December 3, 2023

A militia group supported by Iran has targeted U.S. bases in Iraq as regional tensions continue to build over the Israel-Hamas war.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Tehran-backed militias, claimed responsibility for two drone attacks which targeted the al-Asad airbase in western Iraq used by U.S. forces and one drone strike aimed at a base in northern Iraq, The Associated Press reported.

U.S. forces intercepted all three drones, destroying two but only damaging the third, which led to minor injuries among coalition forces at the western base, according to U.S. Central Command.

In a statement, the militia said the drone attacks “herald more operations” against the “American occupation,” the AP reported, echoing threats that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq will attack U.S. facilities there because of Washington’s support for Israel in its fight against Hamas.

Iran offers moral and military support to Hamas, whose attack on southern Israel on October 7 killed at least 1,400 people and has been followed by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which local officials say has killed 3,500 people, according to Reuters.

Al -Asad military airbase
Al-Asad military airbase in western Iraq in 2020. U.S. Central Command said it had intercepted drones targeting the site, on October 18, 2023, which were reportedly operated by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
AYMAN HENNA/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is “at war” and has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine into Gaza. Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists.

The “Axis of Resistance,” an anti-Israel, anti-Western and anti-Saudi alliance between Iran and regional militant groups, has outlined thresholds for intervening in the war. It is believed that Tehran would only intervene if Israel attacked Iran.

But following the U.S. deployment of two aircraft carriers and supporting ships to the eastern Mediterranean, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s, adviser, Mohammad-Javad Larijani told Iranian television this week that any U.S. military intervention on behalf of Israel “would be a strategic mistake.” He added that the U.S. would become a “legitimate target for the resistance fighters in the entire region.”

Following the drone interceptions at American bases on Wednesday, U.S. Central Command said it was a time of “heightened alert” and that “we are vigilantly monitoring the situation in Iraq and the region.”

“U.S. forces will defend U.S. and coalition forces against any threat,” it added in a statement, the AP reported. Newsweek has contacted Central Command for comment.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden visited Israel in a show of support for its fight against Hamas militants.

Biden urged Israel to adopt a proportional response and said that the “vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas.”

“Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people,” the president said.

An Israeli invasion of Gaza is yet to start as part of “Operation Swords of Iron.” However, an unnamed regional security official told Reuters there was alarm in the region that Israel did not have an endgame for Gaza. “They have no exit strategy for the day after.”

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