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U.S. strikes eastern Syria in response to attacks, defense secretary says

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. forces conducted a "self-defense strike" on a facility used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Lloyd Austin profile
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Capitol Hill on Oct. 31.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP file

U.S. fighter jets conducted “a self-defense strike” at a weapons storage facility in Syria that was being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday.

The strike in eastern Syria was carried out at President Joe Biden’s direction, Austin said in a statement.

“This precision self-defense strike is a response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates,” Austin said.

The strike was in Maysulun, Syria, a senior defense official said. The official could not say whether there were casualties on the ground, but said the U.S. is "very certain this did not involve civilian loss.”

The target was essentially a warehouse that U.S. officials believe was storing ammunition, the senior defense official said. There were secondary explosions after the strike, indicating the presence of explosives, the official said.

The message to Iran is “we want you to direct your proxies and militia groups to stop attacking us,” the senior defense official said. 

"We seek to convey a clear message to Iran, that we hold it accountable for the attacks on U.S. forces," the official added. "And we expect Iran to take measures to direct its proxies to stop."

It's the second time in recent weeks that the U.S. has attacked targets in Syria.

In late October, the U.S. launched strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria as a response to attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, Austin said at the time.

Forty-six U.S. service members have been injured, some with traumatic brain injuries, in recent attacks in Iraq and Syria, the Department of Defense said.

Since Oct. 17, U.S. and coalition forces have been attacked at least 41 times in Iraq and Syria, a defense official said Wednesday. They have involved a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets.

Biden "directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests," Austin said in Wednesday's statement.

"The U.S. is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities. We urge against any escalation," Austin said.