Biden vows to 'act forcefully' after exchange of attacks with Iran-backed militants in Syria
Joe Biden said the United States was "prepared to act forcefully to protect our people'' as Iran-linked groups in Syria responded to US attacks made in retaliation for a deadly drone strike.
But the US President, visiting Ottawa, also said his government "does not seek conflict with Iran''.
An American base at Al-Omar oil field was targeted by a salvo of missiles on Friday morning hours after the Pentagon announced carrying out multiple “precision air strikes” against facilities in eastern Syrian used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Pro-Iranian forces in Syria said in an online statement late on Friday that they had a "long arm" to respond to further US strikes on their positions, after an exchange of strikes in Syria in the previous 24 hours.
The statement, signed by the Iranian Advisory Committee in Syria, said US strikes had left several fighters dead and wounded, without specifying their nationality. "We have the capability to respond if our centres and forces in Syria are targeted," the statement said.
The US air strikes came after American intelligence concluded that a drone used to attack a US base near Hassakeh in north-east Syria on Thursday was of Iranian origin. The drone strike killed an American contractor and wounded five US troops and another American contractor.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday US time that, at Mr Biden's direction, he had ordered the "precision air strikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps".
Hours after those strikes, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said 10 rockets were fired at American and coalition forces at the Green Village base in northeast Syria.
There were no injuries or damages to facilities at the base, but one rocket struck a home about three miles away, causing minor wounds to two women and two children, CENTCOM said.
The subsequent rocket attack on Friday further raised tensions even as the White House sought to limit the prospect of escalating hostilities.
A White House national security spokesman also said the US was not seeking conflict with Iran and that Tehran should not be involved in supporting attacks on American facilities.
Military groups remain a threat
The US strikes in Syria were aimed at protecting American personnel in the country, where Islamic State and Iran-backed militant groups remain a threat, John Kirby told CNN during an interview on Friday.
Earlier Mr Austin said in a statement that attacks on American troops would draw a response.
"No group will strike our troops with impunity," he said in a statement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the war in Syria, said the US strikes said 14 people had been killed by the US strikes in Syria.
A rare American attack
Lethal attacks on American personnel in Syria are rare. In January, three drones attacked the US base at Tanf, in eastern Syria, injuring two Syrian fighters. While a little-known militia claimed the attack, analysts concluded it was likely a front group to give the IRGC plausible deniability.
Some 900 American troops are based in eastern Syria on a mission to prevent an Islamic State resurgence.
Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, who is supported by Iran and Russia, views the Americans as occupiers.
The Syrian leader is gradually being reintegrated into the Arab world after surviving a brutal 12-year civil war in which his attacks on Syrian civilians made him a pariah.
Saudi Arabia is close to reaching an agreement with Syria to reopen its embassy in Damascus for the first time in a decade, it was reported on Thursday.
Russia mediated the Saudi-Syria talks, The Wall Street Journal reported, in another sign of diminished US influence in the region after Beijing brokered a recent agreement between Saudi and Iran to restore ties.