Rocket barrage targets US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone

No injuries, damage reported in attack; Washington says Iran-backed militias likely behind launches; Iraqi PM pans incident, calls on authorities to bring culprits to justice

A plume of smoke rises from Baghdad's Green Zone after rockets target the US embassy, early morning on December 8, 2023. (X video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A plume of smoke rises from Baghdad's Green Zone after rockets target the US embassy, early morning on December 8, 2023. (X video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Salvoes of rockets were launched on Friday at the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the mission said, the latest in a flurry of such attacks amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“A multi-rocket attack was launched at US and Coalition forces in the vicinity of Union III and the Baghdad embassy complex” without causing any reported casualties or damage, a US official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The United States leads an international coalition battling jihadists in Iraq and neighboring Syria, and its forces have come under repeated attack in recent weeks.

On Friday, there were a further five attempted strikes against US and coalition troops.

Drone or rocket attacks were launched twice against the Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and three bases in Syria, according to a US military official speaking anonymously, reporting “no casualties and no damage.”

The attacks come against a backdrop of the more than two-month war between US ally Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian terror group Hamas in Gaza.

In a statement, the US embassy said “two salvoes of rockets” were fired at the mission compound in Baghdad at around 4:15 a.m. (0115 GMT).

“Indications are the attacks were initiated by Iran-aligned militias,” said a US spokesperson.

The spokesperson called on Iraq’s government to protect diplomats, coalition partners, and facilities, adding: “We reiterate that we reserve the right to self-defense and to protect our personnel anywhere in the world.”

Balancing act

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani warned that attacks on embassies undermine the country’s security and called on security forces to bring those responsible to justice.

Brought to power by a pro-Tehran coalition, Sudani faces a difficult balancing act between the US and Iran.

Since mid-October, there have been dozens of rocket or drone strikes by pro-Iran groups against US or coalition forces in Iraq, as well as in Syria.

File: A handout picture released by Iraq’s Prime Minister’s Media Office on November 5, 2023 shows Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, right, meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Baghdad. (Iraq’s Prime Minister’s Media Office/AFP)

But Friday’s rocket attack was the first against the US embassy in Baghdad since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, raising regional tensions and fears of a wider conflict.

An Iraqi security official said that “three Katyusha rockets targeting the American embassy fell close to the Green Zone,” near the river Tigris.

There are roughly 2,500 US troops in Iraq and about 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

Pro-Iran groups have justified their attacks by pointing to American support for Israel.

In Iraq, most were claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of former paramilitaries that are now integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces.

US forces have struck Iran-linked targets in both Iraq and Syria in response.

Late on Friday, the Coordination Framework — an alliance of powerful pro-Iran Shiite factions, and the largest grouping in Iraq’s parliament — denounced the embassy attack.

File: US soldiers in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) patrol the countryside of al-Malikiya town (Derik in Kurdish) in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province July 17, 2023. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

It said it wanted to “preserve the security of diplomatic missions” and rejected “any terrorist attack targeting the security and sovereignty of the country.”

Sudani said Friday’s attacks were “unacceptable and unjustifiable.”

“Our security forces… will continue to protect embassies,” the Iraqi premier said.

His foreign affairs adviser, Farhad Alaaldin, said the government was “determined” to uphold Iraq’s stability.

More than 80 attacks

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq also condemned the attack and warned of repercussions.

“Iraq cannot afford to be drawn into a wider conflict,” UNAMI said on X, formerly Twitter.

Separately, on Friday evening an explosive drone struck a civilian building in Erbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, without causing any casualties, the Kurdish counter-terrorism service said without giving further details.

Washington has counted at least 84 attacks since October 17 against its forces in Iraq and Syria.

The attacks against US personnel have left at least 60 US personnel wounded, the Pentagon says.

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes and at a music festival, and seizing over 240 hostages.

In response, Israel launched a military campaign aiming to destroy the terror group’s military and governance capabilities and to secure the return of the hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says the total death toll stands at over 17,000, mostly women and minors. The figures and their breakdown cannot be verified, but the total number is largely in line with an assessment by Israel, which said it believes more than 5,000 of those killed are Hamas operatives.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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