By Carla Babb
Iranian-backed militants have attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria at least four times in the past 24 hours, raising the number of attacks to 52 in less than a month, U.S. defense officials tell VOA.
“These attacks must stop, and if they don’t stop, then we won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary, again, to protect the troops,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters at a news conference in Seoul on Monday.
The four attacks occurred after U.S. forces carried out strikes against two Iran-linked sites in Syria late Sunday in response to attacks on American personnel. The strikes hit a training facility near Abu Kamal and a safe house near Mayadin, according to the military.
It was the third round of U.S. strikes against targets associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in as many weeks. U.S. fighter jets targeted a weapons storage site in Syria last week and hit two facilities in Syria in the early morning hours of October 27 (local Syria time) that it said were used by Iran and Iranian proxy forces.
In the latest attack against U.S. forces on Monday, multiple one-way drones were launched at Rumalyn Landing Zone in Syria. One drone was shot down while the other impacted the garrison, causing no casualties but damaging several tents.
Most of these attacks have been disrupted by the U.S. military or failed to reach their targets, causing no casualties or damage to infrastructure, the defense officials said.
But about a handful of these attacks have left 56 U.S. military personnel injured, with injuries ranging from traumatic brain injuries to shrapnel or perforated eardrums.
All of the wounded personnel returned to duty following their injuries, but two U.S. personnel who had been treated for traumatic brain injuries and originally returned to duty were subsequently sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for further examination “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder.
One U.S. contractor at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq suffered a cardiac episode and died while sheltering in place during a false alarm of an air attack.
The U.S. has increased its presence in the region to protect its forces and to deter malign actors, including Iran, its proxies the Houthis and Hezbollah, and others from expanding the Israel-Hamas conflict.