U.S. military, Iran-backed militias clash in Syria after drone kills U.S. contractor

Biden to Iran: Attacks on U.S. troops to be met with force

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden warned Iran on Friday that attacks on U.S. troops will be met with force. Iran, a Russian ally, has been on the opposing side of the U.S. efforts in Ukraine and Syria.

After a U.S. contractor was killed in Syria, U.S. F-15 fighter jets delivered two airstrikes at facilities associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, according to the Pentagon.

“The United States does not — emphasize does not — seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people,” Biden said.

Two U.S. facilities in Syria were the target of new attacks late Friday night involving drones and rockets, a U.S. official told ABC News.

Biden was in Ottawa, Canada, to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he issued the warning to Iran.

The Pentagon announced that the U.S. military responded to the death of a U.S. contractor after a drone exploded on Thursday at a U.S. facility in Syria. Six others were injured, including five U.S. troops.

Pentagon spokesman U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Friday, March 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Biden authorized a military operation “to send a very clear message that we will take the protection of our personnel seriously and that we will respond quickly and decisively if they are threatened,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday during a news conference.

The Iranian-backed militias responded with “near-coordinated attacks on US positions in eastern Syria” on Friday, and injured a US service member, according to Charles Lister, the director of Syria and Countering Terrorism and Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.

The civil war in Syria began over a decade ago. Russia and Iran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. and the Syrian Kurdish have been fighting together against the Islamic State.

U.S. Central Command leader Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla reported during a hearing Thursday in Congress that there have been 78 Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. troops since 2021.

“It is periodic,” Kurilla said. “We see periods where they will do more.”

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Local 10 News affiliate ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Torres contributed to this report from Miami.

About the Authors:

Ben Kennedy is an Emmy Award-winning Washington Bureau Chief for Local 10 News.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.