War in the Middle East: USA responds to deadly drone attack with counterattack

The US has responded to the deadly attack by pro-Iranian militias on American soldiers in Jordan with a full-scale counterstrike on targets in Iraq and Syria.

War in the Middle East: USA responds to deadly drone attack with counterattack

The US has responded to the deadly attack by pro-Iranian militias on American soldiers in Jordan with a full-scale counterstrike on targets in Iraq and Syria. The US Air Force said it fired on more than 85 targets on Saturday night, including command centers, intelligence bases and weapons depots used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and militias affiliated with them, according to US regional command Centcom in Washington. Iraq immediately expressed sharp criticism. The attacks violated Iraq's sovereignty, with unpredictable consequences for the entire region, the spokesman for the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces said in a televised statement.

Last Sunday, three US soldiers were killed and numerous others injured in a drone attack by pro-Iranian militias in Jordan near the Syrian border. The bodies were transferred to Dover Air Force Base in the US state of Delaware on Friday, where US President Joe Biden paid them their last respects. Only a short time later the retaliatory strike he had announced began. According to US information, seven major positions were targeted - three of them in Iraq and four in Syria. The aim was to reduce the ability of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its allies in the region to carry out further attacks on US forces, said National Security Council Communications Director John Kirby in Washington.

Biden: This is just the beginning

Biden announced that the air strikes were just the beginning; further military actions would follow. At the same time, he emphasized that the USA did not want a new conflict in the Middle East. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 18 members of pro-Iranian militias were killed in US airstrikes in Syria. Local media also reported on several deaths and injuries in Iraq, including militia members and civilians. The US attacks pose a threat "that will drag Iraq and the region into unpredictable consequences, and their consequences will be terrible for the security and stability in Iraq and the region," Iraq's military spokesman warned.

Blinking again in the Middle East

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is setting off again for crisis talks in the Middle East. Blinken wants to continue his diplomatic efforts in the region to reach an agreement on a new humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza war between Israel and the Islamist Hamas and the release of all hostages still held in the sealed-off coastal area, a spokesman said. Blinken will also continue to work to prevent the conflict from spreading and to create a settlement that provides lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, it said.

Since the start of the Gaza war, pro-Iranian militias have carried out almost daily attacks on US military bases in Iraq and Syria. The US government has already responded with air strikes in both countries - although on a smaller scale than the new concerted action. A group called the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on American soldiers in Jordan on Sunday. This is a kind of umbrella group of pro-Iranian militias in Iraq that have been operating together under this name since the Hamas massacre in Israel on October 7th.

More shelling on Israel's border with Lebanon

Meanwhile, there was renewed mutual shelling on the border between Israel and Lebanon. The Israeli military announced on Friday evening that fighter jets had attacked a military facility belonging to the Hezbollah militia, which is also supported by Iran, in the south of Lebanon. Rockets had previously been fired from there towards the north of Israel. Since the beginning of the Gaza war, there have been exchanges of fire almost daily in the border region between Hezbollah, which is allied with Hamas, and Israel's military.

Baerbock: Israeli offensive in Rafah could not be justified

Meanwhile, Israel continues to take action against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned Israel against extending the offensive to Rafah in the southernmost part of the coastal area. “To act now in Rafah, in the last and most crowded place, as announced by the Israeli Defense Minister, would simply not be justified,” the Green politician told the Germany editorial network. "The majority of the victims are women and children. Let's just imagine: They were our children." Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Galant had previously been quoted by the "Times of Israel" as saying that the Hamas brigade in Rafah would also be reached and destroyed. Baerbock said she was shocked to hear about this announcement.

There is still no agreement on a ceasefire in the Gaza war

Meanwhile, there are still no signs of an agreement in the ongoing negotiations about a new ceasefire and the release of further hostages. The talks are being made difficult, among other things, by disagreement within the leadership of the Islamist Hamas, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday night, citing people familiar with the negotiations. Accordingly, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Jihia al-Sinwar, is now ready to accept a proposal for an initial six-week ceasefire. The Hamas political leadership, which lives in exile, is demanding more concessions and wants to negotiate a permanent ceasefire, the newspaper reported.

According to media reports, the intelligence chiefs of the USA, Israel, Egypt and Qatar recently negotiated a draft for a possible agreement in Paris that would initially provide for a six-week ceasefire and a gradual release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Israel's war cabinet has not yet approved the proposal either. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made it clear that the war would not be ended, troops would not be withdrawn and “thousands of terrorists” would not be released in exchange for a hostage deal. It is estimated that there are more than 130 hostages still in Gaza. Relatives in Israel are strongly urging Netanyahu to negotiate a new deal to release the abductees.

What will be important on Saturday

Following the US military strike on targets in Iraq and Syria, US Secretary of State Blinken begins another trip to the Middle East. He will visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank until February 8th, a spokesman for the ministry in Washington said. There are growing concerns that the conflict will spread.