UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Iraqi authorities have begun investigating a raid by two Israeli drones that killed a leader of the Iranian-backed faction amid fears the country could become a proxy battlefield for other countries.
On Sunday, two drones launched an air strike on a brigade of the Popular Mobilization Brigade in Anbar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border in the west, killing one commander and seriously wounding another.
“An investigation is underway to determine the nature of the strike,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasul, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, told AFP on Monday, without giving details.
The Popular Mobilization, which includes factions, mostly Shiite, hastened to accuse Israel of being behind the attack, according to a statement Sunday.
“As part of a series of Zionist attacks on Iraq, the Israeli crows have re-targeted the Popular Mobilization, this time through two planes marching deep into Iraqi territory in Anbar province,” the statement said.
“This blatant attack came with US air coverage of the area as well as a large observation balloon near the scene.”
The Popular Mobilization Forces mourned on Monday morning in Baghdad, Kazem Mohsen, one of its leaders who died in the strike Sunday.
She pointed out that Mohsen, and his military name, “Abu Ali al-Dubai”, was “the official logistics support for the 45th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization.”
The 45th Brigade, among several brigades, belonged to the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, which the United States ranks as a “foreign terrorist organization”.
During the funeral, Ahmed al-Asadi, spokesman for the Fatah bloc, which includes the majority of Shiite faction representatives, said, “In the coming days we will hold an emergency parliamentary meeting to discuss this issue and take appropriate decisions,” according to a video posted by the crowd.
– “Declaration of War” –
The strike comes after weeks of ambiguity surrounding explosions in rocket stores belonging to the Popular Mobilization blamed by the United States, at the same time, hinting at the involvement of Israel.
Four bases used by the PMU have been hit by mysterious explosions over the past month, most recently on Tuesday at a headquarters near Balad Air Base, where a US force is stationed north of Baghdad.
The Iraqi government has investigated some of these incidents and said an unknown drone was the cause of one.
There were no specific charges or full results of the investigations.
Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf told AFP that the ministry was awaiting the results of the investigation committee set up by the prime minister.
The deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Council, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, who is on the US blacklist, blamed the United States for the attacks last week.
But the formal indictment of Israel on Sunday evening was the first of its kind.
The Fatah bloc strongly condemned Sunday’s raid, saying in a statement that it considered the latest attack “a declaration of war on Iraq and its people and national sovereignty.”
The Popular Mobilization factions, founded in 2014 by the supreme Shia fatwa, are fighting under the leadership of the Iraqi armed forces. But the United States and Israel see some of these factions as an extension of their arch-foe Iran.
– Regional conflict –
The United States has been carrying out a campaign of “extreme pressure” on Iran since it quit the historic nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers last year.
The Pentagon has denied involvement in the latest attacks. Israel has so far not asserted any responsibility, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that “he will act against (Iran) whenever necessary.”
Israel says Iran is transporting missiles to its allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that could be used to target Israel.
Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian forces and their allies in war-torn Syria since 2011, including last weekend near Damascus.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hizbollah and the Lebanese army said on Sunday that two Israeli drones had targeted the southern suburb of Beirut and damaged one after the blast damaged the party’s media center.
A pro-Damascus Palestinian faction accused Israel on Monday of striking positions in eastern Lebanon near the Syrian border.
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