Influential Iraqi cleric calls for closure of US embassy after Israel’s Rafah strike

Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr gives a press conference at his home in the holy city of Najaf on July 20, 2023. (Qassem al-Kaabi/AFP)
Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr gives a press conference at his home in the holy city of Najaf on July 20, 2023. (Qassem al-Kaabi/AFP)

BAGHDAD — Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr renews his calls to close the US embassy in Baghdad, after an Israeli strike killed dozens of civilians in a camp in Gaza.

Health officials in Gaza say Sunday night strike, in which Israel targeted two senior Hamas officials, also killed dozens of displaced Palestinian civilians sheltering in tents in the southern city of Rafah.

Sadr condemns the Israeli strike and Washington’s “shameless” support for the “genocide” he charges is under way in Gaza.

“I reiterate my demand to expel” the US ambassador and “close the embassy through diplomatic means without bloodshed,” he says in a statement on X.

He adds that this would be a more effective deterrent than the use of force and would mean US officials “don’t have an excuse to destabilize Iraq.”

Sadr once led a militia fighting US-led forces after the 2003 invasion that toppled longtime dictator Saddam Hussein.

He retains a devoted following of millions among the country’s Shiite Muslim majority community, and wields great influence over Iraqi politics.

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