Middle East Crisis – Airstrikes Hit a Packed City In Southern Gaza As Israel Plans Advance

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A U.S. Special Operations retaliatory drone strike in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday killed a senior leader of a militia that U.S. officials blame for recent attacks on American personnel, the Pentagon said, following up on President Biden’s promise that the response to a slew of attacks by Shiite militias would continue.

The Pentagon said the man was a leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, the militia that officials have said was responsible for the drone attack in Jordan last month that killed three American service members and injured more than 40.

A U.S. official stated that the strike was a “dynamic”The US intelligence community had been tracking the militia leader for some time. A second official stated that the United States reserved their right to strike other Shiite leaders and commanders.

Videos from the scene show the wreckage of an automobile in a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad and a nearby blaze.

A senior Kata’ib Hezbollah official and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps both said that two commanders had been killed in the strike. Witnesses reported that identification cards found nearby identified the two men as Arkan al-Elayawi, and Abu Baqir al-Saedi.

In response, Baghdad residents gathered on the streets and chanted “America is the devil.”

Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, a spokesman for Iraq’s security services, called the strike “an aggression,”It was said “violated Iraqi sovereignty and risked dangerous repercussions in the region.”

Wednesday’s strike came after three quieter days in the Mideast, following American salvos on Friday and Saturday that began what Mr. Biden and his aides have said will be a sustained campaign of retaliation.

On Monday, the Pentagon reported that American warplanes have destroyed or severely damaged many of the Iranian and militia target they struck in Syria and Iraq last Friday.

Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder is the Pentagon spokesperson. “more than 80”Some 85 targets in Syria or Iraq have been destroyed or rendered unusable. He said that the targets included command hubs, intelligence centers, depots for missiles, attack drones, and rockets as well as ammunition and logistics bunkers.

Kata’ib Hezbollah, based in Iraq, is considered a proxy of Iran, and the United States considers the group a terrorist organization.

U.S. officials have blamed Iran for the attack. The militias that are aligned with themThe U.S. military was under constant attack by rockets and drones since the war between Hamas, Israel and Egypt began on October 7. The Biden Administration has tried to calibrate airstrikes in retaliation to deter these groups while Avoiding a wider conflict.

When a drone attack killed three American servicemen on a remote base near Amman, Jordan, on Jan. 28, administration officials declared that a “red line” had been crossed. Mr. Biden then promised a sustained campaign to retaliate.

After that strike, Kata’ib Hezbollah said it would halt attacks on American forces, at the behest of the governments of Iraq and Iran, reflecting Iran’s reluctance to directly confront the United States. Other groups involved in similar attacks have not made the same commitments.

The back-and-forth attacks in Syria, Iraq and Jordan — not to mention the tit-for-tat strikes that the United States and its allies have exchanged with the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen — have edged the region closer to a broader conflict, even as the administration insists it does not want war with Iran. Instead, U.S. officials say they are focused on whittling away the militias’ formidable arsenals and deterring additional attacks against U.S. troops as well as merchant ships in the Red Sea.

But by targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah commanders, the administration is sending a message to Iran and the militias that it backs that every American life taken will be met with a strong response, U.S. officials said.

In January, the Pentagon announced that the U.S. killed a leader from another Iraqi militia called Haraqat al Nujaba who was involved in the planning and execution of attacks against American personnel both in Iraq and Syria.

Experts in national security and government officials privately say that, to truly degrade Iran-backed militias’ capabilities, the United States must carry out an extensive campaign over many years similar to their six-year effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Even then, the officials say, the militias, with Iran’s backing, could probably survive longer than the Islamic State, which was pressured by the United States and Iran, and even Russia. The United States will also need to target many senior leaders and commanding officers.

Falih HassanContributed reporting from Baghdad

‘ Credit:
Original content by the www.nytimes.com. “Middle East Crisis” – “Airstrikes Hit a Packed City in Southern Gaza As Israel Plans Advance”.

Read the full article here https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/08/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

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