Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrives for a classified briefing for Senators on Israel and Gaza at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. AP
"The precision self-defense strikes are a response to a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups that began on 17 October," he said in a statement.
Early Wednesday, Israeli strikes killed eight soldiers in southern Syria, Syrian state media reported, in what the Israeli occupation army said was a response to earlier rocket fire.
The White House accused Iran Monday of "actively facilitating" attacks on US bases in the Middle East, as it expressed concern over the potential for escalation of the Israeli war in the Gaza Strip.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the US expects the Israel war to escalate through involvement by movements related to Iran, stressing that President Joe Biden's administration is prepared to respond if US personnel or armed forces become the target of any hostilities.
On 17 October, the US military ordered 2,000 personnel to prepare for deployment to the Middle East as a show of force as Israel's war on Gaza intensifies.
During more than a decade of civil war in Syria, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on its northern neighbor, primarily targeting Hezbollah fighters and other Iran-backed forces as well as Syrian army positions.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes it carries out on Syria, but it has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-foe Iran, which supports President Bashar Al-Assad's government, to expand its presence.
Israel occupied much of the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the United Nations.