US bombs facilities in Syria used by Iran-backed militia

President Joe Biden

The United States military has carried out airstrikes in Syria against Iranian-backed forces in the war-torn nation at the authorization of President Joe Biden.

Kirby said the US airstrikes "destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian- backed militant groups", including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

"(Biden and al-Kadhemi) discussed the recent rocket attacks against Iraqi and Coalition personnel and agreed that those responsible for such attacks must be held fully to account", the White House said of the two leaders' call.

Fox News reported that the USA hit multiple facilities in an Iranian-backed militia stronghold, and that according to a senior official, "the strike was a defensive strategy, meant to halt and deter future rocket attacks by the militia group that recently hit Baghdad and Erbil".

"We said a number of times that we will respond on our timeline", Austin said.

Last week, an American servicemember and several American contractors were killed in a rocket attack in Erbil, within Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.

The U.S. has in the past targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq. A week later, a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone appeared to target the U.S. Embassy compound, but no one was hurt.

The US struck eastern Syria, it claimed were being used by Iran-backed armed groups.

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State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday the U.S. would "hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans" but would not "lash out" and risk destabilising Iraq.

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the USA action was a "proportionate military response" taken together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners. The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel.

"At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq", he added.

The attacks are usually claimed by shadowy groups that both Iraqi and United States officials say are "smokescreens" for hardline pro-Iran factions inside Iraq.

A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Alwiya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the February 15 attack.

Under former U.S. President Donald Trump, tensions escalated, culminating in the U.S. killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani and a retaliatory Iranian ballistic missile attack against U.S. forces in Iraq past year.

On Monday, at least three rockets targeted the USA embassy in the high-security Green Zone of Iraq's capital Baghdad, in an attack the United States blames on Iran.

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