Three US troops were wounded in rocket attacks in Syria on Wednesday that came after the US launched airstrikes in the country, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said.
The rocket attacks targeted the US base at Green Village and the Conoco gas fields, which are both located in eastern Syria. CENTCOM said one service member was treated for a minor wound while two other soldiers are under evaluation for minor injuries.
The US responded to the rocket attacks by launching strikes from Apache helicopters against three vehicles. CENTCOM said that “two or three suspected Iran-backed militants” were killed by the helicopter strikes.
The airstrikes that started the escalation were announced by CENTCOM on Tuesday night and hit targets in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. CENTCOM claimed the strikes targeted “infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” but Iran has denied that it has links to the groups the US targeted.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the Tuesday night strikes targeted facilities used by a group known as Fatimiyoun, an Afghan Shia militia. SOHR said at least six Syrian and other militants were killed in the US airstrikes, while Deir Ezzor 24, another monitoring group, said at least 10 people were killed in the bombings.
CENTCOM said that President Biden ordered the strikes and claimed they were done in self-defense and justified by Article II of the Constitution. But the US can’t claim self-defense in Syria since its military presence in the country is an illegal occupation that the Syrian government opposes.
The airstrikes against an alleged Iran-linked group came as the US and Iran appear close to a deal to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said Wednesday that the strikes show the US will launch attacks against such groups regardless of the status of the JCPOA.
“What the strikes last night illustrated is that our commitment to push back against Iran’s support for terrorism, militancy and the threats that they engage in against our people in the region or elsewhere are not linked to wherever we end up on the nuclear deal,” he said.