İrem UZUN -TDO- The United States launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month (February 15) that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. A Shia militant group, Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The airstrikes killed at least 17, local sources and one medical source said on Friday. The strike near the Iraqi border was the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Middle East threats persist. Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq. 

“I’m confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters flying with him from California to Washington. Speaking shortly after the air strikes, he added, “We’re confident that that target was being used by the same Shia militants that conducted the strikes,” referring to a February 15 attack.

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