Photo: Jalaa Marey Agence France-Presse Israeli soldiers are in position in an abandoned building on a border with Syria.
France Media Agency in Damascus
February 3, 2024
- Middle East
Syria and Iraq on Saturday denounced retaliatory strikes carried out by the United States against elite Iranian forces and pro-Iranian armed groups on their territories, which killed at least 45 dead, including civilians.
The United States has promised more strikes in response to the attack attributed by Washington to pro-Iran groups on January 28 against an American base in Jordan, near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, in in which three American soldiers were killed.
“Our response began today. It will continue on the schedule and in the places we decide,” President Joe Biden warned Friday.
In a statement, the al-Noujaba movement, part of a nebula of fighters from pro-Iranian groups which calls itself “Islamic Resistance in Iraq”, warned that it would respond “at the appropriate time” to American strikes.
Sworn enemy of the United States, Iran denounced “a violation of the sovereignty of Syria and Iraq”, while the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, at war against Israel in Gaza, felt that they added “fuel to the fire”.
At least 29 pro-Iranian fighters, including nine Syrians, six Iraqis and six Lebanese from Hezbollah, were killed in these strikes in Deir Ezzor and Al-Mayadine, in war-torn eastern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
In Iraq, 16 people including civilians were killed, the government announced. The toll could, however, be heavier, with Hachd al-Chaabi, a coalition of pro-Iranian armed groups integrated into Iraqi forces, deploring 16 deaths in its ranks.
Security Council Meeting
In Baghdad, the authorities denounced “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty” and summoned the American charge d'affaires in Baghdad, to whom they gave a “letter of protest”.
According to them, the presence on their soil of an international anti-jihadist coalition led by Washington has “become a threat to the security” of the country.
In Damascus, the Syrian army judged that “the occupation of certain parts of Syrian territory by American forces can no longer continue.”
Some 900 US troops are deployed in Syria and 2,500 in neighboring Iraq as part of the international coalition created to fight the Islamic State jihadist group, which was defeated after being driven from the regions it occupied in both countries.
The coalition remained to fight against jihadist cells which continue to carry out attacks.
At the request of Russia, which has accused the United States of “sowing chaos” in the Middle East, the UN Security Council is to meet urgently on Monday over the strikes American according to diplomatic sources.
The American military intervention Friday evening lasted about thirty minutes and was “a success”, according to the White House, which assured that it did not want a “war” with Iran.
A total of 85 targets at seven different sites (four in Syria and three in Iraq) were targeted, said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. American forces targeted the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Iran's ideological army, and pro-Iranian armed groups, he said.
Since mid-October, shortly after the war began on October 7 between Hamas and Israel, a close US ally, more than 165 drone strikes and rocket attacks have targeted the forces US troops in Iraq and Syria, but no US service members had been killed until the January 28 attack.
Most attacks were claimed by the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq”.
On Saturday, the United States announced that it had destroyed eight drones off the coast of Yemen the day before and four on the ground in order to “protect freedom of navigation” from attacks by Yemeni Houthi rebels on maritime traffic. The Houthis say they are acting “in solidarity”
“The United States does not want conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let those who want to harm us know this well: if you touch an American, we will respond,” warned Joe Biden after witnessing the return to the United States of the bodies of the three American soldiers killed.