’s long civil war, Iran has helped President Bashar Assad, who has been in trouble, stay in power.
Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, did not report any strikes right away. A request for comment from the UN mission for Syria was not answered right away. Iran didn’t say anything right away about the strikes, which happened during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast. When asked for a comment, Iran’s mission to the UN did not respond right away.
The call between Qatar’s foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, who is the national security adviser for the US, was reported by Qatar’s state-run news agency. In recent months, when tensions were high over Tehran’s nuclear program, Doha was a place where Iran and the US could talk to each other. At about the same time, Qatar’s foreign minister and Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, both talked on the phone.
Austin said that President Joe Biden told him to give the go-ahead for the retaliatory strikes. “As President Biden has said, we will do everything we need to protect our people, and we will always respond when and where we want,” Austin said. “No group will be free to attack our troops.”
The Pentagon said that two of the injured service members were taken care of at the scene, while three others and the injured contractor were taken to hospitals in Iraq.