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6 Kurdish SDF forces killed in Iran-linked attack on Syria base housing US troops

The drone attack left at least six dead among the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
A vehicle of the Syrian Democratic Forces is pictured along a road as fighters deploy to impose a curfew in the town of al-Busayrah during a guided media tour organized by the SDF, in northeastern Deir ez-Zor province, Syria, Sept. 4, 2023.

Several US-backed Kurdish forces were killed in a drone attack on a base housing US troops in eastern Syria overnight on Monday, days after the United States launched a series of strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Six members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were killed in the attack on al-Omar gas field in Deir ez-Zor province, according to SDF spokesperson Farhad Shami, while 18 others were injured. The SDF blamed “Iran-backed militias” for the attack, saying they had “used Syrian regime-controlled areas in Deir Ezzor as a staging ground.”

The SDF, which has forces stationed at al-Omar base alongside US troops, said in a statement that the drone hit a training center at the base.

“We affirm our right to an appropriate military response to the source of the attack,” the statement added.

No casualties among US troops have been reported.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-linked groups, claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement posted on its Telegram channel, the group said it struck the US base in al-Omar oil field with a drone in response to the “massacres” committed against the Palestinians, in reference to the war in the Gaza Strip.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq also vowed to continue “destroying enemy strongholds.”

Monday’s incident is believed to be the first major attack against the United States in the region since US fighter jets dropped more than 125 precision munitions on over 85 targets linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its allied militias in Iraq and Syria on Friday, according to the US military, in response to a spate of attacks against US interests in the region after the Israel-Hamas war broke out last October.

At least 23 pro-Iranian fighters were killed in the strikes in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). In Iraq, 16 people were reported dead. The Popular Mobilization Units, a state security force that includes groups close to Iran, said 16 of its members were killed, while the Iraqi government said civilians were among the casualties.

The US strikes on Friday came after three American soldiers were killed in a drone attack on a US base in Jordan last week, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran and its regional proxies had immediately expressed their support for Hamas’ surprise assault on southern Israel Oct. 7, during which militants killed around 1,200 people and took over 240 others hostage.

More than 27,365 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed and 66,630 wounded in Gaza since Israel launched its air and ground campaign in retaliation to Hamas’ cross-border attack, according to Hamas-run authorities in the enclave.

In Lebanon, the heavily armed Hezbollah group has been engaged in intense cross-border fire with Israel in support of Palestinians since the war in Gaza erupted. The Houthi rebels in Yemen also joined the battle and launched several drone and missile attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea, which it says are linked to Israel.

Meanwhile, Iranian-backed groups in Iraq have claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks against US troops and bases in Iraq and Syria since mid-October. More than 160 attacks against US military personnel in the region have been reported since October.

On Sunday, Washington said it plans to launch more strikes against Iran-backed groups in the Middle East.

“We intend to take additional strikes, and additional action, to continue to send a clear message that the United States will respond when our forces are attacked, when our people are killed,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a program aired on NBC.

Update: Feb. 5, 2024. This article has been updated with a statement from SDF spokesperson Farhad Shami.