Two US fighter jets conducted precision airstrikes on weapons and ammunition facilities in Syria on Friday, responding to a series of attacks on US forces by Iranian-backed militia groups. President Joe Biden ordered these strikes, targeting facilities used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated militias. The Pentagon issued a warning, indicating that further actions would be taken if attacks by Iran’s proxies persisted.
“These precision self-defence strikes are a response to a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups that began on October 17,” explained U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement, emphasizing that “these Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. forces are unacceptable and must stop.”
The situation in the Middle East has been marked by escalating violence, with US and coalition troops having faced at least 19 attacks in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed forces over the past week. There are growing concerns that the Israel-Hamas conflict could spill over and have wider implications in the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian addressed the United Nations, warning that if Israel’s offensive against Hamas did not cease, the United States would “not be spared from this fire.”
The US airstrikes were carried out near Abu Kamal, a Syrian town on the border with Iraq, and were executed by two F-16 fighter jets equipped with precision munitions. The US Defense Secretary stressed the defensive nature of these airstrikes and the need to halt the ongoing attacks against US personnel.
In response to the escalating situation, President Biden sent a direct message to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling on Tehran to take specific actions to de-escalate the crisis. A senior US defense official reiterated, “What we want is for Iran to take very specific actions, to direct its militias and proxies to stand down.” Notably, the United States did not coordinate the airstrikes with Israel.
In recent weeks, the United States has deployed warships and fighter aircraft to the region, while the Pentagon announced the arrival of approximately 900 additional US troops in the Middle East to reinforce air defences for US personnel.
Meanwhile, Israel has continued its military operations in Gaza, triggered by a Hamas attack on Israeli communities. The conflict has taken a toll on both sides, raising concerns about the potential for a broader Middle East conflict.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has led to calls for humanitarian pauses and ceasefire agreements. Arab states have submitted a draft resolution in the U.N. General Assembly, seeking a ceasefire. Unlike the Security Council, where resolutions on Gaza aid failed this week, the General Assembly does not have countries with veto power, making its resolutions non-binding but politically significant.
As a result of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, over 613,000 people are estimated to have been displaced, with the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, providing shelter to those affected.
Amid the evolving situation, a poll in Israel revealed a shift in public opinion, with almost half of Israelis favoring a delay in a ground invasion of Gaza. The poll indicated that 29% supported an immediate escalation, 49% believed it would be better to wait, and 22% remained undecided. The change in public sentiment was attributed to developments related to hostages held by Hamas.
The situation in the Middle East remains fluid, and the actions and decisions of the involved parties will continue to shape the course of events in the region.