The death toll from retaliatory US strikes on Iran-linked groups in Syria following a deadly drone attack has risen to 19, a war monitor said Saturday, as Washington insisted it is not seeking conflict with Tehran.
Further rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias took place late Friday, prompting more strikes by coalition warplanes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Washington carried out the initial strikes after the Pentagon said a US contractor died — and another contractor and five military personnel were wounded — by a drone “of Iranian origin” that struck a US-led coalition base near Hasakeh in northeastern Syria on Thursday.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that, at President Joe Biden’s direction, he had ordered the “precision air strikes… in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”.
On Saturday, the Britain-based Observatory, which has a wide network of sources on the ground, said 19 people were killed in the first wave of US strikes: three Syrian regime soldiers and 16 members of Iran-backed forces, including 11 Syrian nationals.