Troops hurt after three drones attack US bases in Iraq as tensions flare after Gaza hospital blast

Iraqis burn a poster showing U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a mass rally Friday supporting the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

BEIRUT — Coalition forces were slightly injured in Iraq in a spate of drone attacks over the last 24 hours at U.S. bases in Iraq as regional tensions flare following the deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza.

Two drones targeted the al Asad airbase in western Iraq used by U.S. forces and one drone targeted a base in northern Iraq, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. U.S. forces intercepted all three, destroying two but only damaging the third, which led to minor injuries among coalition forces at the western base, according to a statement Wednesday by U.S. Central Command.

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The U.S. official were not authorized to speak publicly on the attacks and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“In this moment of heightened alert, we are vigilantly monitoring the situation in Iraq and the region. U.S. forces will defend U.S. and coalition forces against any threat,” Central Command said in the release.

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have threatened to attack U.S. facilities there because of American support for Israel.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iranian-backed militias, issued a statement afterward claiming responsibility for the two attacks and saying it “heralds more operations” against the “American occupation.”

The salvos came at a time of increasing tension and fears of a broader regional conflict in the wake of the latest Hamas-Israel war.

Since the beginning of the war on Oct. 7, much attention has been focused on Hezbollah, the powerful Hamas ally across Israel’s northern border in Lebanon, and its formidable arsenal. The group has traded so-far limited strikes with Israel on the border in recent days.

But Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have also threatened to attack U.S. facilities over American support for Israel.

“Our missiles, drones, and special forces are ready to direct qualitative strikes at the American enemy in its bases and disrupt its interests if it intervenes in this battle,” Ahmad “Abu Hussein” al-Hamidawi, head of the Kataib Hezbollah militia, said in a statement last Wednesday. He also threatened to launch missiles at Israeli targets.

Following Tuesday night’s blast that killed hundreds at a hospital in Gaza, the group issued another statement in which it blamed the U.S. and its support for Israel for the catastrophe and called for an end to the U.S. presence in Iraq. Hamas has said the explosion in Gaza was from an Israeli airstrike, while Israel has blamed a misfired rocket by Palestinian militants.

A U.S. defense official, who wasn’t authorized to comment to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the attack on the al-Asad military base in western Iraq.

Tashkil al-Waritheen, one of the Iranian-backed militias making up the larger group, claimed responsibility in a statement for a second drone attack, which it said had targeted the al-Harir airbase in northern Iraq. U.S. officials did not immediately comment on the claim of a second attack.

The government of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq said an intercepted drone crashed in an open area near the village of Batas.

Also on Wednesday, Iran-allied groups in Iraq announced that they had formed a “joint operations room” to help Hamas in its war effort.

Two officials with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, confirmed the attacks on the two bases Wednesday.

They said the armed groups were on alert and prepared to join the wider battle against Israel, but that Iran had not yet given approval for them to open a new front. Leaders from some of the factions are now in Lebanon and Syria in case they get orders to proceed, one of the officials said.

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