President Joe Biden yesterday directed US military air strikes in eastern Syria against facilities belonging to what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed militia, in a calibrated response to rocket attacks against US targets in Iraq, Reuters reported.
The strikes appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.
Biden's decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq, at least for now, also gives the Iraqi government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation of a 15 February attack that wounded Americans.
"At President Biden's direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
"President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq," Kirby said.
He added that the strikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada (KSS).
There was no official comment from Syria on the strikes, but state-owned Ekhbariya TV quoted its reporter in Deir Ez-Zor as stating that strikes had taken place at dawn against several targets near the Syrian-Iraqi border.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision to carry out the strikes was meant to send a signal that, while the United States wanted to punish the militias, it did not want the situation to spiral into a bigger conflict.
The official added that Biden was presented with a range of options and one of the most limited responses was chosen.
It was not immediately clear what damage was caused and if there were any casualties from the US strike.
On 15 February rockets hit the US military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region, killing one non-American contractor and injuring a number of American contractors and a US service member.
Another salvo struck a base hosting US forces north of Baghdad days later, hurting at least one contractor.
Rockets hit Baghdad's Green Zone on Monday, which houses the US Embassy and other diplomatic missions.
Earlier this week, the Kata'ib Hezbollah group, one of the main Iran-aligned Iraqi militia groups, denied any role in the rocket attacks.