American officials confirm Israel behind strikes in Iraq – report

When asked about the attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "we are operating in many areas against a state that wants to annihilate us."

August 23, 2019 11:54
2 minute read.
American officials confirm Israel behind strikes in Iraq – report

A man glances at a rocket that flew away from an Iraqi militia group's weapons depot after it caught fire, in Baghdad, Iraq, August 13, 2019. (photo credit: KHALID AL MOUSILY / REUTERS)

American officials have confirmed that Israel has been carrying out airstrikes against Iranian targets in Iraq, the New York Times reported on Thursday. One senior official also expressed concerns that Israel was pushing the limits and its operation could eventually lead to the US withdrawing its troops from Iraq.

According to the US officials, Israel was behind several raids that struck military targets in Iraq with connections to Iran, including an attack that on July 19 hit a base used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to transfer weapons to Syria.

The NYT report added that the July 19 attack was carried out from within Iraq and destroyed a load of guided missiles with a range of 125 miles.

On Tuesday, explosions rocked an arms depot belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) near Balad air base some 80 km. north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The PMF – militias incorporated into Iraq's security apparatus in 2016 to fight against Islamic State are directly financed and equipped by Iran. However, the PMF still cooperate with Iraqi troops, who work with the US military in the region. The Balad base itself hosts US forces and contractors, according to Reuters.

After the latest strike, Iraq's national security adviser Falih al-Fayadh said that Baghdad did not want to take a side in the conflict between Iran and other countries and being "pushed into a war," the NYT added.  Al-Fayadh also stated that they did not know yet who was behind the attack.

Israel has not officially confirmed any operation in Iraq. However, in an interview with Russian-language Israeli television Channel 9, broadcasted on Thursday, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked whether Israel would operate against Iranian targets in Iraq if needed, he did not deny possible Israeli involvement, Reuters reported.

"We are operating - not just if needed, we are operating in many areas against a state that wants to annihilate us. Of course, I gave the security forces a free hand and instructed them to do anything necessary to thwart Iran's plans," Netanyahu said.

Earlier this week, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat quoted Western diplomatic sources saying that Israeli operations against Iran in Iraq and Syria had been given the green light both from Washington and from Moscow, with the understanding that they were "vital to ensuring Israeli security."

Israel has warned repeatedly that it would not allow an Iranian presence in Syria.

In January ongoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot officially admitted for the first time that hundreds of airstrikes were conducted by Israel over the years, preventing the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

Anna Ahronheim and Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.

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