U.S. launches more airstrikes against Iranian facilities in Syria

The Pentagon said Sunday that it had launched a third wave of airstrikes against Iranian facilities in Syria purportedly linked with dozens of attacks against U.S. forces in recent weeks, the latest military action taken by the Biden administration as it attempts to deter the violence without getting dragged into a broader regional conflict amid the war in Gaza.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that these latest strikes had been carried out in eastern Syria on facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and groups affiliated with it. They hit a training facility near the city of Abu Kamal and a safe house near Mayadin, he said.

President Biden directed the operation, Austin said, “to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”

It was not immediately clear on Sunday whether the strikes resulted in any casualties or if the Pentagon deemed them successful. The operation followed similar actions targeting facilities in Syria that U.S. officials said were linked to Iran, on Oct. 26 and again on Nov. 8.

As of late last week, at least 46 attacks against U.S. troops had been documented since the middle of October, with dozens of American personnel sustaining what U.S. officials have characterized as minor injuries. The Pentagon said Thursday that, after the Nov. 8 strikes, U.S. personnel had come under attack three more times in Syria and once more in Iraq.

About 2,500 U.S. forces are based in Iraq and 900 in Syria as part of an enduring mission to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group. For years, those personnel have periodically come under fire from one-way attack drones and rockets, but such incidents have spiked in the weeks since Israel declared war on the militant group Hamas following its cross-border attack in Israel on Oct. 7. Hamas and other militant groups in the region receive weapons and training from Iran, raising concerns that the war in Gaza could widen.

Austin, speaking to reporters in India on Friday, said that the protection of U.S. troops is of the “utmost importance, and we’re going to continue to do everything that we need to do to protect our people.”

“We won’t ever project or predict or advertise when we’re going to conduct a strike, but we will — rest assured that we will strike at a time and place of our choosing,” he said. “These attacks against our people must stop, you know?”

Israel-Gaza war

Israeli tanks, amid explosions and falling shells, surrounded overcrowded hospitals in Gaza City on Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel does not “seek to occupy Gaza,” marking a shift in tone after his previous comments that raised red flags in the Biden administration. Understand what’s behind the Israel-Gaza war.

Hostages: Officials say Hamas militants abducted about 239 hostages in a highly organized attack. Four hostages have been released — two Americans and two Israelis — as families hold on to hope. One released Israeli hostage recounted the “spiderweb” of Gaza tunnels she was held in.

Humanitarian aid: The Palestine Red Crescent Society said it has received over 370 trucks with food, medicine and water in the Gaza Strip through Egypt’s Rafah crossing. However, the PRCS said, there hasn’t been permission yet to bring in fuel to power the enclave’s hospitals, water pumps, taxis and more.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has a complicated history, and its rulers have long been at odds with the Palestinian Authority, the U.S.-backed government in the West Bank. Here is a timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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