On October 18, twenty-four American military personnel sustained minor injuries from drone and rocket attacks on coalition military bases in Iraq and Syria, according to an official from US Central Command. This official, who decided to remain anonymous, revealed that al-Asad airbase in Iraq experienced an attack that resulted in four minor injuries whereas the rest of the victims were injured in an attack on the US garrison in al-Tanf, Syria, both occurring on the same day.
In the aftermath of these incidents, all injured personnel have returned to duty, though several continue to be under observation for any potential side effects or further injuries. The Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder sharing that there have been at least ten and three separate attacks in Iraq and Syria respectively since October 17 alone, involving drones and rockets.
The US officials attribute these heightened attacks to Iranian proxy groups that are operative in the region, issuing warnings of an imminent significant escalation by these groups. NBC News was the first to report the number of minor injuries in the aforementioned regions.
As of this week, officials declare that Iran seems to be nurturing these groups rather than explicitly controlling them. One statement indicated that Iran is assuring their proxy militia groups they will face no penalties - like a depletion of weaponry supplies, for instance - if they persist in assaulting US or Israeli targets.
These assaults have seen a surge due to the US supporting Israel against Hamas, an elevation that followed after a hospital in Gaza was rocked by an explosion, an incident that Palestinian militants and Israel have blamed each other for.
US intelligence reported that the hospital blast was precipitated by a rocket from a Palestinian militant group exploding midair, causing the warhead to fall on it. However, Tehran doesn't have full control over these proxy groups it funds and equips via the IRGC-Quds Force. The autonomy of these groups is a "persistent intelligence gap," as one source denotes.
A high-ranking defense official asserts that Iran is the funder and armer of these proxies, and the US holds Tehran accountable for their actions. Recently, officials have been repeatedly expressing that the US is bracing itself for a likely escalation, readying defense and offense mechanisms if responding becomes necessary.
Approximately 2,500 US troops are posted in Iraq and about 900 in Syria as part of the anti-ISIS coalition. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin affirmed last weekend that he was deploying further air defense systems in the region following these attacks, which includes a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system and extra Patriot batteries.
In a conference between Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor in Tehran, Iran cautioned against an escalating situation. The latter declared that the Middle East was akin to a “powder keg.” Abdollahian called out US and Israel, asserting that an immediate cessation of ‘crimes against humanity’ was crucial, or the region could spiral out of control any moment.