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A drone of Iranian origin killed one U.S. contractor and wounded five service members and another contractor in Syria on Thursday.
The Pentagon disclosed the attack in a press release Thursday evening, saying that the U.S. military carried out airstrikes against affiliates of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the U.S. designated as a terror group in 2019.
“At the direction of President Biden, I authorized U.S. Central Command forces to conduct precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC.”
The U.S. airstrikes came after a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle struck a maintenance facility for coalition forces near Hasakah in northeast Syria on Thursday afternoon. Of the six wounded in the attack, two service members were treated on site and the others and the U.S. contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq, the Department of Defense said.
“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.”
“Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of the contractor who was killed and with those who were wounded in the attack earlier today,” he added.
The incident in Syria comes as U.S. and foreign officials have grown increasingly concerned over the state of Iran’s nuclear program. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday that Iran is “several more months” away from producing an “actual nuclear weapon.”
The scenario has alarmed Israeli officials who in recent months have been increasingly outspoken about the threat of a nuclear Iran and Israel’s determination to act and stop such an outcome. Israeli officials have reportedly warned officials in the U.S. and Europe that Israel will strike Iran if it enriches uranium past a 60% threshold. Uranium is weapons-grade after it is enriched up to 90%.
At the same time, Iran has been bolstered by Russia and China. Russia is reportedly considering supplying Iran with S-400 missile systems, an anti-air missile system that Israel fears could protect Iran’s nuclear facilities from an airstrike. China has helped Iran build diplomatic ties in the region, serving as the middle man for a recent agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia.