US forces carried out a number of airstrikes inside Syria on Thursday, March 23, after accusing Iran-backed groups of carrying out a drone attack at a US base in Hasakah in north-eastern Syria on the same day.
Though there are some reports of deaths caused by the US airstrikes, there are no confirmed reports and numbers yet. A Rudaw report quoted a UK-based war monitor that claimed at least eight “[militia members] affiliated with Iran” were killed. Al-Mayadeen has reported civilian deaths without specifying any numbers.
The US had claimed that at least one of their contractors was killed and six others injured in the drone strike at 1:38 am on Thursday at a base in Hasakah. Five of the six injured were reportedly US soldiers.
The US Defense Ministry’s statement also claimed that the drone involved in the attack was of Iranian origin.
Llyod Austin, US Defense Secretary, claimed that he authorized the airstrikes on the directions of President Joe Biden. Austin claimed that the “precision attacks” were carried out against Syrian facilities used by groups affiliated with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in eastern Syria.
However, Iranian Press TV reported, quoting local sources, that the US airstrikes targeted a rural development center and a grain center near the Deir Ezzor military airport.
The US statement claimed the attacks were defensive in nature and were “intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.”
In August last year, following a drone attack on its al-Tanf base in Syria’s Homs province, the US forces had carried out similar airstrikes in eastern Syria, in which at least six people were killed.
Around 900 US soldiers and an unknown number of US contractors currently remain in Syria. US forces were first deployed in 2015 without the consent of the Syrian government. The US claims its forces in the country are there to provide aid to the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
The Syrian government has maintained that the presence of US forces in the country is illegal. It has also accused the US of providing support to anti-government forces in order to prolong the war in the country. Syria has also claimed that US forces in the country have been involved in looting its natural resources and depriving the government of a crucial source of revenue, to the tune of billions of dollars.