A top US commander said on Monday mortars were used in an attack on the American embassy in Baghdad that injured one person and caused some material damage the previous night, not katyusha rockets as was initially reported by staffers and a statement from the military.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, a top U.S. commander for the Middle East, told reporters traveling with him that the mortar attack started a fire that was put out. He said no U.S. military members were injured, but that one U.S. national received a minor injury but has returned to work.
The two staff members of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said initially it had been rockets that slammed into a restaurant inside the American compound.
The U.S. Embassy is within the Iraqi capital's Green Zone, and has been a flashpoint amid wider regional tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have played out inside Iraq in recent weeks. Iraqi supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the embassy compound on Dec. 31, smashing the main door and setting fire to the reception area.
Violence between Iraqi security forces and anti-government protesters also continued to seethe overnight, with one protester shot dead in a violent crackdown in the country's south. Unrest was also ongoing in the capital, with new clashes erupting Monday near the central Khilani and Wathba squares, where security forces fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse crowds.
Embassies from sixteen Western countries, including the U.S., issued a joint statement condemning the "excessive and lethal use of force" by Iraqi security forces and armed groups over the past three days against "peaceful protesters, including in Baghdad, Nasiriyah and Basra."
The statement called on the government to investigate all reported deaths of protesters since Oct. 1, when the unrest began.
At least 22 protesters were wounded, five due to live fire, security and medical officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Security forces also chased after demonstrators and beat them.
A member of the security forces overpowered a female anti-government protester, dragged her by the hair and pinned her down outside Baghdad's municipality building. The incident, captured by an Associated Press photographer, was a rare occurrence in the largely male-dominated front-lines of the demonstrations.
The security personnel conducted a search of the female protester and tore off a protective face mask she was wearing as a witness threw stones.
Iraq has been roiled by over four months of demonstrations over government corruption, high unemployment and Iranian influence in Iraqi politics. Security forces have killed at least 500 protesters. The country is also facing a political clash over naming the next prime minister, after Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi resigned.
An initial military statement said at least five katyusha rockets had landed inside the Green Zone late Sunday. It was the third attack targeting the U.S. Embassy this month, and the perpetrators were not immediately known. Perpetrators had used katyusha rockets in previous attacks and caused no injuries.
There was no claim of responsibility for any of the attacks. But the U.S. has accused Iran-backed militias of targeting U.S. interests by attacking military bases housing Americans and diplomatic missions.
Abdul-Mahdi condemned the attack in a statement, asserting Iraq's commitment to protecting diplomatic missions in the country.
In the south, a protester was killed amid a violent pre-dawn crackdown by security forces on a protest camp in the city of Nasiriyah, an activist and a medical official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Police fired live rounds to disperse crowds from a central square in Nasiriyah where protesters were staging a sit-in, prompting demonstrators to flee. The encampment site was later burned. It was not immediately clear whether security forces or unknown groups had torched it. The city has been a center of unrest since the protests began.
Iraqi Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday called for a scheduled withdrawal of US troops from Iraq through peaceful means.
Al-Sadr made the call in a letter sent to a massive rally of Iraqis in al-Jaderiyah district, central Baghdad. "We will try to pursue all peaceful political, economic, social, cultural and popular means," the leader said.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis, mainly al-Sadr's followers, gathered to reject the presence of US troops in Iraq, in response to an earlier call by al-Sadr.
If the primary goal, which is to schedule the withdrawal of the US forces, is fulfilled, the peaceful means will continue until full withdrawal is realized, al-Sadr said in the letter.
He said full withdrawal can only be achieved by closing all American military bases on Iraqi soil, closing the headquarters of American security companies and ending their work in Iraq, and closing the Iraqi airspace to the military and intelligence flights of the U.S. forces.
He also called on cancelling all security agreements with the United States due to the absence of an international balance in them since concluded, and they were approved during the years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq after 2003.
Referring to the sporadic attacks on facilities and military bases housing U.S. troops, al-Sadr pledged a "pause of all resistance" until the withdrawal of the last U.S. soldier from Iraq.
"We will try to do our utmost not to throw Iraq into another war with the unjust occupier who perched on the chest of Iraq," al-Sadr said.
The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq on Jan. 5, two days after a U.S. drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport which killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq's paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.
Over 5,000 U.S. troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces in the battles against Islamic State militants, mainly providing training and advising to the Iraqi forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Israel on Thursday for a one-day visit during which he will take part in the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
Putin was welcomed in the Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv in an official ceremony by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and other officials.
The president is expected to hold meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
He also plans to meet Yaffa Issachar, mother of Naama Issachar, a 27-year-old Israeli woman jailed in Moscow over drug charges.
The meeting comes amidst reports on Russian authorities preparing for her early release after the case sparked a wide protest in Israel.
Issachar, a backpacker who was on her way home after a trip in India, was arrested during transit through a Moscow airport. Russian authorities said 9.6 grams of marijuana were found in her backpack, which she says was not belong to her.
In October, she was sentenced for 7.5 years in prison over "drug trafficking."
Putin is also scheduled to attend a dedication ceremony of a monument honoring the veterans and victims of the siege of Leningrad in Gan Sacher in Jerusalem together with Rivlin and Netanyahu.
Masked gunmen on Wednesday ambushed and killed the local commander of a paramilitary security force in southwestern Iran, an associate of Iran's top general recently killed in an American drone strike in Baghdad, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The slain commander, Abdolhossein Mojaddami, headed the Basij forces, a paramilitary wing of the Revolutionary Guard used for internal security and other tasks, in the town of Darkhoein. He was gunned down in front of his home in the town in the country's oil rich Khuzestan province.
Two gunmen on a motorcycle, armed with an assault rifle and a hunting rifle, ambushed Mojaddami, IRNA reported. Other Iranian media said the gunmen's faces were covered with masks and that four shots were fired.
The case is under investigation and a motive was not immediately clear, but Basij units had been involved in violent clashes with demonstrators in the area in November in which many protesters were injured and killed. Amnesty International has reported that more than 300 people were killed in the unrest across the country, though Iran has not announced a death toll.
Mojaddami's killing is seen another blow to the Revolutionary Guard, following the death of top general Qasse m Soleimani earlier this month in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq. Mojaddami was described by IRNA as an associated of Soleimani, who was the head of the Quds forces, the foreign wing of the Guard.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged on Tuesday a global "sanction" against the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the wake of a possible war-crime investigation against Israel.
In an interview to be broadcast later on Tuesday in TBN, the world's largest Christian Network, Netanyahu hailed U.S. President Donald Trump for "forcefully" speaking against the ICC over its intent to open a war-crime case against Israel's conduct in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
"I urge all your viewers to do the same," he said, according to excerpts released by the Israeli Prime Minister's office. "To ask for concrete actions, sanction against the international court, its officials, prosecutors, everyone," Netanyahu said.
ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced in December that there was a "reasonable basis" to launch an investigation into war crimes in the occupied territories and settlements.
The court is currently mulling whether it has territorial jurisdiction before continuing with the procedure.
Israel is not a member of the ICC and Netanyahu as well as Israel's Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit said that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel.