Report: Iran Plans to Escalate Attacks Against US in Syria

Al-Tanf base in Syria. Reuters file photo
Al-Tanf base in Syria. Reuters file photo
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Report: Iran Plans to Escalate Attacks Against US in Syria

Al-Tanf base in Syria. Reuters file photo
Al-Tanf base in Syria. Reuters file photo

Iran is arming militants in Syria for a new phase of lethal attacks against US troops in the country, while also working with Russia on a broader strategy to drive Americans from the region, intelligence officials and leaked classified documents say.

Iran and its allies are building and training forces to use more powerful armor-piercing roadside bombs intended specifically to target US military vehicles and kill US personnel, according to classified intelligence reports obtained by The Washington Post. Such attacks would constitute an escalation of Iran’s long-running campaign of using proxy militias to launch rocket and drone strikes on US forces in Syria.

Drone attacks have wounded six US service members and killed a Defense Department contractor, and the new explosive devices could add to the toll of US casualties, risking a wider military confrontation with Iran, current and former intelligence analysts and weapons experts say. The same type of weapon, called an explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, was used by pro-Iranian insurgents in lethal attacks against American military convoys during the US occupation of Iraq.

Officials with Iran’s elite Quds Force unit directed and oversaw testing of one of the explosives, which reportedly sliced through a tank’s armored plating in a trial run conducted in late January in Dumayr, east of Damascus, the Syrian capital, according to one of the intelligence reports. The document, part of the trove of classified materials leaked on the messaging platform Discord, appears to be based on intercepted communications by Syrian and Lebanese militants allied to Iran. One apparent attempt to use such devices against US forces was apparently thwarted in late February when three bombs were seized by US-allied Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, a second document states.

“There has been a sea change in their risk-acceptance in killing Americans in Syria,” said Michael Knights, an expert on Iranian-backed militia groups and a founder of the website Militia Spotlight. Noting the devastating toll exacted by EFP bombs during the Iraq War, he added: “This will definitely kill people. And they’re thinking very hard about how to do it.”

Another document in the trove describes a new and broader effort by Moscow, Damascus and Tehran to oust the United States from Syria, a long-sought goal that could allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reclaim eastern provinces now controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces. The past three US administrations have maintained a small contingent of US troops in Syria — about 900 at any given time, augmented by hundreds more contractors — to prevent a resurgence by ISIS militants in the country, thwart Iranian and Russian ambitions, and provide leverage for other strategic objectives.



Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
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Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas

Israeli forces retreated from some Gaza City districts overnight after a fierce, week-long military offensive, leaving dozens of dead and wrecked homes and roads in the Palestinian enclave's biggest urban area, residents and rescue service said on Friday.

The offensive, 10 months into Israel's campaign to eliminate Hamas militants, took place as US-backed mediators sought to finalize a peace deal that would free remaining hostages taken by the militants in their cross-border rampage on Oct. 7.

According to Reuters, the Gaza Civil Emergency Service said teams had collected around 60 bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces over the past week from the area of Tel Al-Hawa and the edges of the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City.

Both residents and rescue teams cautioned that while tanks withdrew from some areas, Israeli snipers and tanks continued to control high ground at some locations, and warned residents against trying to return to their homes in those areas.

"There are bodies scattered in the streets, dismembered bodies, there are bodies of entire families, there are also bodies inside a home of an entire family that was completely burned," Gaza Strip Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Basal said in comments carried by media in Hamas-run Gaza.

The Israeli military had said on Thursday that its forces were working to dismantle Hamas capabilities in Gaza City, and that it "follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm." It said the same was not true of Hamas.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said they had fought fierce battles against Israeli forces, attacking them with anti-tank rockets and mortar fire, killing and wounding many. There has been no Israeli army comment on those claims.

Home to more than a quarter of Gaza's residents before the war, Gaza City was largely razed to the ground in late 2023, but hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have returned to homes in the ruins. Israel has once again ordered them out, though it is unclear where residents can go safely. Israel controls most of Gaza's borders and is also attacking central and southern Gaza.