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DEVELOPING: U.S. Launches Retaliatory Airstrikes on Iranian-Backed Militias Following Deadly Attacks Against U.S. Forces

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The United States has initiated a series of airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, responding to a drone strike by militants on a U.S. military outpost in Jordan. The attack in Jordan resulted in the death of three U.S. service members and left over 40 others wounded.

President Joe Biden, who recently attended a dignified transfer for the fallen soldiers, authorized the strikes that are expected to be more substantial than previous actions against Iranian-backed militias. The administration aims to deter further attacks while avoiding a full-scale conflict with Iran, given the already volatile situation in the Middle East with the Israel-Hamas war.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the U.S. response would be “multi-tiered,” emphasizing the ability to respond as needed. The Biden administration faces pressure to halt militia attacks decisively, as Iran-backed militants have targeted U.S. military facilities in Iraq and Syria over 160 times since October.

While several Republican lawmakers advocated for direct strikes inside Iran, the administration emphasizes proportionate responses to prevent escalation. John Kirby, from the National Security Council, emphasized that the U.S. does not seek a war with Iran or a broader conflict in the Middle East.

The White House attributes the drone attack in Jordan to an umbrella group known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which includes multiple groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah. Despite suspending military operations against U.S. forces, Kata’ib Hezbollah’s leader suggested continued attacks on U.S. targets, creating uncertainty about the militias’ intentions.

The U.S. has targeted Iranian proxies’ weapons depots in Iraq and Syria since October, but these strikes did not deter the militants, leading to the recent escalation. Iran, while claiming not to seek conflict, vows a strong response to perceived aggression.

The situation remains fluid, with the U.S. signaling potential further actions in the coming days as tensions persist in the region.

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International

VP Kamala Harris publicly mourns Palestinians killed in hostage rescue operation

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Vice President Kamala Harris mourned the Palestinians in Gaza who were killed in the successful Israeli hostage rescue operation this weekend during an address delivered over the weekend.

Israeli forces say Hamas intentionally kept the hostages in a “civilian environment.” They also said even the Palestinians who were holding the hostages were also “civilians.”

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari of the IDF said Hamas has been holding hostages inside civilian buildings, including the locations where Israeli forces rescued Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Andrey Kozlov, 27.

“Before I begin, I just say a few words about the morning which I know weighs heavily on all of our hearts,” she said.

“On Oct. 7, Hamas committed a brutal massacre of 1,200 innocent people and abducted 250 hostages,” she continued. “Thankfully, four of those hostages were reunited with their families tonight. And we mourn all of the innocent lives that have been lost in Gaza, including those tragically killed today.”

The Israeli operation retrieved four hostages who were taken into Gaza by Hamas on Oct. 7. Harris, speaking before the Michigan Democratic Party, celebrated their retrieval but spent more time lamenting the deaths of Palestinians killed in the operation, many of whom Israel has described as terrorists.

“We have been working every day to bring an end to this conflict in a way that ensures Israel is secure, brings home all hostages, ends ongoing suffering for Palestinian people and ensures that Palestinians can enjoy their right to self-determination, dignity and freedom,” Harris added. “As President Biden said last week, it is time for this war to end.”

Fox News reports that Hamas-run authorities in Gaza claim over 270 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli operation, though they make no distinction between militants and innocents. Israeli forces claim the number was fewer than 100.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also confirmed reports on Sunday that some number of innocents appeared to have been killed in the operation.

“We the United States are not in a position today to make a definitive statement about [the death toll],” Sullivan said in a Sunday interview with CNN. “But we do know this: innocent people were tragically killed in this operation. The exact number we don’t know, but innocent people were killed.”

“Every day that we see more innocent people lost is another horrible, awful, tragic day,” he added.

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