WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes on buildings in Syria that the Pentagon said were used by Iranian-backed militias, in retaliation for rocket attacks on U.S. targets in neighboring Iraq.
The strikes killed at least 22 people, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday, citing unconfirmed local reports.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby portrayed the bombing in eastern Syria as carefully calibrated, calling it “proportionate” and “defensive.”
Kirby told reporters Friday the bombing caused “casualties” but said it was too early to say precisely how many militia fighters might have been killed or wounded.
“We have preliminary indications of casualties on site, I’m not going to go any further than that,” Kirby said.
The operation was the first known use of military force by the Biden administration, which has for weeks emphasized plans to focus more on challenges posed by China.
The president’s decision appeared aimed at sending a signal to Iran and its proxies in the region that Washington would not tolerate attacks on its personnel in Iraq, even at a sensitive diplomatic moment.