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US strikes Syria in ‘self-defense’ – Pentagon

US forces have launched multiple airstrikes on unspecified military installations in Syria, the Pentagon said on Thursday, claiming the operation was a response to recent attacks against illegal American outposts by armed groups allegedly “affiliated” with Iran.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the “self-defense” strikes, ordered by President Joe Biden, hit “two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)” and related groups, but stressed that they were not related to ongoing fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

“These narrowly tailored strikes in self-defense were intended solely to protect and defend US personnel in Iraq and Syria,” he claimed in a statement, adding that the mission was “separate and distinct” from the hostilities in Gaza.

The Pentagon chief went on to declare that Washington “does not seek conflict,” but would respond to “Iranian-backed attacks against US forces,” vowing to take “further necessary measures to protect our people.”

READ MORE: Pentagon admits more attacks were launched on US bases

Up to 1,000 US troops are currently deployed in Syria, occupying key oil fields and Euphrates River crossings with the support of a Kurdish-led militia. The government in Damascus has repeatedly protested that their presence violates international law.

The announcement on Thursday night came just hours after the US military said it would deploy 900 more troops somewhere in the Middle East to shore up its “force protection capabilities.”

The Pentagon confirmed at least three more attempted drone and rocket attacks on US bases across Iraq and Syria, following a series of strikes in recent weeks. Most recently, US forces were targeted in Iraq on Thursday, but according to officials the attack failed. Since October 17, US troops have been targeted a total of 16 times, according to US Central Command.

READ MORE: US contractor dies during drone alert on Iraqi base – Pentagon

Washington has also dispatched naval assets to the Middle East amid soaring regional tensions due to the latest flare-up in Gaza, including two aircraft carrier strike groups and an amphibious assault ship carrying 2,000 Marines and sailors.

Officials have said the deployments are intended to deter Tehran and militia groups from taking part in the fighting or stoking a broader war, and Austin insisted the strikes in Syria do not mark a “shift in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

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