American forces stationed in Iraq and Syria have recently faced a series of attacks, with officials in the U.S. remaining vigilant for potential further strikes. This escalation in violence coincides with the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, causing regional tensions to reach new heights.
President Joe Biden has responded by deploying significant naval assets to the Middle East, including two aircraft carriers, additional warships, and around 2,000 Marines. Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7th, attacks against U.S. troops have seen a noticeable increase. Just this Wednesday, a drone strike in Syria resulted in minor injuries to U.S. forces, and another drone was successfully neutralized.
In Iraq, a civilian contractor tragically lost his life due to a cardiac arrest during a false alarm at the Al-Asad airbase. U.S. forces have also successfully intercepted multiple drone attacks targeting troops in Iraq. On Thursday, drones and rockets were used to attack the Ain al-Asad air base, which houses U.S. and international forces in western Iraq, resulting in several explosions within the base. Another military base near Baghdad’s international airport was also targeted by rocket fire, according to reports from Iraqi police.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder emphasized the U.S. commitment to defending its forces, stating that necessary actions will be taken to protect U.S. and coalition forces from any threats. He also highlighted that any potential response would be carried out at a time and in a manner decided by the U.S.
In a related incident, a U.S. Navy warship near Yemen intercepted missiles and drones launched by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement. Ryder noted that while the projectiles seemed to be heading toward Israel, there was no clear link between these attacks and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Israel, for its part, has mobilized a record number of reservists and has conducted continuous airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since Hamas’s attack on October 7th, which resulted in approximately 1,400 casualties, predominantly civilians. The health ministry in Gaza has reported over 3,700 Palestinian deaths and more than 12,000 injuries due to the Israeli strikes.
Despite the heightened tensions and increased attacks on U.S. forces, Ryder stated that no direct evidence links these events to the Hamas attacks that began on October 7th.
The U.S. currently has 2,500 troops in Iraq and an additional 900 in Syria, with their primary mission being to advise and assist local forces in the fight against the Islamic State. The war in Gaza has already caused tensions to rise in Iraq, with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric, condemning Israel and calling for global action against the “terrible brutality” in Gaza.
Kataib Hezbollah, a powerful armed group with strong ties to Iran, has accused the U.S. of supporting Israel in its actions and demanded American forces withdrawal from Iraq. This comes after a period of relative calm in Iraq, following a truce that had led to a decrease in attacks on U.S. forces and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by Iranian-backed militias.