Israel on High Alert after ‘Successful’ US Strikes in Iraq, Syria
The Israel Defense Forces has been placed on high alert after the US struck several military sites in Iraq and Syria belonging to Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hizbullah, which Washington has accused of targeting American troops. The US attack was a response to Friday’s coordinated rocket strikes on the K1 military base in Kirkuk, Iraq, which killed a US defense contractor and wounded American and Iraqi soldiers. “We will not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after briefing President Donald Trump on the military assault. For his part, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the Pentagon would “take additional actions as necessary to ensure … we deter further bad behavior from militia groups or from Iran.” Meanwhile, Tehran “strongly condemned” the US for it what called an “illegal act” that purportedly showed “strong [American] support for terrorism [and a] disregard [for] the independence and sovereignty of countries.” Jerusalem believes that Tehran may retaliate indirectly by targeting the Jewish state in a similar manner to September’s coordinated drone and cruise missile attack on Saudi oil infrastructure. In this respect, Israeli ex-intelligence chief Amos Yadlin described the US’s use of military force as “the crossing of a Rubicon” that could put Israel in Iran’s crosshairs. The IDF has over the past months conducted multiple drills in the North in anticipation of a possible confrontation with Iranian forces and their Shi’ite allies in Syria. There is also a possibility that Lebanon-based Hizbullah could launch a cross-border attack, although this scenario is viewed as less likely as it would not provide Tehran with plausible deniability and could lead to a broader conflict.