Pro-Iranian forces in Syria say they have a ‘long arm’ to respond to new US airstrikes on their positions, after missile and drone attacks in Syria over the past 24 hours.
The online statement, released late Friday and signed by the Iranian Advisory Committee in Syriasaid that the American airstrikes had left several dead and wounded among their fighters, without specifying the nationality of the fighters.
“We have the ability to react if our centers and our forces in Syria are targeted,” the statement said.
On Friday evening, two groups of Syrian opposition activists reported a new wave of US airstrikes on eastern Syria, which hit Iranian-backed militia positions, after rockets were fired. fired at bases in Syria housing US troops. Several US officials, however, denied that any attacks were launched on Friday evening.
US officials said two simultaneous attacks were launched on Friday against US forces in Syria. Officials said that, based on preliminary information, a US service member was injured in a rocket attack at the Conoco plant but was in stable condition. Around the same time, several drones were launched at Green Village, where US troops are also based.
All but one of the drones were shot down and there were no American injuries there, said the officials who spoke to the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity.
US President Joe Biden said on Friday that the United States would answer “with force” to protect its personnel after it earlier in the day attacked Syrian sites used by groups affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The US airstrikes were launched after an attack on Thursday by a suspected Iranian-made drone killed an American contractor, injured another and wounded five American soldiers at their base in northeastern Syria.
“The United States is not looking, not looking for conflict with Iran,” Biden said in Ottawa, Canada, where he is on a state visit. But he said the United States stood “ready to act forcefully to protect our people.” That’s exactly what happened last night.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the drone that hit the U.S.-led coalition base near the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh on Thursday was of origin Iranian, although he provided no evidence.
The US strikes, launched in retaliation, hit targets in three towns in eastern Syria, activists said.
According to a defense official, the US attacks were carried out by F-15 fighter jets which hit three locations, all near Deir ez-Zour, a region in eastern Syria.
Activist group Deir Ezzor 24, which covers news in the province, said the US attacks killed four people and injured several others, including Iraqis.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition war monitor, said US attacks killed 11 Iranian-backed fighters – six at an arms depot in the Harabesh neighborhood in Deir ez-Zour and five others in military posts near the towns of al-Mayadeen and al-Boukamal.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Observatory, said three rockets were fired earlier on Friday at the al-Omar oil field in Deir ez-Zour which is home to US troops, in apparent retaliation for US air strikes.
Deir Ezzor 24 and the Observatory had no details on whether Friday night’s new wave of attacks on the town of Deir ez-Zour resulted in any casualties.
The Associated Press could not immediately independently confirm the activists’ reports. Iran and Syria did not immediately acknowledge the strikes.
Charles Lister, director of Syria and Countering Terrorism and Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute – a Washington, DC-based think tank, tweeted that Iran-backed groups on Friday launched “near-coordinated attacks on US positions in eastern Syria”. , which injured an American serviceman.
“The attacks involved Grad rockets and suicide drones. #Iran showing its true colors and American deterrence not up to snuff, so far,” he wrote.
Update – #Iran-supported militias indeed launched near-coordinated attacks against US positions in the east #Syria tonight, wounding 1 US serviceman.
The attacks involved Grad rockets and suicide drones. #Iran showing its true colors and American deterrence not up to par, so far.
—Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) March 25, 2023
The exchange of missile and drone attacks in Syria, between groups backed by Iran and the United States, comes as Saudi Arabia and Iran work to reopen their embassies in the countries of the other. Saudi Arabia also acknowledged efforts to reopen an embassy in Syria, whose embattled President Bashar al-Assad has been backed by Iran in his country’s long war.
Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said while the exchange of strikes comes at a sensitive political time due to the “general deterioration of US-Iranian relations and the blockage of nuclear talks”, she did not expect a significant escalation.
“These tit-for-tat strikes have been going on for a long time,” Khalifa said, although she noted that they generally did not result in casualties.
While “the risk of an escalation cycle is there,” she said, “I think the Biden administration won’t be eager to escalate in Syria now and instead have a relatively measured response.”