Update(22:25ET): In the overnight and early morning hours in Syria (local time), US forces carried out airstrikes on what it said are Iran-linked militants and installations in eastern Syria. Multiple targets have been hit.
According to a statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, "Today, at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted self-defense strikes on two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups." The attacks were reportedly done by US warplanes, likely operating out of either the Gulf or Mediterranean areas where new US naval assets have recently been positioned, keeping a watch on fast moving events in Gaza. Fox issued the following breaking detail:
F-16s and F-15s were used to strike targets in Syria earlier tonight in retaliation for the attacks on US troops in the region.
Earlier in the day there were reports, though with few details, that US forces in the same northeast region of Syria came under attack, as has been happening in the last several days. The Pentagon had also earlier announced that over a dozen US troops in Iraq and Syria have suffered Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in the aftermath of drone and rocket attacks on US bases in the region.
JUST IN -- U.S. warplanes have conducted air strikes against Iranian proxies in multiple locations in Syria. pic.twitter.com/agKA4sc0Kx— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) October 27, 2023
Below is the full Pentagon statement, which seeks to emphasize that this new, high-risk military aggression is supposedly "separate" from the Israel-Gaza conflict...
BREAKING: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a statement regarding the US Airstrikes on sites used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian-proxies in Northeastern Syria pic.twitter.com/MdCvMPRNMz— Global Conflict Watch (@GloballyWatch) October 27, 2023
The United States is also seeking to reassure a region which is clearly at heightened risk for breaking out into major war that it "does not seek conflict". But the long-running military occupation of Syria's oil and gas region suggests otherwise.
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Update(1520ET): In the Pentagon's latest move to bolster US defenses in the Middle East against the 'Iran threat' - given the increased instances of Tehran proxies attacking US troop installations in Iraq and Syria over the last week - some 900 more Americans soldiers will be dispatched to the region.
A CBS correspondent has cited Pentagon Press Secretary, Gen. Patrick Ryder, who says 900 US troops have deployed or in process of deploying to bolster missile defense in CENTCOM's mideast region of operations. They are expected to man Patriot, THAAD and Avenger missile systems. Earlier this week US defense officials said these extra missile batteries are being deployed to the theatre ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive in Gaza.
The CBS reporter noted "This comes as Iranian-backed groups continue to attack US miliary in Iraq and Syria." Fears are growing that a major IDF push into the Gaza Strip would unleash broader retaliation strikes on US bases in the region. This could include Hezbollah, which operates both in Lebanon and Syria.
Israel's "preparation" strikes for the "next stage of war" - according to its officials - have continued to grow in intensity...
🇮🇱🇵🇸 The power of those missiles, and the speed in which a building can be taken down, is hard to imagine.— Mario Nawfal (@MarioNawfal) October 26, 2023
Over 8,000 of those missiles have been dropped on Gaza since Oct 7. pic.twitter.com/wkci28WxE0
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Iran has become more vocal in its threats against Israel, in response to the soaring death toll in Gaza, which has surpassed 7,000 Gazans killed. Prime Minister Netanyahu has at the same time announced "thousands" of terrorists have been eliminated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israel has further said it took out three top Hamas commanders in the last several hours.
On Thursday, Hossein Salami, the commander-in-chief of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned that if Israel sends ground forces into the Strip, the IDF will be "buried". He stated: "If the Zionists launch a ground attack in Gaza, they will be buried. If the enemies think that the Muslims will watch these crimes from the sidelines, they are gravely mistaken," according to a translation in regional media. He also aimed the comments at Washington, saying "the US will be buried by the fire they lit."
"If the evil people of the world want to carry out a foolish act such as invading the Palestinian territories, they will face a miserable failure and receive a decisive response from the resistance front,” the IRGC statement added.
The US has already parked one carrier strike group in waters off Israel, with another en route, and has been repeatedly warning Tehran not to get involved. National security spokesman John Kirby this week said the US administration stands ready to mount a "decisive response" if Iran or its proxies attack US bases.
However, this appears to already be happening. There has been well over a dozen drone and missile attacks on bases in Iraq and Syria over the past week, with the latest happening Thursday.
There are fresh reports that Iraqi Shia militia groups have launched cross-border attacks on a US installation in northeast Syria. These sporadic attacks now threaten to become a daily event. And now this from Politico on Thursday...
Nineteen American service members stationed in Iraq and Syria have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury after rocket and drone attacks from Iran-backed militants last week. https://t.co/dRkEbclN1U— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) October 26, 2023
Adding further to tensions between Washington and Tehran, fresh Wall Street Journal reporting this week has found that Hamas operatives behind the Oct.7 terrorist attack were given specialized training in Iran. According to the report, this involved up to 500 militants:
In the weeks leading up to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, hundreds of the Palestinian Islamist militant group’s fighters received specialized combat training in Iran, according to people familiar with intelligence related to the assault.
Roughly 500 militants from Hamas and an allied group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, participated in the exercises in September, which were led by officers of the Quds Force, the foreign-operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the people said.
Senior Palestinian officials and Iranian Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani, the head of Quds Force, also attended, they said.
But then strangely, the same report quotes US officials as saying they can't verify whether the training on Iranian soil was directly in preparation for the Oct.7 attacks (or else possibly "routine"), which took the lives of at least 1,400 Israelis and foreigners.
"U.S. officials said Iran has regularly trained militants in Iran and elsewhere, but they have no indications of a mass training right before the attack," WSJ writes. "U.S. officials and the people familiar with the intelligence said they had no information to suggest Iran conducted training specifically to prepare for the events of Oct. 7."
🚨BREAKING - IRANIAN ARMY:— Mario Nawfal (@MarioNawfal) October 26, 2023
'The start of large-scale maneuvers for all ground forces formations starting tomorrow'
These exercises are typically conducted to enhance readiness, test strategies, and improve the overall operational capabilities of the military, but could also be… pic.twitter.com/bA4PhZ3ww3
Given the fact that the terror assault involved paragliders, militants on motorcycles, coordinated assault teams with explosives, and other capabilities not used this effectively in the past - many analysts believe the planning for the attack had to have taken many months or even years.