Amid increasing hostilities in the Middle East, U.S. military action intensified with two F-15 fighters striking an ammunition cache in Syria purportedly operated by Iranian-backed militias, according to Pentagon reports.
The operation coincided with the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone over the Red Sea, an act claimed by Yemen's Houthi forces, Politico reported.
Also in the region, the Houthi-led government in Yemen shot down a U.S. MQ-9 surveillance drone flying in international airspace over the Red Sea on Wednesday. The attack follows an episode last month in which a U.S. destroyer shot down several ballistic missiles and drones launched by the Iranian-backed group toward Israel.
The uptick in violence throughout the region comes after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel that killed 1,400 people, the vast majority of them civilians.
The Defense Department detailed that the attacks were in direct retaliation to the numerous assaults on American troops in Iraq and Syria, attributed to groups associated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the U.S. is poised to continue defensive measures to safeguard its personnel and interests in the region.
On the ground, the frequency of attacks has surged, with U.S. forces experiencing 41 rocket and drone incidents since mid-October, causing several injuries including traumatic brain injuries among U.S. service members, some necessitating treatment abroad.
Simultaneously, regional violence has been exacerbated by the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The recent barrage and ground incursion by Israel into Gaza, aiming at Hamas' military infrastructure amidst civilian areas, has escalated civilian casualties and unrest, prompting international scrutiny.
The U.S. has faced criticism for supplying Israel with precision-guided munitions during the conflict, with allegations that Hamas is strategically placing military assets within civilian locales to complicate Israeli defense actions.
At a congressional hearing, the Pentagon's Middle East deputy assistant secretary Dana Stroul conveyed the complexity of defending civilians in such conflict zones, highlighting the ethical and strategic imperatives for Israel to minimize civilian harm in its military responses.
“In this war, protecting and supporting civilians is difficult for a range of reasons,” said Stroul on Wednesday. “Hamas is using civilians as human shields, and because Hamas placed rockets and weapons in civilian areas while digging terror tunnels underneath civilian infrastructure and protected sites, like schools and hospitals.”
Stroul stated that the Americans “make clear to Israel every day that efforts to mitigate and respond to civilian harm are both a moral and strategic imperative.”