By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States carried out airstrikes authorized by President Joe Biden on facilities belonging to Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria on Thursday, in response to rocket attacks on US targets in Iraq, the Pentagon. saying. The strikes appeared to be limited in scope, potentially reducing the risk of escalation. It was not immediately clear what damage was caused. Syria did not immediately comment, but state-run Ekhbariya TV said the strikes were carried out at dawn against various targets near the Syrian-Iraqi border. An Iraqi militia officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at least one fighter had been killed and four others had been wounded. A medical source at a local hospital and several local sources told Reuters that 17 people had died. That number could not be independently confirmed. Biden’s decision to strike only in Syria and not Iraq, at least for now, gives the Iraqi government some breathing space as it investigates a Feb. 15 attack that injured Americans. “Under the leadership of President (Joe) Biden, US military forces tonight carried out airstrikes against infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby (NYSE 🙂 it’s a statement. “President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to reduce the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.” He said the attacks destroyed multiple facilities at a border checkpoint used by Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada. After the attacks, the foreign ministers of Iran and Syria spoke and stressed “the need for the West to adhere to the UN Security Council resolutions regarding Syria,” the Iranian government‘s website Dolat.ir said. . A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision to carry out the attacks was a sign that Washington wanted to punish the militias, but did not want the situation to escalate into a major conflict. The official said Biden was presented with a range of options and one of the more limited responses was chosen. STRIKES “REMEMBER” IRAN Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, said the strikes “remind Iran, its representatives and our adversaries around the world that attacks on American interests do not will be tolerated. ” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution think tank said the attacks were a “good move” on Twitter, saying they showed that the Biden administration could both negotiate with Iran on the nuclear deal and reject Tehran-backed militias. The rocket attacks on US positions in Iraq were carried out as Washington and Tehran searched for a way to return to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by former US President Donald Trump. It was unclear how, or if, the attack could affect the United States’ efforts to convince Iran to re-negotiate for both sides to resume compliance with the agreement. In the February 15 attack, rockets hit the US military base located at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region, killing a non-US contractor and wounding several US contractors and a US service member. Another salvo hit a base housing US forces north of Baghdad days later, wounding at least one contractor. On Monday, the rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone, which is home to the US Embassy and other diplomatic missions. The Kata’ib Hezbollah group, one of the main Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran, denied any involvement in the rocket attacks. Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with ties to Kata’ib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass US forces without accountability. Since late 2019, the United States has carried out high-profile attacks against Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria in response to sometimes deadly rocket attacks against US-led forces. During the Trump presidency, tensions culminated in the assassination in the United States of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani and a retaliatory Iranian ballistic missile attack on US forces in Iraq last year.