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US launches Middle East airstrikes after soldiers’ deaths: ‘This is the start of our response’

The U.S. has begun retaliatory strikes on Middle East targets from multiple platforms, a U.S Defense official has told Fox News. 

The strikes are in response to the deaths of three U.S. service members last Sunday on a U.S. base in Jordan.  

The initial strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft hit command and control headquarters.

In a statement, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said that forces conducted airstrikes on more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups.

CENTCOM said that the attack came at 4 p.m. EST on Feb. 2.

President Biden put out a statement shortly after the strikes were confirmed on Friday, warning, ‘If you harm an American, we will respond.’ 

‘This past Sunday, three American soldiers were killed in Jordan by a drone launched by militant groups backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Earlier today, I attended the dignified return of these brave Americans at Dover Airforce Base, and I have spoken with each of their families.’

He added, ‘This afternoon, at my direction, U.S. military forces struck targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack U.S. forces. Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing. The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.’

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed Biden in his statement: ‘Following the attack on U.S. and Coalition Forces in northeastern Jordan this past Sunday that killed three U.S. service members, at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces today conducted strikes on seven facilities, which included more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated militias use to attack U.S. forces.’

He continued, ‘This is the start of our response. The President has directed additional actions to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and Coalition Forces. These will unfold at times and places of our choosing. We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the President and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces. We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our forces, and our interests.’

The agency said that forces conducted the strikes with numerous aircraft, including two B1-B bombers. The airstrike also used more than 125 precision munitions. 

The 85 targets included command and control operations, intelligence centers, militia group’s rockets, missiles, unmanned vehicle storages and supply chain facilities, CENTCOM said.

The strikes come after drone strikes killed three U.S. troops in Jordan last weekend.

The fallen troops were Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46; Spc. Kennedy Landon Sanders, 24; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, all of whom were from Georgia.

President Joe Biden previously said that he holds Iran responsible for the attack because they supplied the weapons to the people who perpetrated the attack, but he also noted that he does not wish to escalate tensions with the Islamic Republic.

‘I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East,’ he told reporters on Tuesday, Jan. 30. ‘That’s not what I’m looking for.’

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters to expect a ‘tiered approach’ and not a single strike.

‘It’s very possible that what you’ll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action, but potentially multiple actions over a period of time,’ he said.

Kirby said the targets were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on irrefutable evidence they were connected to attacks on U.S. troops in the region, adding that the Iraqi government was informed before the strikes were launched. 

He stressed that operations began Friday but will not end on Friday. 

Lt. Gen. Douglas A. Sims II added, ‘We feel confident– 85 individual targets within each location, we feel really confident about the precision of those targets…strong military targets.’

‘we hit exactly what we meant to hit,’ he said. 

Early Thursday morning, U.S. Central Command forces shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the Gulf of Aden. 

There were no injuries and later Thursday morning, U.S. forces conducted strikes and destroyed an Iranian-backed Houthi explosive un-crewed surface vehicle (USV) in the Red Sea. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Fox News’ Bradford Betz and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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