US announces fresh strikes on Iran-linked sites in Syria

Defence secretary says US will defend its personnel and interests in the region amid surge in attacks on US troops in Iraq and SyriaThe United States carried out strikes against two Iran-linked sites in Syria on Sunday in response to attacks on American forces, the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said.It is the third time in less than three weeks that the US military has targeted locations in Syria it said were tied to Iran, which supports armed groups that Washington blames for a spike in attacks on its forces in the Middle East.

“US military forces conducted precision strikes today on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to continued attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria,” Austin said in a statement.“The strikes were conducted against a training facility and a safe house near the cities of Albu Kamal and Mayadeen, respectively.

“The president has no higher priority than the safety of US personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”The US targeted a Tehran-linked weapons storage site in Syria on Wednesday, and also hit two Syrian facilities on 26 October that it said were used by Iran and affiliated organisations.

It was Washington’s assessment that none of the previous strikes resulted in casualties.The US says the strikes are aimed at deterring attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria that have surged in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. The US says there have been more than 45 attacks on its troops in the region since 17 October, wounding dozens of US personnel.

According to the Pentagon, about 56 US personnel have been injured in the attacks. Their injuries ranged from traumatic brain injury to minor wounds, and all had returned to duty, the Pentagon said.There are roughly 2,500 American troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group. The jihadists once held significant territory in both countries but were pushed back by local ground forces supported by international airstrikes in a conflict lasting several years.

The Gaza conflict has also led to repercussions for the US outside Iraq and Syria, with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen saying on Wednesday that they shot down a US drone that was “carrying out hostile surveillance and espionage activities in Yemeni territorial waters as part of American military support” for Israel.

Senior officials from the US – which rushed military support to Israel and also bolstered American forces in the region after the 7 October attack – have confirmed that one of their drones was downed.

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