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In the early hours of Tuesday, US forces at Ain al-Asad airbase, west of Baghdad, faced an attack, leading to the first US retaliatory action on Iraqi soil against a series of recent drone and missile assaults.
Two US officials reported minor injuries and some damage to infrastructure at the base. The US military responded with an AC-130 gunship in self-defense. Before this incident, US responses to numerous attacks in Iraq and Syria, attributed to Iran-aligned Iraqi militia groups, had been confined to strikes in Syria.
The recent surge in attacks, which began on October 17, has been linked by Iraqi militia groups to US support for Israel amid its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. These assaults have disrupted a year-long unilateral truce with Washington, declared by Iraqi factions formed post the 2003 US invasion and others in 2014 to combat Islamic State. Tuesday’s strike in Iraq is the first reported US action in over two years.
Social media accounts associated with Iran-aligned Iraqi militias mourned a member reportedly killed in Tuesday’s clash with US forces, marking the first known casualty in Iraq connected to the Gaza conflict.
Since October 17, over 60 attacks targeting US and coalition forces have occurred in Iraq and Syria, causing minor injuries to several US service members, all of whom have since returned to duty. The US maintains a presence of 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq, focusing on advising and assisting local forces against a potential resurgence of the Islamic State.