Lolita C. Baldor
WASHINGTON — The U.S. carried out an airstrike on a weapons warehouse in eastern Syria used by Iranian-backed militias, in retaliation for what has been a growing number of attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in the region for the past several weeks, the Pentagon said.
In Wednesday’s strike, two U.S. F-15 fighter jets dropped multiple bombs on a weapons storage facility near Maysulun in Deir el-Zour that was known to be used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, U.S. officials said.
“The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
A military official told reporters in a call that people were seen at the warehouse during the day as the U.S. military watched the site for hours, but the number decreased to about “a couple” overnight when the strike occurred. The official said the strike triggered secondary explosions, indicating the presences of weapons, but the U.S. believes that no civilians were killed and any people at the warehouse were tied to the Revolutionary Guard or militia groups.
The strike, said a senior defense official also on the call, was aimed at “disrupting and degrading the capabilities of groups directly responsible for attacking U.S. forces in the region” by specifically targeting facilities associated with the Revolutionary Guard. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide an assessment of the strike.
The precision strike, said the defense official, was deliberate and designed not to escalate the conflict in the region. The military official said a deconfliction phone line linking U.S. military personnel to Russian forces in Syria was used to let them know about the attack.
This is the second time in less than two weeks that the U.S. has bombed facilities used by the militant groups, many operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which U.S. officials say have carried out at least 40 such attacks since Oct. 17.