US forces attacked 97 times in Syria, Iraq since October: Defense official

US troops have been targeted at least 97 times in Iraq and Syria since October 17, a US defense official said Thursday, including five attacks this week alone.

From October 17 to December 13, there were 45 attacks in Iraq and an additional 52 in Syria, involving a combination of one-way attack drones, rockets, and close-range ballistic missiles, according to the official.

The majority of the attacks were “successfully disrupted by our military,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Arabiya English. “Most failed to reach their targets, thanks to our robust defenses.”

A drone and rockets targeted two military bases in Iraq and Syria on Monday housing coalition forces, a US military official previously said.

Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of former paramilitaries that are now integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces.

Iran and the militant groups it backs in the Middle East have consistently opposed the presence of US forces in the region. But there has been a rise in attacks on US troops since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.

The Pentagon rejects the assertion that the surge in attacks is linked to the war in Gaza. US troops in the region were attacked 78 times by pro-Iran forces between January 2021 and March 2023, according to the top US military general for the Middle East, in sharp contrast to the nearly 100 attacks recorded in the last two months alone.

The US leads the international coalition battling extremists in Iraq and neighboring Syria, and its forces have come under repeated attack in recent weeks.

There are roughly 2,500 US troops in Iraq and some 900 in Syria as part of international efforts to prevent a resurgence of ISIS.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has accused the Hezbollah Brigades and another pro-Iran group, Harakat al-Nujaba, of being behind most of the attacks on coalition personnel.

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