Israel Katz butts in on Iraqi protests, but not Lebanon

First official comments by an Israeli minister come hours after commander of a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi militia accuses Israel of exacerbating unrest

An Iraqi demonstrator uses a sling shot during the ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Iraqi demonstrator uses a sling shot during the ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz slammed Iran on Monday, accusing the Islamic Republic of murdering demonstrators in Iraq, hours after the commander of Iraq’s Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia accused Israel of exacerbating the unrest in the country.
“We sympathize with the Iraqi people’s protest for freedom & dignity. We condemn their repression and murder led by Qassem Suleimani & Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Iraqi people have a long & glorious history. Many Israelis from Iraq fondly remember years of living together,” Katz tweeted in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

Three protesters were shot dead by Iraqi security forces who opened fire on a crowd trying to storm the Iranian consulate in the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala overnight. While another five people were said to have been killed by security forces today.
While it was the first comment by an Israeli official regarding the ongoing protests in Iraq, a country with which Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations, Katz did not mention Lebanon.
His comment was criticized by many on Twitter, who suggested that Israel “should sit this one out.”
On Sunday, the leader of the Iranian-backed Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Iraqi militia group, Qais Khazali, said Israel and the United Arab Emirates are playing “a bigger role than the US and Saudi Arabia” in the protests which have gripped the country.
“Israel plays a more powerful role than the US in the unrest – and the Persian Gulf Arab littoral states are also a part of this plot against Iraq, and the UAE is playing a more powerful role than Saudi Arabia in hatching plots against Iraq,” Khazali told the Arabic-language al-Iraqiyah news channel.
Khazali said that Israel’s Mossad is operating in several provinces in northern Iraq, the city of Sulaimaniyeh and running a “joint base” with the CIA and Mossad at Baghdad Airport.
The “Mossad is attempting to use some defectors of certain Iraqi parties to increase clashes, and the Ba’athis are also one of the main pivots to provoke unrest in Iraq,” he said.
During a funeral for a leading commander of the group in late October, Khazali warned that he would “take revenge” for the deaths of militia members killed in the protests.
“His blood is on America and Israel’s hands, but I will take revenge – many times over,” Khazali told mourners. “This blood is proof to all our people of the size of the conspiracy that is targeting us.”
Millions of people have taken to the streets of Iraq and Lebanon since October to protest the Iranian-allied governments and political elites who they have accused of corruption and mismanagement of state finances.
Reuters contributed to this report.