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Syria clashes leave US soldier wounded and Iran-backed fighters killed

Service member reported injured during rocket attacks by suspected Iran-backed militants in northeast
There are about 900 US troops in Syria, most of them in the east of the country (AFP)

At least one US military service member in Syria suffered a minor injury and up to four suspected Iran-backed militants were killed over the past 24 hours, the US military said, in the third consecutive day of violence.

The latest exchange of fire came as Washington responded to a draft agreement proposed by the European Union to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

The violence comes after US President Joe Biden authorised US air strikes on an ammunition depot and other facilities in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province, which Washington said were used by groups affiliated with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The US Central Command (Centcom) said on Thursday that its forces responded by striking "Iran-affiliated militants" in the area with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, AC-130 gunships, and M777 artillery. Four combatants were killed and seven rocket launchers were destroyed over the past 24 hours. 

“We will respond appropriately and proportionally to attacks on our service members,” said Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of Centcom. “No group will strike at our troops with impunity. We will take all necessary measures to defend our people.”

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On Wednesday, Iran denied having any link to the sites targeted by the United States.

A ministry statement strongly condemned the "terrorist act" by the US, saying it represented a "violation of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria".

The US military said the suspected Iran-backed militants launched two separate attacks starting at approximately 7.20pm (17:20 GMT) on Wednesday.

US military strikes Iran-linked targets in eastern Syria
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Several rockets landed inside the perimeter of the Mission Support Site Conoco in northeast Syria and were quickly followed by rocket fire near Mission Support Site Green Village, it said in a statement.

Centcom said the wounded US service member had been at Mission Support Site Conoco and returned to duty after treatment. 

Two other service members were under evaluation for minor injuries, it said. 

The Biden-authorised air strikes on Tuesday involved eight US fighter jets, four F-16s and four F-15Es,  and hit nine targets in Syria, the military said.

US forces first deployed into Syria during the Obama administration's campaign against the Islamic State militant group, partnering with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

There are about 900 US troops in Syria, most of them in the east of the country.

Iran-backed militias established a foothold in Syria while fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, following the 2011 popular uprising against his rule.

They are heavily concentrated west of the Euphrates in Deir Ezzor province, where they get supplies from Iraq through the al-Bukamal border crossing, according to Reuters.

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