Israel blamed as deaths reported in airstrike on pro-Iran Iraqi militia

Drone reportedly targets convoy of Iraqi Shiite militia, killing field commander, amid spiraling tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019. (video screenshot)
Illustrative. Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019. (video screenshot)

At least one member of a pro-Iranian Iraqi militia was killed in an airstrike by an unidentified drone along the Iraq-Syria border on Sunday, in a raid later blamed on Israel.

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news site reported that the strike  in the al-Qaim region of Iraq, an area that is home to a number of pro-Iranian militia groups, was carried out by Israel.

The Israeli military refused to comment on the matter.

According to the Lebanese outlet, the casualties were members of the 45th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of militias that fight alongside the Iraqi military. The 45th Brigade is specifically affiliated with Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi organization loosely connected to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Two officials from the group confirmed the attack and said the vehicles were being used to transport weapons. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists about the matter.

“An unidentified drone targets two cars belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces’ 45th Brigade in al-Qaim in the border region between Syria and Iraq,” according to Al-Mayadeen.

Al-Jazeera reported that six people were killed in the drone strike, while the PMF confirmed that one fighter was killed and another heavily wounded, revising an earlier toll of two dead.

A military source from Kataib Hezbollah told AFP that one of the dead, Abu Ali al-Dabi, was a member of the unit’s rocket squad.

“He fought in Syria and was previously detained by the Americans,” the source said.

Iraq’s PMF accused Israel of a deadly drone attack on Sunday, the first time they directly blamed the Jewish state after a series of blasts hit bases run by the paramilitary force.

“As part of the string of Zionist attacks on Iraq, the evil Israeli crows have returned to target the Hashed al-Shaabi [PMF], this time with two drones inside Iraqi territory,” the statement said.

A number of PMF bases have been targeted in recent weeks in strikes attributed to the Israeli military, apparently as part of Jerusalem’s campaign to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in the region.

On Saturday night, the Israel Defense Forces conducted airstrikes in Syria to thwart a plan by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, working with allied local Shiite militias, to send a number of “killer drones” into Israel to attack targets in the north of the country, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.

Israeli forces in the north have been put on high alert, amid fears of a reprisal attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held emergency meetings with defense officials overnight and on Sunday amid the heightened tensions.

“We won’t tolerate attacks on Israel from any country in the area. Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences. I stress: The state will bear the consequences,” Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, said Sunday, during a tour of the Golan Heights with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

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