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At least three U.S. service members were injured after two U.S.-held outposts in eastern Syria came under rocket fire on Wednesday. U.S. attack helicopters returned fire, killing some of the attackers involved.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said one of the attacks targeted Mission Support Site Conoco in northeast Syria while a second attack was launched against Mission Support Site Green Village. CENTCOM attributed the attacks to Iran-backed militants.
“The attacks began at approximately 7:20 p.m. local time in Syria when several rockets landed inside the perimeter of Mission Support Site Conoco in northeast Syria,” the CENTCOM statement read. “Shortly after, additional rockets landed in the vicinity of Mission Support Site Green Village.”
“One U.S. service member in Mission Support Site Conoco was treated for a minor injury and has been returned to duty,” the statement continued. “Two others are under evaluation for minor injuries.”
CENTCOM said U.S. forces responded to the rocket attacks with airstrikes from attack helicopters. Journalist Mete Sohtaoğlu shared footage from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, purporting to show the strikes from Apache attack helicopters.
“#Syria- Unknown number of #US troops injured in two separate rocket attacks in #DeirEzZour,” Sohtaoğlu tweeted. “US responded with strikes from Apache attack helicopters. Unknown number of Iran backed militias also killed.”
CENTCOM said the U.S. response to the rocket attacks was “proportional and deliberate.” In an initial assessment the military command said the U.S. response killed two or three suspected Iran-backed militants carrying out one of the attacks.
“We are closely monitoring the situation,” CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla said. “We have a total spectrum of capability to mitigate threats across the region, and we have every confidence in our ability to protect our troops and Coalition partners from attacks.”
The rocket attack came one day after President Joe Biden ordered a series of airstrikes against militia targets the military linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Those U.S. strikes were, themselves in apparent retaliation for a pair of rocket attacks from Iran-backed militants on Aug. 15.
The Al-Tanf Garrison and Green Village both came under inaccurate rocket fire on Aug. 15. U.S. forces suffered no casualties as a result of those attacks and neither U.S. base appeared to suffer any damage.
The U.S. strikes come as the Biden administration is continuing to negotiate with Iran towards a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On Aug. 19, CNN reported Iran had dropped a demand that the U.S. take the IRGC of the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
It remains to be seen if Tuesday’s U.S. airstrikes or Wednesday’s exchange of fire will further impact Iran deal negotiations.
There are currently about 900 U.S. troops currently in Syria, according to a recent Newsweek article. Those U.S. forces are mostly split between their Al-Tanf Garrison in southern Syria and outposts near oil fields in the country’s east. Buccino said, “U.S. forces remain in Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.”