WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden canceled an air strike against a second target in Syria last week after a woman and children were discovered in the area, a senior administration official told NBC News.
Only one target was bombed due to the presence of civilians Operation last weekthat came in retaliation for recent missile attacks US personnel the Pentagon had accused of Iran-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, said the administration official and a defense official.
The president made the decision to cancel the separate airstrike after military reconnaissance revealed a woman and two children in the courtyard of the intended target, the senior administration official said.
The Biden The government sent a private message to Iran after the strike, the government official said.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on Biden’s decision, made at the last moment, before planes should drop bombs on the second target.
The target, which was bombed by US fighter jets last week, was a logistics station in eastern Syria that was used by Iranian-backed militias, according to the Pentagon. US officials charged the paramilitary groups with a deadly missile attack on a US-led coalition base in Irbil, northern Iraq, on February 15.
Since the US bombing last week, an Iraqi air base northwest of Baghdad where US troops are stationed has been attacked by rockets on Wednesday morning.
The U.S. military believes the Iran-backed militia are likely responsible for Wednesday’s missile attack, three defense officials told NBC News.
The Pentagon is not yet ready to finally say who fired missiles at the Ain al-Asad base northwest of Baghdad, but the attack was similar to previous attacks by Iraqi Shiite militias armed and supported by Iran, the three officials said.
The base was hit by 10 122mm medium-range missiles fired eastward from a truck. The February 15 attack on a US-led coalition base in Irbil, northern Iraq, used 107mm short-range missiles.
A civilian contractor at the al-Asad base suffered cardiac arrest while seeking protection from the missile attack and later died, according to the Pentagon. The huge base houses around 1,400 coalition troops.
The Pentagon said a base counter-missile system intercepted some of the incoming missiles in Wednesday’s attack.
“We estimate that C-RAM effectively attacked four of the ten missiles that hit the base. None of the missiles hit any structure or vehicle directly. There has been some minor shrnel damage that will not affect operations at Al Asad, ”said a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jessica McNulty told NBC News.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the US is awaiting the results of an investigation into the attack by the Iraqi authorities. The United States reserves the right to respond if necessary, Kirby said, but added that “no one wants to see this situation escalate”.
Along with the recent rocket strikes on facilities housing U.S. personnel, militia groups have been responsible for the roadside bombing of convoys of private contractors operating at various bases, according to Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who investigated U.S. police supply in the country, increased activities of the militia groups. The convoys are escorted by Iraqi security forces.
Amid tensions between the United States and the Iranian armed militias, Pope Francis is making an important visit to Iraq starting Friday.