Iran calls US strikes in Syria "illegal and aggressive"

22 militia members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces were killed in the attack
Atalayar_Mohammad Javad Zarif

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran has condemned US strikes in eastern Syria on facilities used by Iranian-backed Shia militias. The Iranian foreign ministry has described the strikes as "illegal and aggressive".

At least two US planes reportedly took part in the dropping of seven 500-pound bombs that destroyed multiple infrastructure along the border between the Syrian town of Bukamal and its Iraqi counterpart Al-Qaim in Deir Ezzor province. In the same area, the pro-Iranian militias of Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada had a border checkpoint.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has confirmed the deaths of 22 militiamen from the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a Tehran regime-backed organisation that includes members of several militias. Iranian state news broadcaster IRIB News said that 17 "resistance fighters" were killed in the attacks. However, the US authorities have so far confirmed no fatalities.

The operation comes in response to the 15 February rocket attack on the US base in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. The attack left one dead and six wounded, but it was the Shiite militia Saraya Awliya al-Dam - little known in the region - that claimed responsibility for the attack.

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PHOTO/AFP - US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles flying over northern Iraq

This is the first military action under Joe Biden's tenure, just 35 days into his presidency. The Secretary of Defence himself acknowledged that he had recommended that the president take the decision and, according to Pentagon sources, the military response was carried out in consultation with coalition partners. The attack was therefore not a unilateral decision on the part of the United States.

According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, the US bombing destroyed multiple facilities at a border checkpoint used by several Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait'ib Hezbollah and Kait'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzade, for his part, said that "these attacks have taken place in a context in which US forces have illegally entered Syrian territory in recent years, occupying areas of Syrian territory and stealing natural resources, including oil which is the natural right of the Syrian people".