Syria Today – Heavy U.S. Strikes on Syria, Iraq, Yemen

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

British forces on Saturday joined their American allies in new attacks against militia in Yemen, AP reported. The U.S. military earlier launched strikes on dozens of sites manned by Iran-backed fighters in western Iraq and eastern Syria in retaliation for a drone strike in Jordan in late January that killed three U.S. service members and wounded dozens.

Tensions have been rising in the region since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7. A week later, Iran-backed fighters, who are loosely allied with Hamas, began carrying out drone and rocket attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. A deadly strike on the desert outpost known as Tower 22 in Jordan near the Syrian border further increased tensions.

Who was targeted in Syria and Iraq

The strikes on Friday came in retaliation for the drone strike that killed three U.S. troops in Jordan on Jan. 28.

U.S. forces struck 85 targets in seven locations in a strategic region where thousands of Iran-backed fighters are deployed to help expand Iran’s influence from Tehran to the Mediterranean coast.

U.S. bases in Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour and the northeastern province of Hassakeh have come under attack for years. The Euphrates River cuts through Syria into Iraq, with U.S. troops and American-backed Kurdish-led fighters on the east bank and Iran-backed fighters and Syrian government forces to the west.

Bases for U.S. troops in Iraq have come under attack too.

Iran-backed militias control the Iraqi side of the border and move freely in and out of Syria, where they man posts with their allies from Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah and other Shiite armed groups.

Members of Iraqi Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces clean the rubble after a U.S. airstrike in al-Qaim, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. The U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Friday that the U.S. forces conducted airstrikes on more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and affiliated militia groups. (AP Photo/Popular Mobilization Forces Media Office)

Members of Iraqi Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces clean the rubble after a U.S. airstrike in al-Qaim, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. The U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Friday that the U.S. forces conducted airstrikes on more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and affiliated militia groups. (AP Photo/Popular Mobilization Forces Media Office)

How many were killed?

The U.S. military said the barrage of strikes hit command and control headquarters; intelligence centers; rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites; and other facilities connected to the militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, which handles Tehran’s relationship with, and arming of, regional militias.

Syrian opposition activists said the strikes hit the Imam Ali base near the border Syrian town of Boukamal, the Ein Ali base in Quriya, just south of the strategic town of Mayadeen, and a radar center on a mountain near the provincial capital that is also called Deir el-Zour.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 29 rank-and-file fighters were killed in those strikes.

The attacks also hit a border crossing known as Humaydiya, where militia cross back and forth between Iraq and Syria, according to Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet. He said the strikes also hit an area inside the town of Mayadeen known as “the security quarter.”

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