Suspected explosive-laden drone crashes in Golan; Iraqi militia claims responsibility

Some damage, but no injuries, reported; IDF believes UAV, which did not trigger sirens, launched from Syria

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)
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)

An apparent explosive-laden drone believed to have been launched from Syria crashed in the southern Golan Heights Wednesday night, in an attack claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed paramilitary groups.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed near the moshav of Eliad in northern Israel, causing no injuries but some damage to a number of structures.

In a statement to Golan Heights residents, authorities said the “hostile unmanned aircraft” was located by Israeli troops operating in northern Israel.

The UAV did not trigger Israel’s sirens and there was no attempt to intercept it, as it had gone undetected. The aircraft was believed by the military to have been launched from Syria.

There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

A statement from the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi, itself a coalition of former paramilitary forces integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces, says it carried out the attack using “appropriate weapons,” without elaborating.

Last week, 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 Monday, the US military carried out strikes on three sites used by the Iran-backed forces in Iraq after an attack wounded three American personnel earlier in the day. The drone attack, claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, wounded three US military personnel, one critically.

Members of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces – PMF) paramilitaries stand holding their flags during the funeral of Hassan Hammadi al-Amiri, a fallen member of the group Kataeb Hezbollah, one of the factions of the PMF, in Baghdad on December 26, 2023, after he was killed earlier in a US airstrike. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

The retaliatory US strikes killed at least one person and wounded 24, security forces later said.

“The strikes were intended to degrade and disrupt the ongoing series of attacks against the United States and our partners, and to deter Iran and Iran-backed militia groups from conducting or supporting further attacks on United States personnel and facilities,” US President Joe Biden said in a letter on Wednesday to the top leaders of the US Congress.

The US strikes in Iraq likely killed “a number of Kataeb Hezbollah militants” and destroyed facilities used by the group, the US military said.

Baghdad strongly condemned the US military action and said “it runs counter to the pursuit of enduring mutual interests in establishing security and stability, and it opposes the declared intention of the American side to enhance relations with Iraq.”

The US — which led the 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein — now has about 2,500 soldiers deployed in Iraq and around 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State terror group.

In his letter, Biden warned that the US “stands ready to take further action, as necessary and appropriate, to address further threats or attacks.”

Washington has also said Iran has been “deeply involved” in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea, where a number of commercial ships have been attacked by the Tehran-backed Houthis.

This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows a Houthi forces helicopter approaching the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on November 19, 2023. Yemen’s Houthis have seized the ship in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen after threatening to seize all vessels owned by Israeli companies. (Houthi Media Center via AP)

Iran denies involvement in the attacks by the Houthis, who control much of Yemen including the capital and have attacked commercial vessels that they say have Israeli links, in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was being attacked in seven separate theaters amid 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, [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.

On Monday, 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.

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