Reports of killed, injured in airstrike on Iraqi Shiite militia base

The Iraqi Civil Defense reported that there were explosions at a munitions warehouse belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces at the Balad airbase north of Iraq.

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August 20, 2019 21:56
3 minute read.
Members of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) walk as they enter their headquarters

Members of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) walk as they enter their headquarters. (photo credit: ALAA AL-MARJANI/REUTERS)

Members of the Iraqi Hezbollah militia were killed and wounded during an aerial bombardment by unidentified aircraft of a base in the Saladin province north of Baghdad, according to Al Arabiya. 

The Iraqi Civil Defense reported that there were explosions at a munitions warehouse belonging to the al-Hashd ash-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Forces or PMF) at the Balad airbase.

Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari stated that there were no causalities in the incident, according to Al Mayadeen.

A fire broke out at the PMF air base in the Saladin province north of Baghdad in Iraq on Tuesday, according to Al Sumaria news.
The Director General of the Civil Defense Major General Kazim Salman Bohan stressed that the incident was an ammunition explosion inside the PMF headquarters next to the Balad base, according to Al Sumaria. Reinforcements have been sent to the area by order of the interior minister, said Bohan. 

 


Balad base hosts US forces and contractors, according to Reuters. The intended target was the PMF position nearby, but the explosion caused rockets stored in the munitions warehouse to strike the Balad base, according to a paramilitary spokesperson.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to questions about recent explosions in Iraq saying, "Iran has no immunity anywhere. A state that says 'We are going to destroy you, we will act against them wherever needed,'" according to Walla! news. When asked whether this holds true in terms of Iraq, the prime minister responded, "I haven't limited myself."


Shortly before returning to Israel from a visit in Ukraine, Netanyahu stated that "there are major security challenges to which the intelligence report I received a few minutes ago will testify," according to Ynet.

Three airstrikes have hit bases held by Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq since the beginning of July.


The first attack happened on July 19 at a base in Amerli in the Saladin province north of Baghdad. Iraqi and Iranian sources blamed Israel at the time, and A-sharq Al-Awsat reported that “diplomatic sources” confirmed the attack, specifying that it was carried out by an Israeli F-35.


Al Arabiya television news reported that Iranian-made ballistic missiles were transported to the base shortly before the attack via trucks used to transport refrigerated food. The identity of the aircraft which conducted the attack was unspecified at the time, and the US denied any involvement. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah members were killed in the air strike, according to Al Arabiya. However, the PMF denied that any Iranians were killed, according to Fars News Agency.


A source from the IRGC told the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida newspaper that preliminary investigations indicate that Israel was behind the attack. An Israeli drone launched from a US base in Syria attacked the base, which stored short- and medium-range missiles.


The IRGC reached this conclusion because the type of missile that hit the camp is the same used by the IAF in attacks on Syria.


A-sharq Al-Awsat also reported that a second attack by Israel on Sunday on a base in Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad, had targeted Iranian advisers who were present at the base and a shipment of ballistic missiles that had just arrived from Iran.

Last week, what was likely an airstrike caused explosions and a fire at a weapons depot belonging to the PMF militia south of Baghdad. One person was killed and 29 others were injured in the explosion, according to Sky News Arabia.

Sources in Iraq issued conflicting statements as to the cause of the attack last week. Some claimed that it was an accident caused by improper storage, while others claimed that Israel and the US attacked the depot.


Iran has begun moving its assets from areas repeatedly struck by Israel to locations closer to the border with Iraq, specifically the T4 Airbase located between Homs and Palmyra.


In September, Reuters reported that Iran had transferred ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq over the course of several months and that it is developing the capacity to build more there. The missiles that were said to have been transferred include the Fateh-110, Zolfaqar and Zelzal types, which have ranges of 200-700 km., allowing them to be able to threaten both Saudi Arabia and Israel.


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