An overnight drone strike on a small US outpost in Jordan killed three US Army soldiers and injured more than 30 military personnel, US officials told CNN as the Gaza war began.
“We will respond,” President Joe Biden said during his speech Sunday in South Carolina.
The murder of three Americans in Tower 22 in Jordan, near the border with Syria, is a significant escalation of the already precarious situation in the Middle East. Officials said the drone was fired by Iran-backed militants and appeared to come from Syria. Which militia group is specifically responsible is still being determined.
U.S. Central Command confirmed in a statement on Sunday that three soldiers were killed and 25 injured in a unilateral drone strike that “hit a base in northeastern Jordan.” Two US officials told CNN that the drone struck near living quarters on the base and that three of the injured service members were medically evacuated from the area.
The number of injuries is expected to rise.
Biden vowed on Sunday to “hold those responsible” for the attack “accountable,” saying that while the facts have not yet been established, “we know that the attack was carried out by radical, Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.” was committed.”
“These service members embodied the best of our nation: unwavering in their bravery. Unwavering in their duty. Relentless in their commitment to our country – they risk their own safety for the safety of their fellow Americans and our allies and partners with whom we work together in the fight against terrorism. … [H]I have no doubt – we will hold all those responsible accountable at a time and in a manner of our choosing.”
Speaking at a church in South Carolina later Sunday, Biden asked for a moment of silence to honor worship members.
“I would like to point out that we had a rough day in the Middle East last night. “We lost three brave souls in an attack on one of our bases,” Biden said in concluding his remarks.
As of Friday, there had been more than 158 attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. But officials described the constant barrages of drones, missiles and missiles as ineffective as they often failed to cause serious injuries or damage to infrastructure.
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It is unclear why air defenses were unable to intercept the drone. This appears to be the first known attack on Tower 22 since attacks on US and coalition forces began on October 17 in a mission with Jordan.
The U.S. has taken several retaliatory actions against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, including just last week when the U.S. attacked three facilities in Iraq used by Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-linked groups. The US also worked with the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, carrying out multiple attacks on Houthi missiles and drones, radar systems, storage facilities and more – many unilaterally and some with Britain and other allies.
Meanwhile, following Hamas' terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, Israel continues its campaign in Gaza against Hamas. More than 25,000 people are estimated to have been killed and tens of thousands more injured in Gaza in intense fighting since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. Israel is also targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon; On Sunday, Israeli forces said they had attacked Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon with artillery and warplanes.
The Biden administration has been criticized, particularly by Republicans, for not being forceful enough in its attacks against Iran-backed groups. In a statement Sunday following news of the three Americans killed, Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Biden administration's “deterrence policy toward Iran has failed miserably.”
“The Biden administration can take out all the Iranian proxies it wants, but that will not deter Iranian aggression. “I call on the Biden administration to strike key targets in Iran, not only in retaliation for the killing of our forces, but also as a deterrent against future aggression,” Graham said.
Sen. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also called Sunday for a response “directly against Iranian targets and its leadership.” And House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers said it was “long past time for President Biden to finally hold the terrorist Iranian regime and its extremist proxies accountable.”
Planet Labs PBC/AP/File
This satellite photo from Planet Labs PBC shows a military base called Tower 22 in northeastern Jordan on Oct. 12, 2023. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
Amid rising tensions on multiple fronts in the region, U.S. officials have repeatedly said they do not want tensions to escalate into a regional war. Asked last week whether the Pentagon believed Iranian proxies were increasing their attacks on U.S. forces, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh replied: “Not necessarily, no.”
In a pre-recorded interview with ABC News that aired Sunday morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown said that part of the U.S.'s job is to “make sure there isn't a conflict the way things are.” “happened in the Middle East.”
“The goal is to deter them and we don’t want to go down a path of major escalation that leads to a much broader conflict in the region,” he said.
There have been dozens of injuries since the attacks began – a senior military official told reporters last week there were about 70 – but the Pentagon has classified most of them as minor, with the exception of a US soldier whose life was threatened in an attack in Iraq was injured on Christmas Day.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Garrett Illerbrunn of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade was scheduled to be sent back to the United States for further treatment after he was critically injured in a drone strike on Erbil Air Base.
The killing of three Americans also comes as the U.S. and Iraq are expected to soon begin talks over the future of the U.S. military presence in the country.
This story has been updated with additional information.