Israel has recently carried out a series of airstrikes against Iranian-linked military targets in Iraq, two senior US officials told the New York Times on Friday.
The officials said that Israel has carried out “several strikes in recent days on munitions storehouses for Iranian-backed groups in Iraq.”
A senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said that Israel was also responsible for the July 19 strike on a military base north of Baghdad being used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to transport weapons to Syria.
The official said this Israeli strike was launched from inside Iraq, though he did not provide further details. He said it destroyed a cache of guided missiles with a range of 200 kilometers (125 miles).
The report comes on the heels of remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that hinted that Israel was responsible for the spate of attacks against Iran-backed militias in Iraq over the past month.
“I don’t grant Iran immunity anywhere,” he said to Channel 9, which caters to Israeli Russian speakers. “Iran is a state, a power, that has sworn to annihilate Israel. It’s trying to establish bases against us everywhere. In Iran itself, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen.”
The interviewer then asked: “In other words, if necessary, we act in Iraq also?”
Netanyahu replied: “We’re acting not only if necessary, we’re acting in very many theaters against a state that seeks to annihilate us. Obviously I’ve given the security forces the order and the operational freedom to do what is necessary in order to disrupt these plots by Iran.”
There have been a series of blasts in Iraq over the past month at training camps and arms depots used by the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces, which are mainly composed of pro-Iranian militias.
Israel has repeatedly bombed Iranian targets in neighboring Syria, but an expansion of the campaign to Iraq — where the Jewish state struck the Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 — would risk damaging Washington’s relations with Baghdad.
Israeli officials have identified Iraq as a likely growing base of operations for Iran-backed efforts against the Jewish state, but Israeli officials have so far neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for any strikes in the country.
An Iraqi government report obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday said a massive explosion at a munitions depot run by an Iranian-backed militia near Baghdad last week was caused by a drone strike. The report outlined the conclusions of a fact-finding committee ordered by the government to investigate the August 12 explosion at the al-Saqr military base.
It said the blast was caused by a drone strike that sparked a huge fire, and ruled out earlier suggestions that it was caused by an electrical short-circuit or faulty storage of munitions that allowed them to overheat in sweltering summer temperatures.
AFP contributed to this report.