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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

US launches airstrikes in Iraq

President Joe Biden has ordered strikes against a Hezbollah affiliate after American troops were injured in a drone attack

US forces have carried out airstrikes targeting Kataib Hezbollah militants in Iraq after blaming the group for a drone attack that injured three American soldiers in the country’s Kurdish region.

The airstrikes were launched on Monday night against three facilities used by the Hezbollah affiliate, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. The operation came in response to multiple attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria, including a drone strike earlier on Monday at the Iraqi Kurdish region’s Erbil Air Base.

Read more: US hits back in Iraq as its soldiers get wounded

“Early assessments indicate that these US airstrikes destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants,” CENTCOM said. “There are no indications that any civilian lives were affected. The US military will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these strikes.”

However, the Iraqi government reported 19 casualties, including civilians who were injured and a security service member who was killed. The office of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani condemned the airstrikes as a “clearly hostile, unconstructive act that does not serve the interests of long-term common interests.” It added that the strikes “infringe upon Iraq’s sovereignty and are deemed unacceptable under any circumstances or justification.”

American targets in Iraq and the US forces illegally occupying Syria have come under multiple drone and rocket attacks since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. One of the troops injured in Monday’s attack in Erbil was left in critical condition.

The retaliatory US airstrikes were “intended to hold accountable those elements directly responsible for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and degrade their ability to continue attacks,” CENTCOM General Michael Erik Kurilla said. “We will always protect our forces.”

Read more: Iraqi-Born US citizen fires shotgun outside Albany synagogue

Houthi rebels based in Yemen also have launched attacks against Western targets amid the Israel-Hamas war, targeting US Navy warships and commercial vessels in the Red Sea. The Pentagon last week launched an operation with the UK, France, and other allies to help secure shipping traffic after major transport firms routed their vessels away from the region.

Biden was briefed on the Erbil attack and his options for retaliatory strikes on Monday, while spending the Christmas holiday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Virginia. “The president places no higher priority than the protection of American personnel serving in harm’s way,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement“The United States will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue.”