US strikes Iraq over drone strikes blamed on Iran-aligned forces | Conflict messages

Baghdad has condemned the strikes, which killed one member of the Iraqi security forces and wounded 18 others, as 'hostile' acts.

The Iraqi government has condemned US military airstrikes along its border as “acts of hostility” after the Pentagon said it struck bases used by pro-Iranian forces to target US forces.

US strikes killed one member of the Iraqi security forces and wounded 18 others, including civilians, in what the government in Baghdad said Tuesday was an “unacceptable attack on Iraqi sovereignty” that would “harm bilateral relations”.

U.S. airstrikes launched early Tuesday targeted three bases used by the Shiite militant group Katab Hezbollah and its affiliates, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Adrian Watson said.

According to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, they were responding to a Katab Hezbollah attack on Erbil Air Base the day before that injured three U.S. service members.

Austin said the “necessary and proportionate” strikes were intended to “disrupt and degrade” the capabilities of Iran-aligned groups responsible for attacks against U.S. personnel.

“While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we remain firmly and fully prepared to take any further steps necessary to protect our people and our facilities,” Austin said.

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'Let's protect our interests'

Since the outbreak of the Israeli-Palestinian war on Oct. 7, U.S. forces have repeatedly targeted bases used by Iran and its proxy forces in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for dozens of attacks on U.S. and allied forces in the region.

US officials said on Tuesday that the US military would continue to retaliate if US forces were targeted.

“If these attacks are to continue, the United States will act at a time and in a way we choose,” Watson said.

Austin said: “Let me be clear — the president and I will not hesitate to take any action necessary to protect America, our troops and our interests. There is no higher priority.”

The U.S. Central Command said initial assessments of the U.S. military's latest strikes indicate that they destroyed the targeted facilities and may have killed several Qateb Hezbollah fighters without killing any civilians.

The strikes are the latest sign of how Israel's war in Gaza is reverberating across the Middle East, where there is widespread outrage over the mounting Palestinian death toll.

Palestinian officials say more than 20,674 people have been killed and 54,536 injured in Israeli strikes since Oct. 7, when Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel. The death toll from the Hamas attack stands at 1,139.

US officials have reported at least 103 attacks against its troops in Iraq and Syria since mid-October.

Iran has not commented on the latest strikes, but has previously denied leading proxy groups to attack US forces in the region.

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