Iran-backed forces across the Middle East have attacked American positions and allies at least 23 times in the last two weeks, the Pentagon said Monday, adding that a U.S. military response will occur "at a time and place of our choosing, and we're going to continue to do so."
Since October 17, in the wake of Hamas's war on Israel, Iranian terror forces have launched 14 attacks on American assets in Iraq and nine in Syria "through a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets," a senior Defense Department official told reporters during a press briefing.
The U.S. military responded last Thursday to these strikes by bombing Iranian positions in Syria, and American forces will continue to target Tehran's proxy groups at will, the official said. Iran, the Pentagon assesses, is targeting American forces, threatening to drag the United States into a larger regional war.
"It's about Iran and the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], who use infrastructure, militants, and proxies on the ground across the Middle East to include both Iraq and Syria," the Defense Department official said, speaking only on background. "We reserve the right to respond at a time and place of our choosing, and we're going to continue to do so."
"Let me be clear," the official added: "We're going to continue to respond when the president decides that's necessary for U.S. force protection."
In the weeks since the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing more than 1,400, Tehran's allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen have stepped up their terrorism activities. These activities include rocket fire and shelling on Israel from areas in both Syria and Lebanon, where Hezbollah forces are stationed.
Iran's assets in Iraq have also increased their strikes on American forces in the country, resulting in last week's military response by the United States.
The Pentagon also said that Hamas militants are using hospitals and other civilian structures to conduct their terrorism operations against Israel.
The Israeli military's foray into civilian areas of the Gaza Strip has fueled accusations that the country is intentionally targeting innocents, claims that have been amplified by anti-Israel U.S. lawmakers such as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.).
The Pentagon, however, says it has seen evidence that Hamas is using civilian structures as command centers.
"What I would say about Hamas is [its] use of civilian structures for command-and-control facilities and to hide weapons," the official said. "There is an abundance of public reporting about the ways in which Hamas uses civilians as human shields and civilian structures to hide and obfuscate tunnels, as well as weapons."
This includes "Hamas's use of hospitals to emplace command-and-control infrastructure or other weapons that can be used against Israeli civilians."
As of Monday afternoon, the Pentagon said it has no plans to facilitate "military-assisted departures" for American citizens stuck in the region.