Iran-backed Iraqi militias say won’t be silent over alleged US strike

Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) carrying their weapons, advance towards the city of Al-Qaim. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 June 2018
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Iran-backed Iraqi militias say won’t be silent over alleged US strike

  • Iraqi forces hit by the airstrike had not made contact nor coordinated their presence there with Iraq’s Joint Operations Command
  • The PMF bolstered Iraq’s security forces during their battle to retake a third of the country from Daesh, helping secure victory against the militants

IRBIL: Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella grouping of mostly Iran-backed Shiite militias, said it would not remain silent over an alleged US airstrike it said killed 22 of its members across the border in Syria last week.
“To the Americans we say ... we will not be quiet about this attack,” senior PMF commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, said in a video message.
In a news conference, Mohandes said the PMF had collected fragments of the missiles used in the strike, which he said proved it was a US attack.
This followed an accusation by the PMF on Monday that the US airstrike wounded a further 12 of its members in the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal.
The US has denied involvement in the strike. The Iraqi military said none of its troops tasked with securing the Iraqi-Syrian border had been hit by the air strike.
Iraqi forces hit by the airstrike had not made contact nor coordinated their presence there with Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, the military added.
The PMF bolstered Iraq’s security forces during their battle to retake a third of the country from Daesh, helping secure victory against the militants. They were later formally integrated into Iraq’s official security structure.
Though Iraq conducts cross-border strikes against Daesh positions in Syria, its security forces do not maintain a ground force. However, several PMF militias have supported Syrian regime forces on the ground for years.
Mohandes is one of Iran’s most powerful allies in Iraq. He formerly headed the Kataib Hezbollah militia, one of the closest to Tehran. The two brigades hit in last week’s airstrike were affiliates of Kataib Hezbollah.
The dispute comes amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran, precipitated by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear agreement.
Washington last month said it would impose new economic sanctions on Tehran.
In a separate development, security and medical sources said attackers had slit the throats of the mother and three sisters of an Iraqi election commission employee in their home.
The employee, from the Turkmen minority in the town of Hamrin in ethnically mixed Diyala Province, was not at home at the time and was unharmed, the sources said. No group had claimed responsibility for the killings late on Sunday.
Daesh threatened to attack Iraq’s May parliamentary election and anyone who assisted in it. At least one candidate was killed before the vote but the group did not claim responsibility for his killing.
A security source said security forces had launched an operation in the north of the province against Daesh.


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 23 May 2019
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.