United States troops with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria came under rocket artillery fire early on Wednesday. Preliminary reports by officials to the BBC suggest no coalition casualties were incurred by the morning attack on the Green Village base near Deir-ez-Zor in eastern Syria.
Another artillery rocket attack against U.S. personnel in Iraq had taken place earlier on Tuesday night, with rockets fired on the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Centre at Baghdad International Airport. Rockets targeting the site housing American diplomats and troops hit the airport runway, with rockets that failed to launch subsequently identified as Iranian-manufactured Falaq-1 240mm artillery rockets.
The attack on Green Village followed an announcement on Tuesday by United States Central Command that coalition forces had destroyed several launch sites for artillery rockets in eastern Syria near the base. CENTCOM said that the strikes were conducted in self defense, after it was suspected that they would be used to attack coalition personnel.
Pentagon Press Secretary Jack Kirby confirmed that the rocket launch sites were struck during a press conference later on Tuesday, but only said that air strikes had not been used to destroy them. He did not provide further details on the destruction of the sites, asking reporters present to direct their inquiries to Central Command. Kirby similarly said that he could not provide specific attribution on the operators of the rocket launch sites, although he did say that “we continue to see threats against our forces in Iraq and Syria by militia groups that are backed by Iran”.
When asked about the downing of two drones on Monday that had been detected flying near the U.S. base next to Baghdad International Airport, and the destruction of two other drones that approached Ain Al Asad Airbase in Anbar Governorate on Tuesday morning by counter-rocket and mortar (C-RAM) defense systems at both bases, Kirby again said that he could not provide specific attribution for the groups responsible. While he said that the “working-level assumption” was that Iran-backed militia groups were responsible due to the modus operandi being “very much in keeping” with previous attacks by such groups, he declined to “speculate beyond that”.
The series of attacks come on the second anniversary of the death of former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, with slogans of “Leader’s revenge” and “Soleimani’s revenge” found on the wings of the drones downed near Baghdad International Airport.