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Albin Szakola

Iraqi militia chief claims Israel
bombed group in Syria

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba chief Akram al-Kaabi made an unusual allegation that his militia's weapon caches outside Aleppo were targeted in airstrikes.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba chief Akram al-Kaabi speaks during a tour of the Aleppo front. (YouTube/Al-Nujaba TV Channel)

BEIRUT – The leader of an Iraqi militia with close ties to Tehran has made the unusual claim that Israel conducted airstrikes against the Shiite fighting force outside Aleppo, without specifying when the purported bombings occurred.

 

"We witnessed during our wide-scale operations and large victories previously achieved in these areas [outside Aleppo] how the Zionist entity, by itself, bombed our weapons and ammunition [caches]," Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba chief Akram al-Kaabi said during a mid-September field inspection of his militia's positions near Syria's second city.

 

Kaabi did not say when or where Israel allegedly targeted Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba positions in his speech, which was featured in a video publicized Sunday by the Iraqi militia's YouTube channel.

 

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba's media office, for its part, has never issued any public statements claiming that its weapon stores in the Aleppo province were hit by Israel.

 

Although Kaabi did not go into details regarding his unsubstantiated allegation, he did claim that the Israeli strike helped "give Takfiri groups another chance to reorganize themselves… and hampered our military operations to liberate besieged Shiite areas," a possible reference to the successful pro-regime campaign in February 2016 to break through opposition lines around the north Aleppo villages of Nubl and Zahraa.

 

The regime's February 2016 north Aleppo offensive, which cut off rebels in a corridor of territory stretching up to the Turkish border from their cohorts further south in Aleppo city, heightened concerns in Israel's security establishment, according to Haaretz.

 

A February 8 column in the daily penned by Amos Harel, a leading Israeli defense journalist, argued that Tel Aviv was worried the military situation around Aleppo was "tilting in the favor" of Iran and Hezbollah.

 

"The turning point in the battle for Aleppo… happened far from Israel's borders, but it is nevertheless being closely watched by Israeli intelligence," Harel wrote, adding that the regime's victory there could "ultimately affect the situation on Syria's border with Israel in the Golan Heights."

 

He argued that "a victory in Aleppo might convince the Assad regime to increase its efforts in southern Syria, in Daraa and then westward toward the Golan Heights," leading to "a bigger presence of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) alongside Israel."

 

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba—which was one of the first Iraqi Shiite militias to enter the fray in Syria—openly admits it receives direct support from the IRGC while also touting its ties with Lebanese Hezbollah.

 

In the past two years, it has bolstered its presence in Syria and taken up growing battlefield roles in the Aleppo province, participating not only in the Nubl and Zahraa offensive but also late 2015 campaign to end the ISIS siege on Kweires Military Airport.

 

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language material. 

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba chief Akram al-Kaabi speaks during a tour of the Aleppo front. (YouTube/Al-Nujaba TV Channel)

We witnessed during our wide-scale operations and large victories previously achieved in these areas [outside Aleppo] how the Zionist entity bombed our weapons and ammunition [caches].