Washington: Three American service members were killed and “many” were wounded in a drone strike in Jordan, President Joe Biden said in a statement on Sunday. He attributed the attack to Iran-backed militia groups.
They were the first US fatalities in months of strikes against American forces across the Middle East by Iranian-backed militias amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, increasing the risk of escalation. US officials were still working to identify the precise group responsible for the attack conclusively, but have assessed that one of several Iranian-backed groups is responsible.
Biden said the United States “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing.”
US troops long have used Jordan as a basing point, and the attack took place in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border. US Central Command said 25 service members were injured the attack in addition to the three killed.
Jordan says deadly attack on US troops originated in Syria
Jordanian state television quoted Muhannad Mubaidin, a government spokesman, as insisting the attack happened outside of the kingdom across the border in Syria. The conflicting information could not be immediately reconciled.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the killing of the soldiers "is a message to the American administration that unless the killing of innocent people in Gaza stops, it may be faced with the entire (Muslim) nation."
"The continuation of the American-Zionist aggression on Gaza risks a regional explosion," Abu Zuhri said in a statement.
Since Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip began, US troops in Iraq and Syria have faced drone and missile attacks on their bases. The attack on Jordan marks the first targeting American troops in Jordan during the war.
US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been targeted in more than 150 attacks since mid-October, according to the Pentagon, and Washington has carried out retaliatory strikes in both countries.
Biden, who was in Columbia, South Carolina, on Sunday, was briefed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
United States rushed military aid to Israel
Following the attack, the United States rushed military aid to Israel, which has carried out a relentless military offensive that has killed at least 26,422 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Those deaths have sparked widespread anger across the region and stoked violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria as well as Yemen.
The Lebanon portion of the conflict has been limited to near daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel, but American forces are directly involved in Iraq and Syria, as well as Yemen.
Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels have carried out more than two months of attacks on shipping, saying they were hitting Israeli-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
Fears of broader regional conflict
The United States and Britain have responded with two rounds of joint strikes against the Huthis, while American forces have also carried out unilateral air raids against the rebels, who have also declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets.
The growing violence in multiple parts of the Middle East has raised fears of a broader regional conflict directly involving Iran - a worst-case scenario that Washington is desperately seeking to avoid.