IDF downs two apparent drones launched at Israel by Iran-backed Iraqi militia

One target intercepted by fighter jet outside Israeli airspace, another over Golan Heights, in third attack to date claimed by Islamic Resistance in Iraq

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

File: An Israeli fighter jet releases flares as it flies over the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, December 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
File: An Israeli fighter jet releases flares as it flies over the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, December 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Israeli fighter jets on Sunday night downed two apparent drones launched by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed paramilitary groups — one over northern Israel and the other outside Israeli airspace.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said a “suspicious aerial target” — believed to be a drone — that was heading toward Israel from the east was downed by a fighter jet outside Israeli airspace.

It did not elaborate on whether the apparent drone was downed over Syria or Jordan.

Another aerial target — also thought to be a drone — that entered Israeli airspace from Syria was also downed by a fighter jet, the IDF said.

In the second incident, a drone infiltration alarm sounded in the southern Golan Heights communities of Keshet and Katzrin.

A statement from the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces, itself a coalition of former paramilitary forces integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces, said it attacked Israel using “appropriate weapons,” without elaborating.

Members of the Hezbollah brigades, Kataeb Hezbollah, attend the funeral of Fadel al-Maksusi, a fighter who was also part of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, the group that has claimed all recent attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria, in Baghdad on November 21, 2023. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq said the attack was in support of Gaza, given Israel’s war there against the Hamas terror group.

The incident Sunday marked at least the third drone attack on Israel carried out by the Iran-backed Iraqi militia amid the war in the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday night, an explosive-laden drone crashed in the Golan Heights, causing some damage to structures. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed for the attack.

Earlier this month, the group claimed it struck a “vital target” in the Mediterranean Sea several days prior. A source in the group told Al Jazeera that the target was the Karish gas rig off northern Israel’s coast.

The claims came shortly after the IDF announced it had downed a drone on December 15 over the sea near Lebanon as it approached Israeli airspace. The IDF did not elaborate further on where the drone was launched from, or why it published the incident a week after it happened.

The group has also repeatedly attacked US sites and troops in Iraq and Syria since October 7, when Hamas, also backed by Iran, launched its murderous attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages. The group opposes US support for Israel in its war against Hamas.

A tally by US military officials has counted 103 attacks against its troops in Iraq and Syria since October 17. Most of the attacks have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was being attacked in seven separate theaters, during the ongoing Gaza war, and the military has so far responded in six of them.

“We are in a multi-front war. We are being attacked from seven different arenas: Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), Iraq, Yemen, and Iran,” said Gallant at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“We have already responded and acted in six of these areas, and I say here in the clearest way: Anyone who acts against us is a potential target, there is no immunity for anyone,” he added.

The IDF has ratcheted up attacks on the Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon in recent days, as the military aims to push the terror group back from Israel’s northern border.

Recent days have also seen several airstrikes in Syria attributed to the IDF, believed to be part of efforts by Israel to prevent Iran from supplying arms to Hezbollah during the ongoing skirmishes.

Last week, an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria killed a senior officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi, in the Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeinab. Iran has vowed to retaliate.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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