Unnamed American officials have confirmed that Israel has been behind mysterious attacks recently targeting Iran-backed militias in Iraq, according to The New York Times and the Associated Press.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel also once again hinted on Thursday, August 22, that his country's forces have attacked Iran-backed militias in Iraq.
Echoing his earlier statements this week, Netanyahu disclosed, "We're acting in many theaters against a state (Iran) that seeks to annihilate Israel."
Speaking to the Israeli Channel 9 network, broadcasting for Jewish-Russian immigrants, Netanyahu stressed, "I don't grant Iran immunity anywhere," adding, "Iran is a state, a power, that has sworn to annihilate Israel. It's trying to establish bases against us everywhere; in Iran itself, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen."
Netanyahu went further as saying that he had given the Israeli army a "freehand" to repulse what he described as the Islamic Republic threat.
"We're acting not only if necessary, but we're also acting in very many theaters against a state that seeks to annihilate us. Obviously, I've given the security forces the order and the operational freedom to do what is necessary to disrupt these plots by Iran," Netanyahu reiterated, adding, "And obviously I've also led, and in many ways continue to lead, a global effort against Iran. And there were years when I stood alone."
Netanyahu's comments have been widely interpreted as the most explicit reference to Israel's involvement in that past five weeks in attacks against four bases of the Hashd al-Sha'abi forces in Iraq.
The series of attacks began on July 19 when a drone bombed a Hashd rocket depot in Amerli, in eastern Salahuddin, north of Baghdad. The NYT says that according to a source the base was being used to transfer weapons to Syria.
Immediately after the attack, the Islamic Republic's news outlets confirmed that a member of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Abol Fazl Sarabian, was killed during the attack.
IRGC moved Sarabian's body later to his place of birth, the city of Kermanshah, western Iran.
Hashd al-Sha'abi or the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), also known as the People's Mobilization Committee (PMC) and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization supported by the IRGC's extraterritorial arm, Qods Force.
Eleven days after Amerli attack, another of the group’ss depot, eight kilometers (approximately 5.9 miles) from the Iranian border, was caught in a blaze and almost razed to the ground.
Furthermore, during an explosion in a rocket depot on August 12, south of Baghdad, one was killed, 28 injured, and tens of rockets destroyed.
A source from Hashd al-Sha'abi's forces confirmed a weapons depot belonging to his group was targeted in the bombardment.
In the latest development, Iraqi officials announced on Tuesday, August 19, that several blasts hit a position held by PMU next to Balad air base north of Baghdad. The mysterious blats leading to a blaze, left two dead and five injured, the German news agency, DPA, reported.
"Tens of rockets were recently transferred to Balad base from Iran, out of which, at least fifty rockets were destroyed on Tuesday night, "al-Arabiya network claimed.
In the meantime, the deputy commander of PMU, in a statement on Wednesday, said, "We announce that the first and last entity responsible for what happened is the American forces, and we will hold them responsible for whatever happens from today onwards."
A close ally of the IRGC Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known as Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandis, furthermore said in the press release that the Shi'a group would defend itself against any attacks on its bases, including using "advanced weapons."
Moreover, Al-Mohandis accused Washington had facilitated the transfer of four Israeli drones from the Republic of Azerbaijan to Iraq.
The spokesman of Pentagon immediately dismissed the claim as unfounded and denied the U.S. involvement in the incident.
Later, the head of PMU, Faleh al Fayyadh implicitly sided with Pentagon and noted that al-Muhandis' comments were reflecting his personal views.
While distancing himself from al-Mohandis' claim, Al-Fayyadh sufficed to say that "external players" were behind the blasts, but that further investigation was needed to be able to pinpoint the attacker.
Tehran has not yet officially responded to Netanyahu's latest comments on Israel's role in fighting the Islamic Republic proxy forces in four different fields, Iraq, Syra, Gaza Strip, and southern Lebanon.