President Biden has blamed Iranian-backed militant groups for a drone attack in Jordan that killed three US service members and injured more than 30 and vowed to respond. It was the first deadly attack against US personnel since the Gaza conflict sparked a spate of regional violence. “We had a tough day last night in the Middle East,” Biden said. “And we will answer.”
Iran has denied involvement in the drone attack. Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Monday that militant groups taking action in the region were not doing so at the behest of Tehran. He accused the United States of “exacerbating insecurity” by maintaining a military presence in Iraq and Syria and striking Yemen.
There have been 160 attacks on US personnel in Iraq and Syria since October. The Pentagon has carried out retaliatory strikes against Iranian proxies in those countries, as well as a campaign of attacks against Iran’s Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Reports of attacks in Jordan, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon over the past day have fueled fears that Israel’s war in Gaza is spilling over into the wider region.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV channel reported on Monday that several agricultural plots between the Syrian city of Akraba and a pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims southeast of Damascus were bombed by Israeli forces.
Syrian state media said Israel launched an airstrike from the direction of the occupied Golan and “targeted several points south of Damascus”. It added that there was material damage and a number of citizens were killed and injured, but did not elaborate. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims. The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment.
Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, denied reports that an Iranian “advisory center” was targeted and said no Iranian citizens or advisers were killed. Adding to the confusion, the Syrian state news website SANA said shortly afterwards that “a number of Iranian advisers” had been killed, as well as civilians, but later changed its report to say that only civilians were killed.
The news comes after a drone attack in Jordan on Sunday killed three US service members and injured more than 30. President Biden blamed the attack on Iranian-backed militants and vowed retaliation. Iranian officials have denied involvement.
On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration would respond “at a time and in a manner of our choosing.” But he continued that the United States “is not looking for war with Iran, we are not looking for an escalation of conflict in the region.”
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group for militias linked to Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack in Jordan, according to a senior official of the organization, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with rules set by the group. In the same statement, the group said on Monday that it had also carried out a dawn drone attack on a “Zionist military base” in retaliation for “massacres” perpetrated on Palestinians in Gaza, without giving further details on the location. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on whether there had been any strikes or infiltration of its airspace.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed to have fired a missile late Sunday night targeting the USS Lewis B. Puller in the Gulf of Aden. They did not provide evidence for their claim or specify whether the ship was hit. U.S. Central Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a Telegram message on Monday that they fired on Lebanon after a “series of launches” from the country hit northern Israel. The IDF also said it hit two Hezbollah military sites in southern Lebanon.