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NEWS | Nov. 9, 2023

Defense official said U.S. won't hesitate to defend its troops in Middle East

By C. Todd Lopez DOD News

Over the last three weeks, Iran-backed militia groups have attacked U.S. bases and facilities in Iraq and Syria 41 times. The U.S. has defended itself against those attacks and will continue to do so, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East said.

"On Oct. 26, at President Biden's direction, U.S. forces conducted precision, self-defense strikes on facilities in eastern Syria used and operated by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC, and its affiliates," said Dana Stroul during testimony yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "We will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people."

Following the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas, Stroul said the department has organized efforts in the Middle East along four lines of effort, including protecting U.S. forces and interests in the region, supporting Israel's right to defend itself, coordinating with Israel on hostage recovery efforts, and containing the ongoing conflict to Gaza.

U.S. force enhancements in the Middle East, include recently deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Patriot missile defense systems, additional fighter squadrons, two carrier strike groups, and an Ohio-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine, Stroul said.

"We also placed over 2,000 personnel and a range of units in a heightened state of readiness, some of which [were] subsequently deployed," Stroul said. "These deployments demonstrate our commitment to Israel's security, to regional stability, and to deterring those who seek to widen this conflict. It also bolsters the department's ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment."

The department's commitment to Israel's right to defend itself from terrorism is "ironclad," and the department is working daily to help Israel do that, Stroul told lawmakers.

"We are working around the clock to determine which munitions and equipment from U.S. inventory can quickly be made available," Stroul said. "Air defense is a high priority, as are medical supplies, artillery, ammunition and precision-guided munitions. Deliveries are taking place on a near daily basis."

Since the initial attack, Stroul said Hamas has been using civilians as human shields, has blocked the delivery of humanitarian aid, and continues to hold at least 200 civilians.

"The Department of State designated Hamas a foreign terrorist organization in 1997," she said. "Hamas is responsible for the abhorrent terrorist attack in Israel. And Israel is executing military operations to ensure that Hamas is never again able to perpetrate a terrorist attack like it did in October."