U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq were targeted by drones on Thursday, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with The Associated Press. One drone was shot down and another caused minor injuries, but both attacks demonstrate escalating tensions in the region.
The al-Tanf garrison in southeastern Syria, where U.S. troops have maintained a presence to train forces against the Islamic State group, was attacked. This location is often used by Iranian-backed militants to transport weapons to Hezbollah, a designated terrorist group. Syrian opposition activists also reported a drone attack on an oil facility in eastern Syria housing American troops.
According to reports, the Conoco gas field in Deir el-Zour was targeted by three drones with explosives. The strike was confirmed by the opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said that five explosions were heard.
These attacks come after similar drone strikes on U.S. and coalition bases in Iraq, sparking heightened concern about the possibility of a broader conflict in the region. Hamas, a terrorist group, launched an attack on Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 1,400 Israelis, including over 280 soldiers. Over 3,200 have been injured and nearly 200 are being held hostage. The U.S. death toll in Israel has reached 30, and some Americans have been reported missing and possibly taken captive.
U.S. officials have selected roughly 2,000 troops to prepare for potential deployment to support Israel in their fight against Hamas. The troops are not intended to engage in combat but would serve as advisors and provide medical support if needed. They are stationed across the Middle East and in Europe.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the Middle East on Monday to discuss the ongoing attacks and seek ways to de-escalate the situation. President Joe Biden has expressed concern about the safety of Americans in the region and has sent a team to help evacuate them. However, Hamas has reportedly made it difficult for Americans and other foreigners to leave Gaza.
The exact number of Americans residing in Gaza is unknown, but estimates range between 500-600. Some have tried to leave, but have been stuck at the border with Egypt. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that America has a dedicated team working to help Americans leave safely, but Hamas has intervened in some cases, making it challenging for them to reach the border.
Sullivan also stated that Biden is working with the Israeli government to resolve the ongoing hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts to aid in recovery efforts. The situation remains tense as Israel continues to trade fire with Hezbollah at the Lebanon border, and Iran warns of a regional conflict if hostilities do not cease.