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‘Start of our response’: U.S. begins strikes in Iraq, Syria over killed…

The United States military, on Friday, February 2, 2024, launched airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and the militias it backs, in retaliation for last weekend’s attack in Jordan that killed three U.S. troops.

The strikes, which included the use of long-range B-1 bombers flown from the U.S., are the first in a multi-tiered response by President Joe Biden’s administration to the attack by Iran-backed militants, and more U.S. military operations are expected in the coming days.

Biden, in a post on his X account on Friday, said: “Today, at my direction, U.S. military forces struck targets in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack U.S. forces.

“We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.

“But to all those who seek to do us harm: We will respond.”

While the U.S. strikes did not target sites inside Iran, they signal a further escalation of the conflict in the Middle East from Israel’s more than three-month-old war with Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza.

The U.S. military, in a statement, said the strikes hit targets, including command and control centers, rockets, missiles, and drone storage facilities, as well as logistics and munition supply chain facilities.

U.S forces hit more than 85 targets spanning seven locations, four in Syria and three in Iraq, said the military.

The strikes targeted the Quds Force – the foreign espionage and paramilitary arm of the IRGC that heavily influences its allied militia across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen to Syria.

U.S. Lieutenant General Douglas Sims, the director of the Joint Staff, said the attacks appeared to be successful, triggering large secondary explosions as the bombs hit militant weaponry, though it was not clear if any militants were killed.

But Sims added that the strikes were taken knowing that there would likely be casualties among those in the facilities.

He added that the weather was a key factor in the timing of the operation.

Syrian state media said on Friday that an “American aggression” on sites in its desert areas and at the Syrian-Iraqi border resulted in a number of casualties and injuries.

The Iraqi military said the strikes were in the Iraqi border area and warned they could ignite instability in the region.

“These airstrikes constitute a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, and pose a threat that could lead Iraq and the region into dire consequences,” Iraqi military spokesman, Yahya Rasool, said in a statement.

Last weekend’s Jordan attack was the first deadly strike against U.S. troops since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October 2023.

The United States has assessed that the drone that killed the three soldiers and wounded more than 40 other people was made by Iran, U.S. officials told Reuters.

U.S. Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, said Biden had directed additional action against the IRGC and those linked to it.

“This is the start of our response,” Austin said.

U.S. troops have been attacked over 160 times in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan since the Hamas rampage in Israel that sparked the conflict on October 7.

In response to the Hamas attack, Israel has bombarded the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, leaving Palestinians in Gaza with few places to escape to.

Houthi fighters in Yemen have been firing drones and missiles at ships in the Red Sea, which they say is intended to support Palestinians against Israel.

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