WASHINGTON: Israel has carried out at least one strike against a weapons depot in Iraq, The New York Times reported. 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.
Israel has repeatedly bombed targets in neighbouring 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.
A senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said Israel bombed a base north of Baghdad last month, while two American officials said the Jewish state carried out multiple strikes in Iraq in recent days, the Times reported.
The Hashed’s deputy commander Abu Mehdi al Muhandis, whose virulent anti-Americanism as a militia leader earned him a US terror blacklisting, has been unequivocal in blaming Washington for the blasts.
But Faleh al Fayyadh, the official head of the Hashed, has walked back the accusations, saying investigations were ongoing.
“Preliminary investigations” found the incidents were “an external, premeditated act,” he said.
“The investigations will continue until the responsible entities are accurately identified to be able to take the appropriate stances.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi last week ordered all ammunition dumps belonging to the armed forces or paramilitary groups to be moved outside of cities.
He also cancelled all special flight permissions for Iraqi and foreign aircraft, meaning that sorties, including by the US-led coalition operating against IS militants, must be cleared in advance by the prime minister.
Israeli officials have recently suggested that they viewed Iraq as more of a threat than in recent years, but have not directly commented on the recent blasts at Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) sites in Iraq.
On Wednesday, the PMF said the United States had allowed four Israeli drones to enter the region accompanying US forces and carry out missions on Iraqi territory.
The Pentagon denied involvement. The US-led coalition, in Iraq to fight remnants of the IS group, dismissed the statement. — AFP