National security adviser Jack Sullivan warned on Sunday that the “risk” of the Israel-Hamas war escalating into a wider regional conflict is “real,” vowing the U.S. will continue to respond to attacks from Iran proxies to deter the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East.
Asked on ABC News’s “This Week,” about what’s expected if Iran-backed groups continue attacks on U.S. forces, Sullivan said, “The president has been very straightforward on this — if American troops are attacked by Iran and its proxies, we will respond. We did respond if attacks continue, will respond, and I think the Iranians understand our message.”
“And we, of course, are taking every measure necessary to protect our forces, to increase our vigilance, and to work with other countries in the region to try to keep this conflict that is currently in Israel and Gaza from spinning out into a regional conflict, but the risk is real, and therefore vigil is high and the steps we are taking to deter that and prevent that are serious, systematic and ongoing.”
Sullivan’s comments come just days after U.S. fighter jets struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran and its proxies following attacks against U.S. troopers in the region.
Defense officials told reporters President Biden ordered U.S. military forces to carry out “self-defense airstrikes” on a weapons storage facility and an ammunition storage area used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Defense Sectary Lloyd Austin said last week the strikes by F-16 fighter jets are in response to a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by “Iranian-backed militia groups,” that began earlier this month.
Attacks on American forces have increased in the three weeks since militant group Hamas carried out a bloody incursion into Israel, gunning down hundreds of civilians and soldiers across multiple Israeli towns. Hamas’s attacks have left over 1,400 Israelis dead — including hundreds of civilians at their homes, at a bus stop and at a music festival.
Israel quickly responded with a bombardment of Gaza that ramped up over the weekend ahead of an expected ground incursion by Israel forces. Over 8,000 Palestinians have died so far in the conflict, the Gaza Health Ministry reported on Sunday.
Austin said the U.S. strikes in Syria were “narrowly-tailored,” and “intended solely to protect and defend U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria,” while noting they were separate from the ongoig violence between Israel and Hamas.
U.S. and world leaders however have expressed concerns over third-parties, like Iran and its proxies using the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which is backed by Iran, to engage in a separate front with Israel and escalate conflict in the region.
Since Hamas’s attacks, Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has also exchanged fire with Israel, fueling further concerns of escalation.
The U.S. has maintained its “unwavering support,” of Israel, while acknowledging the responsibility of the Israeli forces to differentiate between Hamas fighters and civilians amidst the violence.
Source: The Hill