President Donald Trump green-lighted a series of “defensive precision strikes” against Hezbollah-controlled targets in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for a rocket attack that recently claimed the life of a U.S. contractor and injured several U.S. troops in the area.
According to Yahoo News, the strikes were aimed at “five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, an Iran-backed Iraqi militia,” according to spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.
Weapons depots and other strategic military installations were targeted by U.S. military forces, though it wasn’t immediately clear how the strike was carried out.
“Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement that three U.S. airstrikes on Sunday evening Iraq time hit the headquarters of the Hezbollah Brigades at the Iraq-Syria border, killing four fighters,” Yahoo reported.
“Iran and their [Hezbollah] proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq’s sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces,” the statement said.
The attacks were designed to hamper the ability of Hezbollah forces to continue attacking American personnel or interests in the future.
Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades, a separate force from the Lebanese group Hezbollah, operate under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Many of them are supported by Iran.
Kataeb Hezbollah is led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of Iraq’s most powerful men. He once battled U.S. troops and is now the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
The attacks on both the American contractor and the U.S. counter-attack come on the heels of months of unrest in Iraq, where protests have taken the lives of some 600 people in the country. Iraqi security forces are largely responsible for a majority of the deaths.
The attack also comes in the wake of a call by Sen. Tom Cotton for a retaliatory strike against Iran for the initial attack on U.S. forces.
If American blood was shed by an Iran-backed group, Tehran ought to face swift and severe consequences. https://t.co/6dsEkQIgM9
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) December 28, 2019
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