(NEW YORK) — The U.S. on Friday began to carry out strikes against Iran-backed militants and Iranian military targets in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for a drone strike on an American base in Jordan last Sunday that killed three U.S. service members.
Dozens of other American troops were wounded in the drone attack on the Tower 22 base near Jordan’s border with Iraq and Syria. The U.S. says Iran is responsible for funding and arming the militants while Iran has denied involvement.
President Joe Biden had quickly warned that America would respond forcefully, escalating U.S. involvement in the Middle East after months of trying to contain tensions from boiling over into a broader war in the region.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.
Feb 03, 12:10 PM
Hezbollah condemns US strikes in Iraq, Syria
In a statement on Saturday, the Hezbollah terrorist organization strongly condemned the U.S.’s strikes on Iraq and Syria and extended its sympathies for the lives lost.
“What the United States of America did is a blatant violation of the sovereignty of the two countries, an attack on their security and territorial integrity, and a shameless violation of all international and humanitarian laws,” Hezbollah said.
“This new aggression contributes to destabilizing the region, and creating false justifications and pretexts for the continuation of the American occupation of several regions in Iraq and Syria against the will of their people who yearn for freedom and independence,” Hezbollah said.
U.S. officials said Friday that targets were chosen to avoid civilian casualties and because they were connected to enabling the attacks against American service members.
-ABC News’ Ghazi Balkiz and Aras Maman
Feb 03, 12:05 PM
Jordan denies involvement in US strikes in Iraq
A Jordanian military source told the state-owned Al-Mamlaka TV that Jordan was not involved in U.S. strikes on Iraqi soil, refuting earlier allegations. However, the Jordanian statement did not mention strikes in Syrian territory.
“There is no truth to press reports regarding the participation of Jordanian aircraft in operations carried out by American aircraft inside Iraq,” the source told Al-Mamlaka TV.
“The Jordanian Armed Forces respect the sovereignty of brotherly Iraq,” the source said, confirming “the depth of the brotherly relations that unite Jordan with all Arab countries.”
-ABC News’ Ghazi Balkiz and Aras Maman
Feb 03, 11:06 AM
Iraq declares 3 days of public mourning over strike deaths
The Iraqi government declared that it will have three days of public mourning over the civilians and armed forces who were killed in the U.S. strikes.
“Today, Saturday, the Prime Minister, Mr. Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani, directed the declaration of general mourning in all state departments and institutions, for a period of three days, out of mercy for the souls of the martyrs of our armed forces and the civilians who died as a result of the American bombing on the areas of Akashat and Al-Qaim, west of Anbar Governorate,” the Iraqi prime minister’s office said in a statement.
-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres
Feb 03, 6:39 AM
Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs summons US diplomat following strikes
The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi MFA said in an official statement.
“In protest against the American aggression that targeted Iraqi military and civilian sites, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will summon the Charge d’Affairs of the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Mr. David Perker, due to the absence of the American Ambassador, to hand him an official note of protest regarding the American attack that targeted military and civilian sites in the Akashat and Al-Qaim regions yesterday evening,” the MFA statement said.
Feb 03, 6:07 AM
U.S. strikes in Iraq killed at least 16 and wounded 25: Iraqi government
U.S. strikes in Iraq killed at least 16 people and wounded 25 others, the Iraqi government confirmed in an official statement.
“The American administration committed a new aggression against the sovereignty of Iraq, as the locations of our security forces, in the Akashat and Al-Qaim regions, as well as neighboring civilian places, were bombed by several American aircraft,” said the Iraqi government. “This blatant aggression led to 16 martyrs, including civilians, in addition to 25 wounded. It also caused losses and damage to residential buildings and citizens’ property.”
The Iraqi government also said the strikes would “put security in Iraq and the region on the brink of the abyss” and that they directly contradict the United States effort to “establish the required stability” in the region.
Feb 02, 10:22 PM
Video of B-1 bomber aircraft taking off to carry out airstrike: CENTCOM
The United States Central Command posted a video Friday evening showing B-1 bomber aircraft taking off from its bases in the U.S. to carry out the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups continue to represent a direct threat to the stability of Iraq, the region, and the safety of Americans. We will continue to take action, do whatever is necessary to protect our people, and hold those responsible who threaten their safety,” Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, U.S. CENTCOM Commander, said in a statement.
Feb 02, 6:45 PM
‘We believe that the strikes were successful’: Kirby
The Department of Defense is in the early stages of battle damage assessment “but we believe that the strikes were successful,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in a call Friday.
“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,” Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director of the Joint Chiefs, said on the call.
Kirby said the strikes took place in the course of 30 minutes and involved over 125 precision-guided munitions. Of the seven total strike locations, three were in Iraq and four were in Syria, according to Sims.
Targeted facilities included command and control centers, intelligence centers, rocket missile and drone storage facilities, and logistics ammunition supply chain facilities, Kirby said.
Kirby noted the targets were chosen to avoid civilian casualties and because they were connected to enabling the attacks against the U.S. service members.
The administration does not know at this time if or how many militants may have been killed or wounded.
Officials would not tell ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce definitively whether there will be more strikes Friday night but said all U.S. aircraft were out of harm’s way.
Kirby said the strikes are expected to continue in the “coming days.”
-ABC News’ Fritz Farrow, Sarah Kolinovsky and Molly Nagle
Feb 02, 5:55 PM
Iraqi border area with Syria being targeted: Iraqi military
The city of Al-Qa’im on the Iraqi border with Syria as well as other areas along the Iraqi border with Syria “are being subjected to air strikes by United States aircraft,” the spokesperson for the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces said in a statement.
“These strikes constitute a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, an undermining of the efforts of the Iraqi government, and a threat that will drag Iraq and the region into unforeseen consequences, the consequences of which will be disastrous for security and stability in Iraq and the region,” the statement continued.
Feb 02, 5:40 PM
Defense Secretary Austin: 7 facilities used by groups to attack US forces were struck
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. military forces, at Biden’s direction, conducted strikes on seven facilities inside 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,” Austin said in a statement. “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.”
Like Biden, Austin stressed the U.S. doesn’t seek conflict in the Middle East but attacks on U.S. troops won’t go unanswered.
“We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our forces, and our interests,” he concluded.
Feb 02, 5:39 PM
Biden says US response will continue ‘at times and places of our choosing’
President Biden, who earlier Friday attended the dignified return of the three Army reservists killed in the Jordan drone attack, signaled more action is to come.
“Our response began today,” Biden said in his first statement on the strikes in Iraq and Syria.
“This afternoon, at my direction, U.S. military forces struck targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack U.S. forces,” he added. “It will continue at times and places of our choosing.”
He ended saying, “The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world,” he continued. “But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”
Feb 02, 5:08 PM
Biden’s retaliatory strikes come with risks of escalation and political consequences: Experts
President Biden is facing a turning point in the Middle East conflict that carries significant risks of escalation and heavy election-year political consequences.
The debate inside the White House ahead of the retaliatory strikes was tense, according to a U.S. official, as the administration weighed options that some believe will send a clear message to Iran-backed proxy groups to stop the attacks and others fear could trigger broader fighting in the region.
“The choices that any administration and every administration have faced since the Iranian Revolution are fraught,” Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official, told ABC News. “They are not between good and bad policies. They’re between bad and worse policies.”
Biden’s decision making is made only more complicated by the impending election, they said. Many Republicans, including Donald Trump, have accused him of being weak in his response to Iran-backed groups and their attacks on U.S. forces.
“He’s in a politically tough spot because policy would compel him to think about this and act with a scalpel,” the Center for a New American Security’s Jonathan Lord said. “But this being an election this year, and this being probably the premier foreign policy issue Republicans are lining up to cudgel him with, he can’t let policy be the only consideration here. Politics, of course, plays a role.”
Feb 02, 4:48 PM
US strikes aimed at more than 85 targets, targeted Iran’s IRGC and militia groups: CENTCOM
In a new statement, U.S. Central Command said American 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 struck more than 85 targets, with numerous aircraft to include long-range bombers flown from United States,” CENTCOM said. “The airstrikes employed more than 125 precision munitions. The facilities that were struck included command and control operations, centers, intelligence centers, rockets, and missiles, and unmanned aired vehicle storages, and logistics and munition supply chain facilities of militia groups and their IRGC sponsors who facilitated attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces.”
According to a U.S. official, B-1 bombers were used in the retaliatory strikes.
-ABC News’ Anne Flaherty
Feb 02, 4:17 PM
US begins retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria, officials say
Retaliatory U.S. airstrikes have begun in Syria and Iraq, U.S. officials say.
-ABC News’ Luis Martinez
Feb 02, 3:59 PM
Correction: Initial round of strikes not from US
An initial battery of strikes in Syria did not come from the U.S., sources say. U.S. strikes are still anticipated.
Feb 02, 3:08 PM
Blinken, in coming Middle East visit, to continue work on preventing wider conflict
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East from Sunday to Thursday, making stops in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank.
It will mark Blinken’s fifth visit to the region since Oct. 7.
One focus, according to the State Department, will be to continue work to prevent the conflict from spreading — a major concern as the U.S. readies retaliatory strikes — while also “reaffirming that the United States will take appropriate steps to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”
Feb 02, 2:30 PM
Biden attends dignified transfer ceremony for fallen troops
Biden joined grieving families at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to witness the return of the remains of three fallen Army reservists killed in Jordan.
He was accompanied by first lady Jill Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. CQ Brown.
They met with the families privately before receiving the remains, the White House said.
The Pentagon identified the fallen soldiers as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia.; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia.; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia.
Feb 02, 1:59 PM
What we know about the drone attack on US base in Jordan
The U.S. has attributed the drone attack on the American base in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias.
According to a U.S. official, the drone that successfully hit the base was an Iranian-made Shahed drone, similar to those used by the Russians on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Iran has denied involvement in the Jordan strike. But President Joe Biden earlier this week faulted Iran for providing munitions and funding to these different proxy groups.
The U.S. base is known as Tower 22, a major logistical hub for U.S. troops still in Syria on a mission to prevent a resurgence by Islamic State fighters. According to Central Command, there are approximately 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel deployed to the base.
Feb 02, 1:45 PM
US will have a ‘multi-tiered’ response
The Biden administration has been preparing to strike back in the Middle East after three American troops were killed and dozens more wounded in a drone attack in Jordan on Sunday.
“We will have multi-tiered response, and again, we have the ability to respond a number of times depending on what the situation is,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Thursday.
The Pentagon has declined to get into specifics on when and where the strikes would take place, although Austin said the goal is to degrade the capabilities of Iran-backed militants without plunging the region into a broader war
A U.S. official familiar with the plan said the strikes will unfold across several days and hit multiple countries including Iraq, Syria and possibly Yemen.
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