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U.S. Military Strikes Bunkers in Northeast Syria

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U.S. Central Command officers at the Tanf base in Syria in June. | Image by Karoun Demirjian, The Washington Post

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The U.S. launched a major counter-offensive against Iran-backed militias near Deir ez-Zor in northeast Syria on Thursday, the latest blow in a rapidly escalating conflict between the two countries, CNN reported.

The day before, a rocket attack on coalition bases in the area injured three U.S. troops. In the initial defensive response to the attack, U.S. forces destroyed the rocket launchers and the three vehicles carrying them and killed two or three Iranian-backed militants, according to an assessment by U.S. forces.

The U.S. troops then coordinated and launched a counter-offensive attack within a few hours.

“Over the past 24 hours, in response to yesterday’s rocket attacks on Mission Support Site Conoco and Mission Support Site Green Village in northeast Syria, CENTCOM forces struck at Iran-affiliated militants in the area with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, AC-130 gunships, and M777 artillery, resulting in four enemy fighters killed and seven enemy rocket launchers destroyed,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The U.S. strikes on Thursday are the latest in a series of attacks and counterattacks between U.S. forces and militias that the Pentagon claims are directly linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The U.S. State Department has designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

“We will respond appropriately and proportionally to attacks on our service members,” said Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command. “No group will strike at our troops with impunity. We will take all necessary measures to defend our people.”

The conflict is escalating even as the Biden administration pursues diplomatic relations with Iran, hoping to resurrect an Obama-era agreement that limited Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions, CNN reported.

The American counterattacks came after Iran-backed militants fired rockets last week at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria. The U.S. military announced on August 16 that a drone attack the previous day hit the compound run by American troops and U.S.-backed Syrian resistance fighters, but there were no casualties or damage, The Dallas Express reported.

“Such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk and undermine the significant efforts by our Partner Forces to maintain the lasting defeat of ISIS,” said Major General John Brennan, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force. “Coalition personnel retain the right to self-defense, and we will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

The head of the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), Maher al-Agal, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in mid-July outside of Jindayris in northwest Syria, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.

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