Bill Faries | Bloomberg
The US military launched strikes on three facilities in Iraq, targeting what it considers an Iranian-backed terrorist group that Washington blames for a series of attacks on US personnel, including one on Monday that left three injured.
These back and forths underline the risk of seeing the war between Israel and Hamas expand into a wider conflagration. Iran said an Israeli airstrike in Damascus killed a top Revolutionary Guard commander on Monday. Meanwhile, the United States has assembled a coalition of military personnel willing to help protect Red Sea shipping lanes after a number of ships were attacked by Iran-backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen.
Iran supports Hamas and other groups. He denied contributing to attacks on commercial ships.
“Under the leadership of President Biden, U.S. military forces conducted necessary and proportionate strikes on three facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah and its affiliated groups in Iraq,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Monday. Directly addressing the threat of broader war, Austin said that “while we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take additional steps necessary to protect our population and facilities.” .
In a separate statement, US Central Command said “initial assessments indicate that these US airstrikes destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants.” Centcom added that there was no indication that civilian lives had been affected.
Iraq condemned the US strikes, with a statement from the prime minister’s office saying the US had targeted “Iraqi military sites” and that a member of the country’s armed forces had been killed.
The Christmas Day strikes followed what the White House described as a drone attack on U.S. forces in northern Iraq that injured three service members, one seriously. President Joe Biden was briefed on that attack on Christmas morning and, in an afternoon call with Austin and other national security officials, ordered a retaliatory response.
Kataib Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed Iraqi insurgent group that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States since 2009, according to the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. The group, also known as the Hezbollah Brigades, took credit for the attack on U.S. troops, the White House said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back against international criticism of the continued war in Gaza, saying peace will only be possible when Hamas, which killed 1,200 people in its October 7 attack on Israel, is destroyed . The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says Israeli attacks have since killed more than 20,000 people.
In an article published Monday evening in the Wall Street Journal, Netanyahu also said that Gaza must be demilitarized and that Palestinian society must be “deradicalized.” He wrote that eliminating Hamas “is the only proportional response to prevent the repetition of such horrific atrocities.”
–With help from Kateryna Kadabashy.
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