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Iraqi political bloc calls for US troop withdrawal, says Israeli airstrikes a 'declaration of war'

An alleged Israeli drone strike killed a Hashd al-Shaabi commander on Sunday. [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 August, 2019

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The powerful Fatah Coalition said it holds the US fully responsible for the alleged Israeli aggression, which it called a 'declaration of war'.

A powerful political bloc in Iraq's parliament, with links to Iran-linked militias, called on Monday for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, following a series of airstrikes on Popular Mobilsation Forces (PMF), or Hashd al-Shaabi, which have been blamed on Israel.

The Fatah Coalition said it holds the US fully responsible for the alleged Israeli aggression, "which we consider to be a declaration of war on Iraq and its people". 

The coalition is a parliament bloc representing Iran-backed paramilitary PMF.

The coalition's statement came a day after a drone strike in the western Iraqi town of Qaim killed a commander with the forces - the latest in strikes apparently conducted by Israel against the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. It added that US troops are no longer needed in Iraq.

The Shia militiamen, meanwhile, held a funeral procession in Baghdad for the commander killed Sunday.

"There is no greater God but God!" the mourners shouted as they marched behind a banner with the words "Death to America" and "Death to Israel." Some trampled on an American flag as they marched.

Anger is mounting in Iraq following a spate of mysterious airstrikes that have targeted military bases and weapons depot belonging to Iran-backed militias. 

The drone attacks have not been claimed by any side but US officials have said Israel was behind at least one of the attacks that killed two Iranian commanders on 19 July.

The Shia militias have accused Israel of the attacks, but held its ally, the US, ultimately responsible. The attacks are threatening to destabilise security in Iraq, which has struggled to remain neutral in the conflict between Washington and Tehran.

"These strikes won't break us, they'll make us stronger," the militias' Lt. Gen. Hussein Abed Muttar told The Associated Press at the funeral.

Along with the commander, another member of the Shia militia was also killed in the drone attack on Sunday evening near the Qaim border crossing with Syria. 

The attack targeted vehicles belonging to the Hezbollah Brigades faction, also known as Brigade 45, which operate under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned Shia militias.

"While we reserve the right to respond to these Zionist attacks, we hold the international coalition, particularly the US, fully responsible for this aggression which we consider a declaration of war on Iraq and its people," the statement by the Fatah Coalition said.

US forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the government to help battle the Islamic State group after it seized vast areas in the north and west of the country, including Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. 

A US-led coalition provided crucial air support as Iraqi forces regrouped and drove IS out in a costly three-year campaign.

The US maintains about 5,000 troops in Iraq, and some groups say there's no longer a justification for them to be there now that IS has been defeated.

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