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Pentagon releases videos of US airstrikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria

A U.S. airstrike against Iran-backed militia groups in As Sikak, Syria. (Jack Holt/CENTCOM/Released)
June 28, 2021

On Monday, the Department of Defense released footage from airstrikes it launched on Sunday that targeted Iran-backed militias in the Syria-Iraq border region.

One airstrike video showed a strike conducted by a U.S. F-16CM against a facility used by the Iran-backed militia groups for operations, planning, and storage of unmanned aerial vehicles in Qasaabat, Syria.

A second video showed a strike conducted by a U.S. F-15E against a facility used by the pro-Iranian militants for the shipment and transfer of unspecified “advanced conventional weapons” in As Sikak, Syria.

A third video also showed a strike conducted by a U.S. F-15E, this time against a facility used by the pro-Iranian militants for the logistical support and transfer of advanced conventional weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles, in Al Hury, Syria.

The trio of strikes, all targeting militants on the Syrian side of the Syria-Iraq border, are the second time U.S. forces have launched strikes targeting pro-Iranian militants since President Joe Biden took office. In February, Biden ordered his first airstrike in Syria on another facility linked to an Iran-backed militia.

One of the targeted pro-Iranian militant groups, the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), has already vowed to attack U.S. forces and specifically target U.S. aircraft.

According to a KSS statement reported by the New York Times, the group said, “From now on, we will go to open war with the American occupation, the first action of which is targeting the enemy planes in beloved Iraq’s sky.”

This latest set of strikes comes in response to three different rocket attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq last week. The U.S. strikes were intended to disrupt the pro-Iranian militant groups from carrying out future attacks.

On Sunday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said:

At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region. The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq. 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. Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), used these facilities.

As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. 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. We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS. The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.

As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope. As a matter of domestic law, the President took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq.

The extent of the damage and casualties caused by the trio of U.S. airstrikes is unclear. Two Iraqi militia officials told The Associated Press in Baghdad that four militants were killed in the airstrike while the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported that at least seven militants were killed in the airstrikes.