The U.S. military fended off three drones that attempted to attack U.S. troops stationed in Iraq in two different incidents on Wednesday, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said.
American troops in the region are on high alert monitoring activities by Iran-backed proxy forces amid threats of escalated violence stemming from the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which is also supported by Iran, Reuters reported. U.S. forces damaged one drone and destroyed another in an incident in western Iraq and destroyed another in northern Iraq later, CENTCOM said in a press release.
“In the last 24 hours, the U.S. military defended against three drones near U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq,” CENTCOM said. The first incident caused “minor injuries” to coalition forces.
U.S. troops intercepted the drones before they could strike in the first incident, two U.S. officials previously Reuters. U.S. forces intercepted the kamikaze drones — weapons that detonate upon impact with the target — early Wednesday above Iraq’s al Asad air base, which hosts coalition forces including U.S. troops, the officials told Reuters. (RELATED: Arab Leaders Cancel On Biden After Devastating Hospital Bombing)
Kata’ib Hezbollah, a powerful Iran-backed Iraqi militia, had threatened to attack U.S. military bases with missiles, special forces and drones if the U.S. intervened militarily in support of Israel, Reuters reported. U.S. officials say the group has targeted U.S. troops in the past, but Kata’ib Hezbollah denied those claims.
“These evil people must leave the country, otherwise they will taste the fire of hell in this world before the afterlife,” the group said in a statement Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Kata’ib Hezbollah members also fanned flames of dissidence likely to encourage demonstrations at the U.S. embassies in Lebanon and Jordan, according to Philip Smyth, a researcher who focuses on Iranian proxies. Smyth said he suspected Iran was behind the demonstrations.
Tashkil al-Waritheen, a smaller Iran-backed milita that is part of a larger group, claimed the second attack, The Associated Press reported.
The Pentagon has surged munitions and weapons to Israel and placed troops on alert to deploy in or near the warring ally, but the Pentagon has said no troops are slated to be in a combat role.
Biden administration officials have reportedly discussed the possibility of contributing forces to defend Israel if Lebanese Hezbollah launches full-on attacks on Israel. Israel and the powerful Iran-backed organization have traded strikes since Israel declared war on Hamas.
“In this moment of heightened alert, we are vigilantly monitoring the situation in Iraq and the region,” CENTCOM said.
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) October 17, 2023
Leaders of other Iraqi groups also blamed Israel for an explosion at a Gaza hospital that allegedly killed hundreds, although so far evidence suggests the blast was caused by a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket. President Joe Biden said Wednesday after landing in Israel that he suspected Hamas was responsible for the bombing.
Lebanese Hezbollah called for a day of “unprecedented anger” following the hospital explosion.
Iran-affiliated Iraqi militias announced the creation of a “joint operations room” to aid Hamas on Wednesday, the AP reported. Two officials with the groups told the outlet they are awaiting approval from Iran to open a new front against Israel.
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