U.S. troops were hit four times on Wednesday by Iran-backed militant groups in the Middle East, bringing the total number of attacks on the U.S. since October 17 to 46.
The string of assaults on Wednesday came after the U.S. military carried out an airstrike on a weapons warehouse in eastern Syria that was used by Iran-backed militias—a move the Pentagon said was in response to previous Iran-backed attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in the region.
The growing number of Iran-backed attacks, altogether 24 in Iraq and 22 in Syria since the Israel-Hamas war began, have all involved explosive drones and rockets, according to Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh.
Also on Wednesday, Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen shot down an U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone that was operating in international airspace—the same type of military aircraft that’s been deployed to search for Hamas-held hostages in Gaza. U.S. Central Command is investigating that incident.
According to the Pentagon, a total of 56 U.S. personnel have been injured in the attacks, but most are minor injuries and every service member has since returned to duty.
A senior defense official called Iran “the center of gravity” for the attacks on U.S. forces in the region. “Iranian fingerprints are all over this,” the official said.
Singh, meanwhile, cautioned during a news briefing, “If these attacks continue against our personnel, we won’t hesitate at a time and place of our choosing to respond again.”
The ongoing conflict has sparked fury on Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers have blamed the Biden Administration for failing to stop the attacks.
“The message to terrorists must be clear: attacks on U.S. servicemembers, assets, and interests will not be tolerated,” House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (R-AL) said in a statement. “Hitting a storage facility should not be the final response by the U.S.”
Singh has asserted that the U.S. is carrying out “proportionate” responses while seeking to not escalate the conflict sparked by the Israel-Hamas war.
“We want to make sure we can contain this conflict to Israel and Hamas and we have not seen this conflict widen,” she said. “We are sending a message and I think the message has been received.”