The US has carried out an airstrike on a vehicle in the proximity of Al-Asad airbase in Iraq which hosts American troops, killing several Iran-affiliated militants.
US forces came under attack at the Ain al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad early on Tuesday and troops responded in self-defense, US military officials said. This was first reported US response in Iraq to dozens of recent attacks. Located in the western Anbar province, Ain al-Asad air base is regularly targeted by militia rockets or missiles since the Gaza war began on October 7.
The attack against Ain al-Asad caused minor injuries and damage to infrastructure, one official told Reuters, another saying American forces used an AC-130 gunship to hit the militants.
Iran-backed militias have been targeting American forces almost daily for over a month, totaling 65 attacks in which about 60 staff have been wounded. They say their operations are in support of Palestinians and will continue as long as the United States backs the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. Thousands of terrorists invaded Israel killing at least 1,200 mostly civilians in the single most deadly day for Jews since the Holocaust. While Iran denies involvement, it funds the group tens of millions each year and supports it militarily.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Tuesday that the US' AC-130 was "already in the area" when the Ain al-Asad airbase was targeted by the missile attack, enabling it to track the point of origin of the attack and killing the Iran-linked militants who fired at the base. She said this is the difference between this retaliatory attack in Iraq and the three previous ones in Syria which "were pre-planned." The majority of US targets are storhouses or shipments of weapons.
Singh was questioned about a call by Senator Lindsey Graham who has called for a direct military action against Iran, instead of its proxy groups in Iraq and Syria. Dodging a direct answer, she said the US targets are selected to hit Iran where it hurts.
The latest military response to attacks against American forces was the fourth time the US carried out an airstrike since the attacks ramped up in October. The other attacks happened on October 26, November 8 and 12, all in Syria.
The Biden administration is under fire by lawmakers and critics for lack of action in dealing with Iran-backed attacks on US facilities across the region.
Earlier on Tuesday, social media accounts linked to Iran-aligned Iraqi militias published a statement in the name of the "Islamic Resistance in Iraq", mourning a member who they said had been killed "in battle" against US forces.
His killing is the first reported casualty in Iraq linked to the Israel-Gaza war, which has drawn in other factions in Iran's network of regional proxies, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah.
While Iran has so far stayed out of direct military action in support of Hamas, it has used its proxy forces not only to attack US forces but also targets in Israel and in the Red Sea. Yemen's Houthis have launched drones and missiles against Israel and seized a commercial vessel in the Red Sea on Monday, which is partially owned by an Israeli.