American forces shot down two drones and damaged a third in Iraq over the past 24 hours, with allied troops suffering “minor injuries” in one incident, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said Wednesday.
It did not say who launched the drones, but pro-Iranian forces have threatened to attack American troops in Iraq because of Washington’s support for Israel in its war with Hamas.
“In the last 24 hours, the US military defended against three drones near US and coalition forces in Iraq,” CENTCOM said in a statement, referring to members of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
“In western Iraq, US forces engaged two drones, destroying one and damaging the second, resulting in minor injuries to coalition forces. Separately in northern Iraq, US forces engaged and destroyed a drone, resulting in no injuries or damage,” CENTCOM said.
“In this moment of heightened alert, we are vigilantly monitoring the situation in Iraq and the region. US forces will defend US and coalition forces against any threat,” it added.
A US defense official said earlier on Wednesday that two “one-way drones” had been downed when they attempted to attack American and coalition forces in Iraq, while Kurdish counter-terrorism forces said in a statement that an explosives-laden drone had crashed Wednesday in the Arbil governorate in the country’s north.
The drone shootdowns came a day after a strike on a hospital in Gaza left hundreds dead, with Hamas blaming Israel, which in turn said another Palestinian armed group was responsible.
Hamas launched a surprise assault inside Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking hostages back into Gaza.
After Israel declared war and began retaliatory strikes, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians as well, according to Hamas health authorities.
Pro-Iranian factions in Iraq have accused Israel and the United States of carrying out a “massacre” in Gaza, with one of them — the powerful Ketaeb Hezbollah group — demanding that American forces leave Iraq or face attack.
There are around 2,500 American soldiers and a thousand troops from other members of the anti-IS coalition in Iraq in a training and advisory role, after the official end of their combat mission in December 2021.