A series of new developments in the Middle East have raised fears that conflict may not only be between Israel and the armed group Hamas.
On October 27, US warplanes attacked two facilities in eastern Syria. The Pentagon said both facilities were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and groups linked to Tehran.
The air strikes were in response to a series of drone and missile attacks targeting US military bases and personnel in the region. Specifically, according to the Pentagon, at least 19 attacks have been carried out targeting US bases and personnel in Iraq and Syria since October 17, injuring 21 people.
According to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, President Joe Biden ordered the above narrow-range airstrike to demonstrate that Washington does not tolerate such attacks and will protect its forces and assets.
According to US officials, the air strikes were aimed at pressuring Iran to order allied armed groups to stop attacking Washington’s targets in the region.
Smoke rising from Gaza Strip on October 27 Photo: Reuters
The AP assessed that the above military action shows that President Biden’s administration is trying to maintain a delicate balance at a time when the Middle East is tense. On the one hand, the US wants to send a strong message to Iran and armed groups not to continue such attacks. However, Washington also tries to avoid provoking broader conflict.
Iranian officials have publicly criticized the United States for providing arms to ISIL and have accused these weapons of being used in the conflict in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, US officials have yet to publicly link the Israel-Hamas conflict to the wave of attacks in Syria and Iraq.
Secretary Austin also confirmed that the airstrike campaign was not related to the ongoing Israel–Hamas conflict. Instead, he accused Iran of playing a role in attacks in Syria and Iraq and warned that if the attacks did not stop it would continue to retaliate and take further action to protect its forces.
In addition to the above steps, the Pentagon has strengthened air defense capabilities in the region to protect the US military, such as sending the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD), several Patriot missile batteries and additional fighter aircraft.
In addition, approximately 900 troops have been or are being deployed to the Middle East, including those involved in the above-mentioned air defense systems.
In another development highlighting the threat of widespread violence, Egyptian officials said on October 27 that missiles had hit two cities in the country, injuring several people. The two localities mentioned above are Taba, bordering Israel, and Nuweiba, about 70 km from Taba.
At present no one has taken responsibility for the incident. However, the news site Al-Qahera News Egypt said the missile that struck Taba appeared to be related to the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip, about 220 km away.
On October 25, Hamas said it launched a rocket attack toward the Israeli town of Eilat, near Taba. According to Reuters, the rocket launch appears to be Hamas’s most long-range attack in the conflict that began on October 7. Last week, the US military said a US warship in the Red Sea intercepted missiles from the Houthi group in Yemen and that Israel may have been the target of the attack.