Pentagon spokesman says move was in response to recent rocket attacks on US troops in Iraq.
The United States military says it carried out attacks on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militia on Thursday, following recent rocket attacks on US troop locations in Iraq, the Pentagon said.
“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” spokesman John Kirby in a statement.
“These strikes were authorised in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” he said.
Kirby said the strikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS). It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
The United States move came after an attack nearly two weeks ago on the main military base inside the airport in Erbil, which killed one foreign civilian contractor and wounded at least nine others, including an American soldier. Foreign troops deployed as part of the US-led coalition that has helped Iraq fight the armed group ISIL (ISIS) since 2014, are stationed at the site.
A shadowy group calling itself Awliya al-Dam – or the Guardians of the Blood – claimed responsibility for the attack and said it would continue to attack “occupation” American forces in Iraq.
The Pentagon statement described the US military response as “proportionate”, co-ordinated with diplomatic measures and carried out in consultation with coalition partners.
“We have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” it said.
Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, who is in Washington DC, said there was a clear effort to draw a distinction with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
“Clearly they are trying to draw a comparison with the previous administration of Donald Trump who in response to attacks on coalition forces in Iraq used the most disproportionate force by killing the Iranian general (Qassem) Soleimani,” Rattansi said.
The Iraqi government is carrying out its own investigation into the February 15 attack in Erbil.
That attack was followed by another days later, on a base hosting US forces north of Baghdad. At least one contractor was hurt in that attack.
Rockets also hit Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday which houses the US embassy and other diplomatic missions.
Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with links to Kata’ib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass US forces without being held accountable.