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Iranian drone kills American, injures 5 more

By Sarah May on
 March 25, 2023

In an alarming situation that continues to escalate, an American contractor died and five U.S. service members were injured in northeastern Syria Thursday as the result of a drone strike on a coalition base near the city of Hasakah, as The Hill reports.

According to the outlet, the intelligence community believes that the one-way, unmanned drone was of Iranian origin.

Attack leaves one dead, five hurt

The Hill indicated that the Thursday attack occurred just before 2:00 p.m. Local time, and two of those injured received treatment on-site, while others were evacuated for treatment in Iraq.

According to a Defense Department spokesperson, those wounded in the strike were listed in stable condition.

NBC News noted that a radar system normally used to detect incoming threats at the base was non-functional at the time of the incident and was reportedly down for maintenance.

It was not immediately known whether the operational status of that system was a contributing factor in the drone's ability to hit a populated portion of the base, however.

Retaliatory strikes authorized

In the aftermath of the Thursday strike, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin indicated that he gave U.S. Central Command the green light for retaliatory strikes “in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)” at the instruction of President Joe Biden, as The Hill noted.

Austin added that the airstrikes were initiated “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.”

Biden, for his part, remarked on the situation during a press conference held as part of his official diplomatic visit to Canada, as the Daily Mail reported.

“Make no mistake, the United States does not – does not, emphasize – seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people,” Biden said.

Friday sees new attacks

As ABC News reported, two additional attacks occurred late on Friday at two American facilities in eastern Syria, coming on the heels of a separate such event earlier in the day and the aforementioned Thursday incident that sparked retaliatory action from the U.S.

Taking place at roughly the same time in the Deir ez-Zor province, one of Friday's attacks involved the use of three drones and the other was characterized by the firing of five rockets directed toward a separate facility.

Despite the successful shoot-down of two of the drones in the first incident, one drone made it past defenses, though no injuries resulted from the attack.

Unfortunately, one American service member did suffer injuries in the rocket attack and was said to be in stable condition, according to ABC News.

Hostilities persist

The attacks of this week, while certainly alarming, are part of an even larger tally of roughly 80 such incidents that have taken place since the beginning of 2021, as ABC News further notes.

Discussing the state of play in the region during an appearance on CNN, White House spokesperson John Kirby declared, “We're going to work to protect our people and our facilities as best we can. It's a dangerous environment.”

Kirby continued, “We are not seeking a conflict with Iran. We've been very clear with the Iranians and with our partners about how serious the mission that we're doing in Syria is and how we're going to protect that mission,” referencing the fact that approximately 900 troops are currently in eastern Syria providing aid to Syrian Kurds attempting to prevent an Islamic State resurgence.

“Iran should not be involved in supporting these attacks on our facilities or on our people, we've made that very, very clear,” Kirby added, but whether the Tehran-backed groups involved in these attacks will be deterred by the administration's words of warning, only time will tell.