US hits hard at militias in Iraq and Syria, retaliating for fatal drone attack

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US targets militias in Iraq and Syria following fatal drone sssault.

WASHINGTON, Feb 3: The US military launched an air assault on dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Friday, in the opening salvo of retaliation for the drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan last weekend.

The massive barrage of strikes hit more than 85 targets at seven locations, including command and control headquarters, intelligence centers, rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites, and other facilities that were connected to the militias or the IRGC’s Quds Force, the Guard’s expeditionary unit that handles Tehran’s relationship with and arming of regional militias. And President Joe Biden made it clear in a statement that there will be more to come.

The US strikes appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force within its borders, as the US tries to prevent the conflict from escalating even further. Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan attack.

It was unclear what the impact will be of the strikes. Days of US warnings may have sent militia members scattering into hiding. With multiple groups operating at various locations in several countries, a knockout blow is unlikely.

Though one of the main Iran-backed militias, Kataib Hezbollah, said it was suspending attacks on American troops, others have vowed to continue fighting, casting themselves as champions of the Palestinian cause while the war in Gaza shows no sign of ending.

“Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing,” Biden warned, adding, “Let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.” He and other top US leaders had been saying for days that any American response wouldn’t be just one hit but a “tiered response” over time.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the targets “were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on clear, irrefutable evidence that they were connected to attacks on US personnel in the region.” He declined to detail what that evidence was.

The strikes took place over about 30 minutes, and three of the sites struck were in Iraq and four were in Syria, said Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of the Joint Staff.

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