Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the move was in response to ongoing attacks on U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq.

The United States has struck a suspected arms cache in eastern Syria that it believes is being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iranian-backed groups.

In a statement on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the “self-defense strike” was carried out by two Air Force F-15 fighter jets in response to recent attacks on US forces.

“The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he ordered today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” the statement said.

Amid rising tensions since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7, Washington said its troops and their allies in Iraq and Syria have been attacked by Iranian-backed forces at least 40 times, with 45 soldiers suffering traumatic brain injuries or minor injuries suffered injuries.

Late last month, the Pentagon said the U.S. had struck two IRGC-Iranian facilities in Syria that were linked to Iran, following attacks on U.S. personnel.

In Wednesday’s statement, Austin called for an end to the attacks.

“The United States is fully prepared to take further necessary actions to protect our people and our facilities. We call for any escalation,” he said.

The United States has 900 troops in Syria and another 2,500 in Iraq. They are tasked with advising and assisting local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of ISIL (ISIS), which seized control of large swathes of both countries in 2014 before eventually being defeated.

The US said its attacks were not related to the war between Israel and Hamas and feared a regional escalation of the crisis.

Iran supports both Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2006, and the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, which is involved in fighting with Israel along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

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