US airstrikes hit ‘more than 85 targets’ in Iraq and Syria; officials say US will not strike inside Iran – live | Joe Biden

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US military says it struck ‘more than 85 targets’

US Central Command has said its forces conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups.

The airstrikes were carried out at 4pm eastern time on Friday, it said.

It said US military forces struck more than 85 targets including “command and control operations, centers, intelligence centers, rockets, and missiles, and unmanned aired vehicle storages, and logistics and munition supply chain facilities” belonging to militia groups and their IRGC sponsors.

CENTCOM Statement on U.S. Stikes in Iraq and Syria

At 4:00 p.m. (EST) Feb. 02, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. U.S. military forces… pic.twitter.com/q9gFDxppmo

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) February 2, 2024

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Key events

Summary of the day so far

  • US military forces have attacked more than 80 targets in Iraq and Syria in a wide-ranging air assault on sites belonging to Iran-linked militias and Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard. The US military’s Central Command said it had struck with more than 125 bombs in an attack that took place around midnight local time (4pm ET) in what is being described as the first of multiple attacks against the groups. The airstrikes took place over about 30 minutes on Friday, and three of the sites struck were in Iraq and four were in Syria, Lt Gen Douglas Sims, director of the joint staff, told reporters.

  • Initial reports from the ground were limited. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said at least 18 Iran-backed fighters have been killed in strikes in eastern Syria. At least 26 important sites housing pro-Iran groups including weapons depots have been destroyed in raids striking a large swath of eastern Syria, stretching more than 62 miles (100km) from the city of Deir ez-Zor to Albu Kamal, near the Iraq border, the monitoring group told AFP.

  • The US strikes had been launched in retaliation for the drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan. On Thursday, the US said it blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-linked militias, for the deadly drone attack at the weekend on the remote Tower 22 logistics base in Jordan, near the border with Syria and Iraq. Three US army reservists were killed after a living quarters was struck at night and more than 80 wounded.

  • US officials have said there were no plans to bomb Iran, which would represent a significant escalation. US administration officials have repeatedly stressed that Washington does not intend to go to war with Iran, despite the accusation that it had armed the groups behind the Tower 22 attack.

  • Joe Biden warned in a statement released after the attacks began that “if you harm an American, we will respond”. The statement said: “The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: if you harm an American, we will respond.” John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, said the responses “began tonight. They’re not going to end tonight.”

  • An Iraqi military spokesperson has said US airstrikes were launched at Iraqi border areas, warning that the attacks could ignite instability in the region. Yahya Rasool said in a statement reported by Reuters: “These airstrikes constitute a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, and pose a threat that could lead Iraq and the region into dire consequences.”

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The New York Times, citing Lebanese media, says blackouts were reported in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province after US airstrikes there.

The US strikes were taken knowing that there would likely be casualties among those in the facilities, Lt Gen Douglas Sims, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters.

“We know that there are militants that use these locations, IRGC as well as Iranian-aligned militia group personnel,” Sims said.

We made these strikes tonight with an idea that there would likely be casualties associated with people inside those facilities.

US will not strike inside Iran, say officials

Dan Sabbagh

Dan Sabbagh

US officials have told CNN that the US had no plan to bomb Iran, which would represent a significant escalation.

Administration officials have repeatedly stressed that Washington does not intend to go to war with Iran, despite the accusation that it had armed the groups behind the Tower 22 attack.

Iran has also previously warned the US not to launch any direct strike on Iranian territory, saying if the US acts in this way its response will be swift and dramatic.

US officials have known for a few days now that the first strikes would happen tonight, the official told CNN.

A US defense official told the broadcaster that Air Force B-1 bombers were among the US aircraft that carried out strikes today.

The airstrikes took place over about 30 minutes on Friday, and three of the sites struck were in Iraq and four were in Syria, Lt Gen Douglas Sims, director of the Joint Staff, told reporters.

John Kirby, the White House’s national security spokesperson, said the targets “were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on clear, irrefutable evidence that they were connected to attacks on US personnel in the region”.

The strikes appeared to have stopped short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force within its borders.

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White House says there will be ‘additional responses’ after initial strikes

Julian Borger

Julian Borger

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, said US airstrikes struck three facilities in Iraq and four in Syria.

Kirby, speaking to reporters, said the Iraqi government was informed prior to the strikes. He added:

These responses began tonight. They’re not going to end tonight. So there will be additional responses. There will be additional action that we will take, all designed to put an end to these attacks and to take away capability by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp).

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Joe Biden has reiterated that the US does not seek conflict in the Middle East as he confirmed that he directed US military forces on Friday to strike targets in Iraq and Syria.

Posting to social media, the US president added:

To all those who seek to do us harm: We will respond.

Today, at my direction, U.S. military forces struck targets in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack U.S. forces.

We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.

But to all those who seek to do us harm: We will respond.

— President Biden (@POTUS) February 2, 2024

US strikes ‘hit exactly what we meant to hit’

Julian Borger

Julian Borger

The US has said that the 85 targets were grouped in seven different locations – four in Syria and three in Iraq.

Lt Gen Douglas Sims, director for operations on the Joint Staff, said the timing of the strikes was determined by the weather, with the best weather appearing today.

“The initial indications are that we hit exactly what we meant to hit with a number of secondary explosions associated with the ammunition and logistics locations,” he said.

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Iraqi military warns US strikes could lead to ‘dire consequences’

An Iraqi military spokesperson has said US airstrikes were launched at Iraqi border areas, warning that the attacks could ignite instability in the region.

Iraqi military spokesperson Yahya Rasool said in a statement reported by Reuters:

These airstrikes constitute a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, and pose a threat that could lead Iraq and the region into dire consequences.

Death toll from airstrikes in eastern Syria rises to 18 – reports

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor has said strikes in eastern Syria have resulted in the deaths of “at least 18 pro-Iran fighters”.

At least 26 important sites housing pro-Iranian groups including weapons depots have been destroyed in ongoing raids striking a large swath of eastern Syria, stretching more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the city of Deir ez-Zor to Albu Kamal, near the Iraqi border, the monitoring group told AFP.

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‘This is the start of our response’: Austin says US forces struck seven facilities in Iraq and Syria

The US secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, has released a statement confirming that US forces conducted strikes on targets in Iraq and Syria.

A statement reads:

Following the attack on U.S. and Coalition Forces in northeastern Jordan this past Sunday that killed three U.S. service members, at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces today conducted strikes on seven facilities, which included more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated militias use to attack U.S. forces.

This is the start of our response. The President has directed additional actions to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and Coalition Forces. These will unfold at times and places of our choosing.

We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the President and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces. We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our forces, and our interests.

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