Pro-Iran militia says at least 8 of it's fighters killed

US fighter jets strike Iran-backed targets in Iraq after repeated attacks on US bases

US officials say their forces have been attacked approximately 66 times since October 17 as a result of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — 32 times in Iraq and 34 times in Syria

This image from video provided by the US Department of Defense shows a November 8, 2023, airstrike on a weapons warehouse. center, in eastern Syria. (Department of Defense via AP)
This image from video provided by the US Department of Defense shows a November 8, 2023, airstrike on a weapons warehouse. center, in eastern Syria. (Department of Defense via AP)

US forces carried out strikes against two sites in Iraq early on Wednesday in retaliation for attacks by “Iran and Iran-backed groups,” US Central Command said.

The US military “conducted discrete, precision strikes against two facilities in Iraq,” CENTCOM said on X, previously Twitter.

“The strikes were in direct response to the attacks against US and Coalition forces by Iran and Iran-backed groups,” the post added, and come the day after a previous US airstrike killed multiple Iranian-backed militiamen in Iraq.

The US fighter jets struck a Kataeb Hezbollah operations center and a Kataeb Hezbollah Command and Control node near Al Anbar and Jurf al Saqr, south of Baghdad, on Tuesday, two defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide additional sensitive details of the attacks.

Kataeb Hezbollah said in a statement that the two US strikes south of Baghdad early Wednesday “left eight martyrs” and “will not go unpunished.”

Hours earlier, a warplane struck a militia facility where Iranian-backed forces had fired a short-range ballistic missile at American and allied personnel in the country, the Pentagon said.

It was the first time the United States has announced a strike on Iranian proxy forces in Iraq since targeting Tehran-linked sites in Syria on three occasions in recent weeks, in response to a spike in attacks on American personnel.

“We can confirm an attack last night by Iran-backed militias using a close-range ballistic missile against US and coalition forces at Al-Asad Airbase, which resulted in eight injuries and some minor damage to infrastructure,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement.

The Ain al-Asad Air Base is in the desert of Iraq’s Western Anbar province and hosts forces of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq.

“Immediately following the attack, a US military AC-130 aircraft in the area conducted a self-defense strike against an Iranian-backed militia vehicle and a number of Iranian-backed militia personnel involved in this attack. This self-defense strike resulted in several enemy KIA [killed in action],” Ryder said.

The surge in attacks on American troops is linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, which began on October 7 when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed the border with Israel, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking some 240 hostages.

Israel declared war on Hamas in response, launching an aerial campaign and a subsequent ground offensive that is aimed at toppling the terror group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, and securing the release of the hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has said that more than 14,000 people have been killed since October 7, most of them civilians. The figures provided by the terror group cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas operatives, and also do not distinguish between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches.

The deaths have sparked widespread anger across the region, and Israel’s campaign against Hamas has repeatedly been cited as justification for attacks on American personnel in Iraq and Syria that have left scores of US troops injured.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters in Washington that US forces “have been attacked approximately 66 times since October 17 — 32 separate times in Iraq and 34 separate times in Syria.”

She said the attacks have resulted in approximately 62 injuries to US personnel, but that number did not include the eight cited by Ryder.

While American forces have been targeted in both Iraq and Syria, Washington had until now only responded with strikes in Syria in an apparent bid to avoid inflaming political tensions in Iraq, which the United States invaded in 2003 and where Iran wields substantial influence.

Singh said the terrorists were targeted in Iraq “because the AC-130 was able to determine the point of origin from where the close-range ballistic missile was… fired to the base” and then tracked the militiamen in their vehicle.

She added it was the first time such a munition had been used against US forces since the wave of attacks began on October 17.

A source from the Hashed al-Shaabi — mainly pro-Iranian units now integrated in the regular armed forces — had earlier confirmed that a strike on a vehicle had killed one fighter and wounded three others.

Iraqi mourners carry the coffin of Fadel al-Maksusi, a Kataib Hezbollah fighter who was also part of the Islamic resistance in Iraq, the group that has claimed all recent attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria, during a funeral in Baghdad on November 21, 2023. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/ AFP)

The strike hit a vehicle belonging to a pro-Iranian group in a convoy traveling through Abu Ghraib, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of Baghdad.

A group called “the Islamic resistance in Iraq” said Tuesday that one of its fighters was killed, without elaborating on the circumstances.

His funeral was held in a Baghdad mosque Tuesday and hundreds of fighters from the Hashed al-Shaabi attended, according to an AFP journalist.

There are roughly 2,500 American troops in Iraq and some 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

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