Airstrikes said to hit Iran-backed militia in Iraq
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Airstrikes said to hit Iran-backed militia in Iraq

Attack near Syrian border follows series of recent bombings in area, which some have blamed on Israel

Illustrative: Popular Mobilization Forces members stand by a burning truck after a drone attack blamed on Israel near Qaim border crossing, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo)
Illustrative: Popular Mobilization Forces members stand by a burning truck after a drone attack blamed on Israel near Qaim border crossing, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo)

Unknown aircraft reportedly struck bases belonging to Iranian-backed militias in Iraq close to the Syrian border late Friday night.

The Shiite fighters in the Boukamal region responded with anti-aircraft fire, according to local media. There were no reported casualties.

The area has been hit by several airstrikes in recent weeks that some have attributed to Israel.

On Tuesday, satellite images released by the private Israeli intelligence company ImageSat International showed expanded construction at compounds allegedly controlled by Iran along the Syria-Iraq border.

The compound — known as the Imam Ali Base — is considered a critical element in Tehran’s efforts to create a land corridor under its control from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, into Lebanon and out to the Mediterranean Sea. Israeli officials have expressed grave concerns about such a “land bridge” as it could allow Iran to more easily transport weapons, fighters and materiel throughout the Middle East.

Satellite image showing ongoing construction at an alleged Iranian-controlled border crossing in Syria’s Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, on September 21, 2019. (ImageSat International)

On September 22, Lebanese television reported an airstrike on a military base belonging to an Iran-backed force in Western Iraq, claiming that the base belonged to the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of largely Iran-backed militias.

On September 19, Arabic-language media reported that unknown aircraft attacked positions in the Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, killing at least five people and wounding nine, after a similar strike two days earlier.

On September 9, aircraft targeted an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in the region, killing at least 18 fighters and destroying at least eight storehouses. A Syrian security official said at the time that Israeli jets were behind the attack but denied there were casualties.

Since mid-July, eight arms depots and training camps belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces have been targeted in attacks.

The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network has reported that the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group also maintains a presence in the Boukamal region.

The Popular Mobilization Force has blamed both Israel and the US for the string of blasts and drone sightings at its bases. Israeli officials have not publicly commented on these allegations, though Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility that Israel has struck in Iraq.

Also Friday night Iraq announced it would reopen a major border crossing to Syria in the Boukamal region, which was once controlled by the Islamic State. The al-Qa’im crossing had remained closed since its liberation in 2017. It is expected to open Monday for passengers and goods.

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