US Launches New Airstrikes in Iraq

Move comes after Iranian-backed militants attack US forces
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 26, 2023 6:03 AM CST
US Servicemember Critically Injured by Iran-Backed Militants
This image from video provided by the Department of Defense shows a Nov. 8, 2023, airstrike on a weapons warehouse, center, in eastern Syria. The Pentagon authorized new strikes against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq on Tuesday.   (Department of Defense via AP)

The US conducted new retaliatory airstrikes in Iraq early Tuesday after three US servicemembers were injured in a drone attack, one of them critically, said US officials. The Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups claimed credit for the attack on an air base used by American troops in Erbil in northern Iraq. President Biden, who is spending Christmas at the presidential retreat at Camp David, authorized the retaliatory strikes after being briefed on Monday, per the AP. The American strikes were carried out about 4:45am Tuesday at three locations used by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups in Iraq, and US Central Command said they "destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants."

The latest attack on US troops follows months of escalating threats and actions against American forces in the region since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the devastating war in Gaza. The dangerous back-and-forth strikes have escalated since Iranian-backed militant groups under the umbrella group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and Syria began striking US facilities Oct. 17, the date that a blast at a hospital in Gaza killed hundreds.

The Biden administration has sought to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spiraling into a wider regional conflict that either opens up new fronts of Israeli fighting or draws the US in directly. The administration's measured response—where not every attempt on American troops has been met with a counterattack—has drawn criticism from Republicans. (The US also conducted airstrikes last month.) The Pentagon has thousands of troops in Iraq training Iraqi forces and combating remnants of the Islamic State group, and hundreds in Syria, mostly on the counter-ISIS mission. (Egypt is floating a peace plan for the Israeli-Hamas war.)

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