U.S. President Joe Biden called off a second airstrike in Syria at the last minute in the past week after being warned that a woman and some children were spotted at one of the target sites, a senior administration official told NBC News.
Avoiding civilian casualties, only one target was bombed in the operation, which came as a retaliation by the U.S. for recent rocket attacks on American servicemen that the Pentagon blamed on Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, U.S. Defense officials said.
Based on intelligence reports, a woman with children were in a courtyard of the intended target, and Biden cancelled the order to attack that target with an F-15E fighter-bomber jet already airborne to deliver the munition.
The target that was attacked last week by U.S. aircraft was a logistics waystation in eastern Syria that U.S. battlefield reconnaissance said was used by an Iranian-backed paramilitary group.
The Pentagon blamed a deadly Feb. 15 rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition military facility in Irbil in northern Iraq on the militia.
Ten medium-range 122-millimeter rockets, fired from the east, hit the base, U.S. officials said. The base is home to around 1,400 coalition soldiers.
The Syria attack was Biden's first known use of military force as commander in chief, a decision that made some lawmakers on Capitol Hill upset as the President made the move without consent by Congress.
'Last week's airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch will continue to stretch its war powers," Daily Mail quoted Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine as saying in a tweet.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress – not the president – has the right to authorize a military strike or war.
The objective of the bombing was to deliver a message to the Islamic Republic's leadership that the new U.S. administration would not hesitate to carry out a military response to provocation in the Middle East but does not intend to escalate tensions.