The US military claimed to have launched targeted airstrikes in eastern Syria on Thursday in retaliation for a drone attack that left one US contractor dead and five US service members injured.
The American contractor was killed and the others were injured, according to a Department of Defense statement, “when a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle damaged a maintenance facility on a Coalition base near Hasakah in northeast Syria.”
According to the Military, a second US contractor was hurt in the UAV strike, and the US intelligence community “assesses the UAV to be of Iranian origin.”
According to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, he had ordered “precise airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by militants associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” at the request of President Joseph Biden.
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” he added.
Several militia groups have regularly targeted the hundreds of US forces stationed in Syria as part of a coalition battling against the Islamic State (IS) group’s remnants.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the de facto army in the region and led by the Kurds, who fought to drive IS from the last bits of Syrian territory in 2019, are supported by US troops.
According to the Pentagon, only two of the four service personnel hurt on Thursday received treatment on-site; the other three soldiers and one US contractor had to be medically evacuated to Iraq.
“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said.
Biden had already left for Canada, where he was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and address Parliament when news of the strikes broke.
After three drones hit a coalition outpost in August of last year, Biden ordered similar retaliation strikes in the oil-rich Syrian province of Deir Ezzor.
The Revolutionary Guard commander was slain days earlier while “on a mission in Syria as a military consultant,” according to Iranian official media, which reported the strike on the same day.
According to Iran, its military has only been stationed in Syria at Damascus’ invitation and to serve as advisors.
The United States has designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization and it is the ideological branch of the Iranian military.