The back-and-forth clash was the latest demonstration of how the Israel-Hamas war is rippling across the Middle East, creating turmoil that has turned US forces at bases in Iraq and Syria into targets.
“Iran-aligned groups” in Iraq and Syria oppose Israel’s campaign in Gaza and hold the United States partly responsible.
At President Joe Biden’s direction, the U.S. military carried out the strikes in Iraq at 1:45 GMT, likely killing “a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants” and destroying multiple facilities used by the group, the US military said.
“These strikes are intended to hold accountable those elements directly responsible for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and degrade their ability to continue attacks. We will always protect our forces,” stated General Michael Erik Kurilla, head of US Central Command, in a statement.
A US base in Iraq’s Erbil that houses American forces came under attack from a one-way drone on Monday, leading to the latest US casualties.
The Pentagon did not disclose details about the identity of the service member who was critically wounded or offer more details on the injuries sustained in the attack. It also did not offer details on how this drone appeared to penetrate the base’s air defenses.
“My prayers are with the brave Americans who were injured,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
The White House National Security Council stated Biden was briefed on the attack on Monday and ordered the Pentagon to prepare response options against those responsible.
“The President places no higher priority than the protection of American personnel serving in harm’s way. The United States will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue,” NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson added.
The Iraqi government on Tuesday condemned the US targeting of its military sites, labelling it a “clear hostile act”.
The strikes on the US-run military installation in Iraq and neighboring Syria come amid growing anti-US sentiments over Washington’s firm support for Israel’s war against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has killed at least 20,700 people, most of them women and children. Another 54,500 individuals have been wounded as well.
The Israeli regime launched the war after Gaza’s resistance groups conducted Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, their biggest operation against the occupying entity in years.
Since the onset of the war on October 7, the United States has backed Israel’s ferocious attacks on Palestinian territory as a means of “self-defense.”
The US House of Representatives on November 2 passed a standalone $14.3-billion military assistance package for Israel. The legislation, however, is yet to clear the Senate.
Washington has also vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions that called for a ceasefire in Gaza.