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Map shows US forces under fire across Middle East

President Joe Biden is struggling to both “speak softly and carry a big stick,” as attacks on American forces in the Middle East mount and Israeli troops press their devastating assault on the Gaza Strip despite growing concern in the U.S.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters on Thursday that there have now been at least 46 separate attacks on American forces in the region since the latest Israel-Hamas conflagration began—24 in Iraq and 22 in Syria.

At least 56 U.S. personnel have been injured, with one civilian contractor killed. The USS Carney has intercepted Houthi missiles and drones in the Red Sea off the Yemeni coast, and an American MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down in the same area.

Attacks involving American forces are being carried out by Iranian-aligned militias in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. U.S. airstrikes targeted—for the second time in the past month—Iranian-linked sites in Syria on Thursday in response to the recent operations. But U.S. “self-defense” strikes have not stemmed the violence.

Tehran’s network of Middle Eastern partner forces has intensified activity following Hamas’ infiltration attack into southern Israel on October 7, in which more than 1,400 people were killed and some 242 people taken back into the Gaza Strip as hostages. Newsweek has contacted the Iranian Mission to the United Nations by email to request comment.

More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed there amid Israel’s unprecedented assault, according to the Associated Press citing data from the Gaza Health Ministry. The campaign has outraged the Islamic world, unsettled many of Israel’s Western allies, and sparked fresh clashes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. There, at least 153 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF and extremist Israeli settlers, per Associated Press figures.

The Biden administration is resolutely defending Israel’s right to retaliate against Hamas, while also reportedly pushing their allies to wrap up the Gaza operation quickly before the conflict spreads. The White House is also struggling to defend its image as a neutral arbiter in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, able to deliver a two-state solution long considered defunct.

“The U.S. is trying to limit any regional involvement as Israel continues its operation in Gaza,” Mohanad Hage Ali, the deputy director for research at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, told Newsweek.

In the eyes of Iran and its regional allies, “the U.S. is playing a vital role in the conflict,” Ali added. “It’s supplying Israel with important intelligence, providing needed weapons, and also taking part in planning and implementing the military operations.”

US soldier and convoy in Syria

An American soldier stands next to an armored personnel carrier near the town of Tal Hamis, southeast of the city of Qameshli in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah governorate, on January 26, 2023. Attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria have intensified amid Israel’s latest war on Gaza.

The U.S. also wants Israel to allow pauses in the fighting to let humanitarian aid into the impoverished and war-torn 141-square-mile statelet. Some 2.3 million Palestinians have been withering there under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, successive IDF assaults since 2005, and authoritarian Hamas rule since 2007.

In a statement sent to Newsweek on Friday, the Mercy Corps humanitarian organization said that pauses in the IDF offensive “will not provide a sufficient respite from the bombardments, ease the impacts of the imposed siege, or deliver the safety guarantees that both civilians and humanitarian organizations need.”

“Only a sustained ceasefire, agreed to by all parties, will meaningfully mitigate the tragic humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and allow organizations like Mercy Corps to deliver lifesaving assistance desperately needed by 2.3 million people who continue to be trapped under heavy bombardment, cut off from food, water and medicine.”

The deepening crisis threatens to knock the Biden administration’s foreign policy off balance, even as it grapples with a sclerotic Russia-Ukraine war and looks ahead to the 2024 presidential election.

The ramifications of Israel’s war on Hamas, Ali said, will reverberate across the Middle East for some time to come, destabilizing U.S.-led Western efforts to pacify and disengage from a region where successes have been fleeting and failures numerous.

“It’s going to be beyond what comes out of Hezbollah and its allies in the region,” Ali said. “The impact it’s having on new generation of Arabs and Muslims across the region, I think will have an impact definitely beyond this specific moment.

“I think the scale is so big in such a short period of time, it definitely will reverberate and stay with us,” Ali added. “I think U.S. and Western interests definitely should be of concern… They should be worried about what comes next after this.”

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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