Wednesday, 19 February, 2020

Iran war escalates with airstrikes in Iraq

Israel Government Press Office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with US President Donald Trump prior to the President's departure from Ben Gurion In Netanyahu Hints Israel Behind Attacks on Iranian Targets In Iraq 7Kobi Gideon GPO via Getty Images)Deborah Danan20 Aug 2019
Deanna Wagner | 23 August, 2019, 23:17

A large explosion hit an arms depot belonging to an Iranian-backed militia faction north of Baghdad on Tuesday, the latest in a series of mysterious blasts at military bases and munitions depots around the country in the past few weeks.

"We have accurate and confirmed information that this year, the Americans allowed four Israeli drones [into Iraq] via Azerbaijan to work within the USA fleet to carry out sorties targeting Iraqi military headquarters", said al-Mohandes. "We have no choice but to defend ourselves and our bases with the weapons at our disposal", said the statement, which was signed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the PMF.

If Israel did carry out the bombings, it would be an expansion of its campaign against Iran's mounting regional aggression, some of which is carried out via terror proxies such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen.

The Hashed fought alongside the Iraqi military to oust the Islamic State group from swathes of Iraqi territory the jihadis seized in 2014. The United States has denied any role in the blasts. The exact cause for the blast, which terrified residents and damaged nearby homes, is still unknown although some officials blamed it on faulty storage.

The most recent of the explosions at PMF positions came Tuesday night, at a munitions depot north of Baghdad. Israel has struck Iranian bases in neighboring Syria on numerous occasions, but it is not known to have done so in Iraq.

Some analysts have suggested the strikes might have been carried out by Israel, which past year signaled that it could attack suspected Iranian military assets in Iraq, as it has done with scores of air strikes in Syria.

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"We will act - and are now acting - against [Iran] wherever it is necessary", Mr. Netanyahu told Israeli reporters on a visit to Ukraine.

That attack, on the al-Shuhada base of the PMF, was also initially blamed on a drone strike amid reported allegations that the facility had recently received a shipment of Iranian ballistic missiles.

What Happened: An Iraqi Shiite militia position near Balad Air Base roughly 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad was hit by several explosions on August 20, the Middle East Monitor reported. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the issue. A copy of the report was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Following the incident, Baghdad banned unauthorized flights and ordered all military camps and munitions warehouses to be moved outside Iraqi cities. The U.S. military's Central Command quickly said it would comply with that order as its forces are "guests within Iraq's sovereign borders". A security source said one blast had hit an ammunition depot.

The findings obtained by the AP deepened the question of who is behind the explosions.