Drone strikes kill 6 Iran-backed militiamen near Iraqi-Syrian border: source

In a major escalation, an apparent Israeli drone strike killed six Iran-backed militiamen near the Iraqi-Syrian border, sources said on Sunday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Unmanned drones on Sunday struck vehicles of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia group under the umbrella Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a security source said.

The strike targeted two vehicles near the Iraqi town of al-Qaim, on the Syrian border in Anbar province. Six militiamen were killed, a security source told Kurdistan 24. The casualties reportedly included a field commander.

Photos Kurdistan 24 received showed the site of the incident with the two transports completely totaled on a dirt road. The militia group’s statement said only two people had been killed and a third one was injured.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

Over the past several weeks, Israel appears to have hit multiple Iranian and Iran-backed targets in Iraq. On late Saturday, they also carried out an airstrike against Iranian forces near the Syrian capital Damascus.

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Israel’s prime minister along with the military’s spokesperson both claimed the base that was hit was preparing to attack their country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that “Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression.”

Regarding the incidents in Iraq, Netanyahu has on multiple occasions hinted that Israel was behind a series of bombings against depots belonging to Iranian-backed factions.

The deputy head of the PMF, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, recently accused the United States and Israel of being the perpetrators, a charge Washington has denied. Muhandis is also the chief of Kata’ib Hezbollah.

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Kata’ib Hezbollah and Hezbollah are separate entities, but Iran backs both. The former is considered a terrorist organization by the US while the latter is similarly viewed by the US as well as the EU, among others.

In a separate development on Sunday, the Lebanese army, as well as Hezbollah, claimed that two Israeli drones had fallen on a neighborhood south of the country’s capital, Beirut. The two sides circulated images of the aircraft on their news outlets.

This is reportedly the first such incident in over a decade involving Hezbollah and Israel.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah described the drone incident in Beirut as “a violation of the rules of engagement.” Analysts, however, were quick to point out that the apparent quadcopter-style drones looked Iranian-made, The Times of Israel reported.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis is Iraq's national security advisor. Falih al-Fayyadh is Iraq's national security advisor.