Iraqi political bloc calls alleged Israeli strikes ‘a declaration of war’
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Iraqi political bloc calls alleged Israeli strikes ‘a declaration of war’

Coalition representing Iran-backed paramilitaries calls for US troops to leave the country, says it holds Washington responsible for airstrikes

Members of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces carry the coffin of their comrade Kazem Mohsen, known by his nom de guerre Abu Ali al-Dabi, during his funeral procession in the central Iraqi shrine city of Najaf on August 26, 2019. (Haidar Hamdani/Hashed al-Shaabi Media/AFP)
Members of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces carry the coffin of their comrade Kazem Mohsen, known by his nom de guerre Abu Ali al-Dabi, during his funeral procession in the central Iraqi shrine city of Najaf on August 26, 2019. (Haidar Hamdani/Hashed al-Shaabi Media/AFP)

A powerful bloc in Iraq’s parliament called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq following a series of airstrikes blamed on Israel that targeted Iran-backed Shiite militias in the country.

The Fatah Coalition said on Monday it holds the United States fully responsible for the reported Israeli strikes, “which we consider to be a declaration of war on Iraq and its people.”

The coalition is a parliament bloc representing Iran-backed paramilitary militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The coalition’s statement came a day after a drone strike in the western Iraqi town of al-Qaim killed a commander with the forces — the latest in strikes allegedly conducted by Israel against the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

The statement added that US troops are no longer needed in Iraq.

The field commander killed in the strike was buried Monday morning near Baghdad.

Mourners hold a banner with Arabic that reads, “Masses of the Popular Mobilization Forces chant death to America, death to Israel” during the funeral procession of Abu Ali al-Dabi, a fighter of the Popular Mobilization Forces, who was killed in a drone attack, in Baghdad, Iraq, August 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)

Kazem Mohsen was killed on Sunday “in an Israeli drone strike in Al-Qaim while on duty,” the Popular Mobilization Forces said in a statement, adding that he was a “logistical support chief” for the group’s Brigade 45.

“Hundreds participated… in the funeral procession this morning for Kazem Mohsen,” also known as Abu Ali al-Dabi, it said.

The PMF said one other fighter was severely wounded in the attack on Brigade 45, a unit based about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Iraq’s western border with Syria.

Two officials from the group said the vehicles targeted in the strike 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.

Iraq’s PMF accused Israel of the deadly drone attack on Sunday, the first time it 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.

The Israeli military refused to comment on the matter.

This photo released by Popular Mobilization Forces shows shows the aftermath of a drone attack near Qaim border crossing with Syria, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (Popular Mobilization Forces via AP)

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.

The PMF was established in 2014 from disparate armed groups and volunteers to fight the Islamic State extremist group.

In this June 23, 2017 file photo, supporters of Iraqi Hezbollah brigades, backed by Iran, march on a representation of an Israeli flag with a portrait of late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP/Hadi Mizban)

It has received Iranian training but operates officially under Iraq’s armed forces and uses military unit names.

Brigade 45 is one of several units made up of Kataib Hezbollah fighters, designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization.

A military source from Kataib Hezbollah told AFP on Sunday that 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.

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