The U.S. announced that it had “conducted defensive precision strikes against Kataeb Hezbollah (KH) facilities across Iraq”, underscoring that the operation was “in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces”. The Pentagon's statement further warned that “these terror groups must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces or face consequences at a time and place of our choosing”. CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie asserted: “I would caution Iran and its proxies from attempting a response that would endanger U.S. and coalition forces or our partners… We have the flexibility, capability and will to respond to any threat”. The Iraqi military reported six fatalities and a dozen wounded as a result of the U.S. operation, including civilians. Iraqi President Barham Salih issued a statement describing the strikes “as violation of national sovereignty”, adding that the presidency “rejects all steps by other countries to settle scores on Iraqi soil, those seeking to fight by proxy… If these violations are repeatedly occurred, Iraq will plunge back into chaos and violence”.
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