Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday appeared to drop the biggest hint yet that Israel was operating in Iraq against Iranian interests.
Netanyahu, during a Facebook live stream to supporters, said: “I am doing everything to defend our nation’s security from all directions: in the north facing Lebanon and Hezbollah, in Syria facing Iran and Hezbollah, unfortunately in Iraq as well facing Iran. We are surrounded by radical Islam led by Iran.”
His comments came after the Iraqi government accused Israel of being behind an attack on a powerful Iran-backed paramilitary force in its territory earlier this week.
Israeli officials have so far avoided confirming suspicions that the Jewish state was behind a series of recent strikes targeting the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, though Netanyahu had hinted at the possibility earlier this month.
A string of PMF bases across Iraq have been hit by explosions and have reported drone sightings over the past five weeks which the Iran-backed force has blamed on Israel and the US.
Baghdad has fumed over the series of mysterious attacks.
On Monday the Fatah Coalition, which represents the PMF in the Iraqi parliament, said 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.” It called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Israel’s military has said it does not comment on “foreign reports,” but several Israeli leaders have hinted at Jerusalem’s involvement in the strikes. On Monday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Israel was responsible for some, but not all, of the strikes around the region blamed on it.
Two unnamed senior US officials told The New York Times last week that Israel was responsible for at least two attacks on PMF positions.
Regional tensions have shot up in recent days after Israel carried out airstrikes on Iranian and Iran-backed fighters in Syria to thwart what it said was a plot to fly explosives-laden drones into the country.
Jerusalem has also been blamed for an airstrike in Lebanon, prompting Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to give a fiery speech Sunday in which he vowed revenge.
AFP contributed to this report.