Protesters and Kata'ib Hizbullah members gather outside the US Embassy in Baghdad on December 31, 2019. (Haydar Karaalp/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Rockets Strike US Embassy Compound in Baghdad

Three rockets struck inside the United States Embassy compound in Baghdad, which, despite being located in the city’s heavily fortified Green Zone, has repeatedly been targeted by missile fire over the past few months. Sunday’s attack was the first time the Embassy was hit directly and followed a recent assault by Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite forces, who set fire to the mission but were unable to breach main buildings due to counteractions by US troops. According to preliminary reports, one rocket slammed into a cafeteria on the embassy grounds, causing at least one injury, while the others landed in nearby open spaces. The uptick in tensions comes three-plus weeks after the January 3 assassination of Iranian Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike, to which Tehran responded with coordinated ballistic missile fire on two Iraqi bases housing American soldiers. While US officials initially claimed that no injuries were sustained in that attack, they have since backtracked by confirming that some three dozen troops were treated for concussion-like symptoms. All of this comes on the backdrop of renewed anti-government demonstrations in Iraq, as competing political factions in Baghdad continue to be at loggerheads over the formation of a new cabinet. At least 15 people were reportedly killed over the weekend in clashes with security forces, which allegedly used live fire in a bid to quell the civil unrest. Overall, some 500 people have been killed since mass protests broke out in Iraq last October, which eventually forced the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who remains on in a caretaker capacity until a new government can be formed.

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