Iranian-backed proxies launched a rocket assault against U.S. forces in the Middle East, bringing the total number of attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Syria to 74 since October 17.
A U.S. defense official told VOA a single rocket was launched overnight against Mission Support Site Euphrates in eastern Syria, causing no casualties or damage.
U.S. naval forces in the Middle East continue to counter threats at sea as well. On Wednesday, while in the southern Red Sea, the USS Carney missile destroyer shot down an Iranian-produced drone launched from areas of Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi militants.
“Although its intentions are not known, the UAV [drone] was heading toward the warship. At the time of the shootdown, the USS Carney was escorting the USNS Supply [oiler] and another U.S.-flagged and -crewed ship carrying military equipment to the region,” U.S. Central Command said.
There were no injuries or damage to any of the vessels during the incident.
On Sunday, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen in the direction of the USS Mason, a destroyer, as it came to the aid of a commercial vessel that was dealing with an apparent pirate attack.
The Pentagon has officially said that it doesn’t believe the USS Mason was the missiles’ target, but two defense officials have since told VOA they disagree with that assessment.
U.S. has countered attacks in Iraq, Syria
Last week, U.S. forces carried out three strikes within 24 hours against Iranian-backed forces and their facilities in what the military said was a “direct response to attacks against U.S. and coalition forces by Iran and Iran-backed groups.”
Two of the U.S. strikes targeted an operations center and a command-and-control node used by the Iranian-backed militant group Kataib Hezbollah near Al Anbar and Jurf al-Saqr in Iraq, a defense official told VOA. Kataib Hezbollah forces were present at the two facilities, which the defense official said had supported recent attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria.
Early assessments pointed to at least six militants killed in the two strikes, the defense official said.
A third U.S. attack struck and killed Iranian-backed proxies who earlier had launched a close-range ballistic missile against al-Asad air base in Iraq.
It was the first time a ballistic missile had been launched against U.S. forces in the Middle East since the surge in attacks began on October 17. Ballistic missiles can be much more powerful and carry much more destructive payloads than the rockets and drones used in previous attacks.
U.S. Central Command said the ballistic missile attack caused eight injuries to U.S. personnel and minor damage to infrastructure.
Prior to last week’s attacks, U.S. fighter jets had carried out three rounds of strikes targeting four facilities in Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their proxy groups since October 17.
Most attacks disrupted
Most of the 74 attacks since October 17 were disrupted by the U.S. military or failed to reach their targets, causing no casualties or damage to infrastructure, according to the military. But a handful of attacks have injured dozens of U.S. military personnel. Some suffered shrapnel wounds or perforated eardrums, while a few suffered traumatic brain injuries.
One U.S. contractor at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq suffered a cardiac episode and died while sheltering in place during a false alarm for an air attack.
Since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, Iranian-backed proxies have attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria more than 160 times.
A spate of attacks from Iranian-backed militants in March killed a U.S. contractor in Syria, caused traumatic brain injuries in 23 military personnel and wounded 25 U.S. military personnel, according to the Pentagon.
The Pentagon responded with air strikes against Iranian-backed facilities in Syria, much like the strikes carried out by U.S. forces in recent weeks.
The last time Iran or Iranian-backed proxies used ballistic missiles against U.S. forces in Iraq was in 2020 following a U.S. attack in Iraq that killed Iranian Quds force leader Qassem Soleimani.