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Iraq Shi’ite militia blame Israel for deadly air raid near Syria border

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary groups blamed Israel on Sunday for raids by unmanned aircraft which they said killed at least one of their fighters near to the Syrian border.

The strikes took place 15 km (9 miles) away from the border, said a statement from the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a state umbrella grouping of mostly Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim factions.

It said one fighter was killed and another seriously wounded. An earlier statement from the PMF’s Anbar operations command said two fighters were killed.

The PMF said two unmanned aircraft had carried out the attack. It accused the United States of providing air support to Israel for the strikes.

A security source told Reuters there were two air strikes, one of which struck the headquarters of a local paramilitary brigade, while the other struck a convoy of cars leaving the building.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment.

The attack, which took place in the afternoon, happened after a series of explosions in recent weeks at weapons depots belonging to Iran-backed PMF groups.

The militias have blamed Israel and the United States for some of the attacks. The Pentagon has denied any involvement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday of possible Israeli involvement in the recent destruction of PMF weapons depots in Iraq.

“We are operating – not just if needed, we are operating in many areas against a state that wants to annihilate us. Of course I gave the security forces a free hand and instructed them to do anything necessary to thwart Iran’s plans,” he said.

Reporting by John Davison, Raya Jalabi, Ahmed Rasheed, Thaier al-Sudani; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem. Editing by William Maclean

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