Pro-Iranian Militia Leader in Iraq Threatens Revenge Over Attacks Attributed to Israel

Leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces says statements by Iraqi PM accusing Israel of a slew of recent attacks serve as 'a green light to take revenge'

Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces burn U.S. and Israeli flags in Baghdad, Iraq, May 31, 2019.
Ali Abdul Hassan,AP

A leader of the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq threatened on Tuesday to respond to attacks attributed to Israel on the organization's bases.

Referring to statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who accused Israel of carrying out the recent attacks, the militia leader said that Mahdi's comments amounted to "a green light for the militias to respond and take revenge."

Mahdi told Al Jazeera on Monday that investigations into recent attacks on the Iraqi paramilitary group's positions indicate that Israel was responsible. This was the first time Baghdad has directly blamed Israel.

Overnight Friday, an unmanned aerial vehicle struck a Popular Mobilization Forces base in the Al-Bukamal area, near the border with Syria.

On September 19, drones attacked a company of Popular Mobilization Forces fighters in Syria, near the border with Iraq. Sky News in Arabic cited an Iraqi security source as saying that five people were killed in the attack, and nine more were wounded.

Two days earlier, there were reports in Iraq of a strike on weapon storage facilities run by militias affiliated with Iran. Iraq's Afaq TV attributed the attack to Israel, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 10 Iran-backed fighters died.

Iraq and Syria opened a key border crossing between the countries on Monday, seven years after it was closed during Syria's civil war and the battle against the Islamic State group.

The opening of the crossing linking the Iraqi town of Qaim and Syria's Boukamal is expected to strengthen trade between the two Arab countries. But it is also a boost to Iran's influence in the region, allowing Iran-backed militias in Iraq easier access to eastern Syria amid soaring tensions in the region between Tehran and Washington following the collapse of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.