Speaking at a briefing in Washington, Ryder said that while no attack actually took place, “sadly, a US civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and passed away shortly thereafter.”
Two drones had targeted the base the day before. Ryder did not accuse any particular armed group of being behind the attacks.
Al-Asad Airbase is frequently attacked by missiles and drones, with the US most often blaming Iranian-backed militia groups. In a similar incident in 2021, a civilian contractor died of a heart attack during an actual rocket barrage on the base.
Wednesday’s alert at al-Asad came immediately after the US’ al-Tanf base in southern Syria was attacked by drones. Ryder said that one drone was shot down while another impacted the base, causing minor injuries to an unspecified number of personnel.
In an incident on Thursday, a US warship operating near Yemen was swarmed by nearly two dozen drones, Ryder said. The USS Carney also intercepted multiple missiles launched by Houthi forces in Yemen, Ryder said, adding that the Pentagon could not say where the missiles were heading, but that they could have been aimed at targets in Israel.
The US has directed significant naval power to the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out almost two weeks ago, including two aircraft carrier groups.
“I’m not going to forecast any potential response to these attacks,” Ryder said at Thursday’s briefing. “I will say that we will take all necessary actions to defend US and coalition forces against any threat. Any response, should one occur, will come at a time in a manner of our choosing.”