News ID: 257693
Published: 0143 GMT August 23, 2019

Maliki warns of 'strong response' if Israel behind airstrikes

Maliki warns of 'strong response' if Israel behind airstrikes
Plumes of smoke rise after an explosion at a military base southwest of Iraqi capital, Baghdad, Iraq on Aug. 12, 2019.

US officials blame Israel for recent Iraq airstrikes

Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki warned of a "strong response" if it is proven that Israel was behind recent airstrikes in Iraq.

In statements issued by his office on Friday, he also said that if Israel continues to target Iraq, the country "will transform into a battle arena that drags in multiple countries, including Iran," AP reported.

The comments by Maliki, who was Iraqi prime minister for eight years and now heads a Shia bloc in parliament, came hours after US officials confirmed Israel was responsible for the bombing of a weapons depot in Iraq last month.

The confirmation comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is strongly hinting that Tel Aviv is behind recent airstrikes that have hit bases and munitions depot belonging to paramilitary forces operating in Iraq.

The mystery attacks have not been claimed by any side and have left Iraqi officials scrambling for a response, amid strong speculation that Israel may have been behind them. Earlier this week, the deputy head of the Iraqi militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, openly accused Israeli drones of carrying out the attacks, but ultimately blamed Washington and threatened strong retaliation for any future attack.

There have been at least three explosions at Iraqi militia bases in the past month. American officials now confirm Israel was responsible for at least one of them.

Two American officials said Israel carried out an attack on a weapons depot in July that killed two commanders. The US officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The July 19 attack struck a militia base in Amirli, in Iraq’s northern Salaheddin Province, causing a huge explosion and fire.

On August 12, a massive explosion at the Al-Saqr military base near Baghdad shook the capital, killing one civilian and wounding 28 others. The base housed a weapons depot for the Iraqi federal police and the PMF. The most recent of the explosions came Tuesday night, at a munitions depot north of Baghdad.

There have been weeks of speculation in Israel that the army is attacking targets in Iraq.

In an interview with a Russian-language TV station on Thursday, Netanyahu indicated the speculation is true.

The attack would be the first known Israeli airstrike in Iraq since 1981, when Israeli warplanes destroyed a nuclear reactor being built by the Arab country’s former dictator Saddam Hussein.



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