U.S. military airstrikes target militias backed by Iran in Syria, Iraq

U.S. military airstrikes target militias backed by Iran in Syria, Iraq

The U.S. military launched airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria in retaliation for drone attacks, the Pentagon announced Sunday evening.

The strikes targeted sites that been used to launch drone attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

"Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries," Kirby said. "Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, used these facilities."

U.S. F-15 and F-16 warplanes carried out the airstrikes, targeting three facilities that had been used to control the drones and for logistics, according to a Defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly. All the pilots returned safely. It's too early to tell if there were casualties on the ground among civilians or militants, the official said.

Kirby stressed in his statement that Biden ordered the attacks in self-defense, an obligation the president has under the U.S. Constitution. It's an important distinction, as Congress has moved to repeal the nearly two-decade-old war resolution that paved the way for the U.S. military invasion of Iraq, USA Today reported.

"As demonstrated by this evening's strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel," Kirby said. "Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks."

The attacks were designed to act as a deterrent to further attack but avoid further escalation, Kirby said.