Several rockets were fired at coalition bases in Syria on Wednesday, wounding a US service member, according to a statement from US Central Command, in apparent response to American airstrikes against Iranian-backed groups in the region.
The rockets hit two bases in the northeast Syria which house US troops, Green Village and Conoco mission support sites. A service member at one of the sites was treated for a minor injury, Central Command said. At least two others were being evaluated for minor injuries.
Following the rocket attack, US attack helicopters returned fire and destroyed three vehicles as well as the equipment used to launch the rockets, according to Central Command. Initial assessments indicate that two or three people involved in carrying out the attacks have been killed.
“We have a full range of capabilities to mitigate threats in the region, and we have full confidence in our ability to protect our troops and our coalition partners from attack,” said General Michael “Erik” Kurilla. , Commander of US Central Command.
Earlier Wednesday, a senior Pentagon official said the United States would work to defend its military and capabilities in the region.
“We won’t hesitate to defend ourselves,” Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a briefing to reporters on Wednesday. “We will not tolerate attacks by Iranian-backed forces against our forces anywhere in the world, including in Syria, and we will not hesitate to protect ourselves and take additional measures if necessary.”
The military exchanges come at a critical time for U.S.-Iran relations as progress has been made in reviving Iran nuclear deal, aimed at preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Yet the airstrikes seemed to send a clear signal that agree or not, the United States will continue to respond to Iranian provocations.
President Joe Biden had ordered airstrikes against Iran-backed groups in Syria on Tuesday, just over a week after a number of rockets struck near the Green Village base near the Iraqi border.
The strike was aimed at targeting 11 bunkers used for ammunition storage and logistical support by Iranian-backed groups in Syria, said Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for US Central Command.
But shortly before CENTCOM carried out the strike, the military signaled two more bunkers because of a small group of people nearby. Ultimately, Buccino said the army hit nine bunkers in the eastern Syrian compound.
The United States said the airstrikes were in response to attacks on American forces a week ago, when the At-Tanf garrison in Syria suffered a drone attack and a second base was attacked by rockets. Iran denied any involvement in the attacks, but they match the pattern of other such attacks that the United States has attributed to Iranian-backed proxies and militias in Syria.
At the time of the strikes last week, the coalition did not say who was responsible for either attack
The United States maintains about 900 troops in Syria, widely split between the At-Tanf base and the oil fields in the east of the country.