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Nine killed in US strike on Iran arms storage site in Syria

Nine people killed in US strikes on Iran-linked weapons storage site in Syria
4 min read
09 November, 2023
The US strike is a likely retaliation to several strikes on Washington army bases in Syria, as well as Iraq, which have surged in recent weeks in response to Israel's war in Gaza.
The US strike targeted a weapons storage site in eastern Syria, allegedly affiliated with Iran [Getty]

Nine people were killed in US warplanes strikes on an Iran-linked weapons storage facility in eastern Syria on Wednesday in response to attacks against American personnel, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

It is the second time in roughly two weeks that the United States has targeted a location in Syria it said was tied to Iran, which supports an array of armed groups that Washington blames for a spike in attacks on its forces in the Middle East.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the nine people were affiliated with Iran-backed groups.

The United States is striving to deter Iran and its proxies from turning the Israel's war in Gaza into a regional war, but the repeated attacks and strikes in response risk a conflict between Washington and Tehran.

The strikes on US bases in Syria and Iraq, however, have been attributed to Washington's support of Israel who has carried out a deadly onslaught on Gaza for over a month.

"US military forces conducted a self-defense strike on a facility in eastern Syria used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups. This strike was conducted by two US F-15s against a weapons storage facility," Austin said in a statement.

"This precision self-defense strike is a response to a series of attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates," Austin said, adding that the United States "is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities."

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A senior US defense official said the strike was being combined "with very clear messaging through multiple channels. And the message is, to Iranian senior leaders, 'We want you to direct your proxies and militia groups to stop attacking us.'"

A senior American military official said the site in Deir Ez-zor province had been under surveillance so the United States could select a time to carry out the strike with "a minimal number of casualties," but that it may have caused some nonetheless.

"We were tracking just a couple (people) max that we don't have any confirmation of just prior to the strike," the official said.

The US military also hit two facilities in Syria on October 26 that it said were used by the IRGC and affiliated groups, but assessed that those strikes did not cause casualties.

Like the most recent strike, Washington said the earlier two were in response to attacks on US personnel, who have been targeted more than 40 times with rockets and drones since October 17.

The surge in attacks on US troops is linked to Israel's war in Gaza, which has killed over 10,550 Palestinians since October 7 amid indiscriminate and relentless Israeli bombing.

Almost half of those killed are children. Israeli shelling has gone on to partially and fully destroy residential buildings, hospital, places of worship among others amid the month-long bombing.

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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.

The group once held significant territory in both countries but were pushed back by local ground forces supported by international air strikes in a bloody multi-year conflict.

In another incident linked to the Israel's war on Gaza, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen said Wednesday that they shot down an American drone.

"Our air defenses were able to down an American MQ-9 while it was carrying out hostile surveillance and espionage activities in Yemeni territorial waters as part of American military support" for Israel, the rebels said in a statement.

Senior officials from the United States - which rushed military support to Israel and also bolstered American forces in the region after the October 7 attack - have confirmed that one of the country's drones was downed.

The Houthis are opposed to government forces in Yemen and are also part of the "axis of resistance" of groups arrayed against Israel.

They have claimed responsibility for multiple drone and missile attacks against Israel during its war, and the US Navy intercepted missiles fired by the rebels last month.

A series of MQ-9 drones - which can fly more than 1,100 miles (1,700 kilometers) at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) and can be used for both surveillance and strikes - have been lost or damaged in recent years, including one the United States assessed was downed by the Huthis in 2019.