At around 17:45 on 20 August, explosions were reported at a PMF site in the Zur Albu Hishma area, located adjacent to Balad Air Base in southern Salah ad Din province. Initial reports suggest a fire caused an explosion at a weapons depot, causing a number of rockets to detonate and launch. Resulting impacts affected surrounding areas, possibly including some rockets landing within Balad Air Base itself according to limited reporting. Civil Defense units controlled the fire, reportedly preventing it from affecting additional caches at the site. Casualty figures ranged from two PMF members wounded according to some security sources, and as high as two killed and five wounded according to other security sources. Some of the firefighters suffered from breathing issues.
Various sources claimed the explosion at the depot was caused by an airstrike conducted by unidentified aircraft. MP Karim Alaiwi stated “we have proof that Israeli air forces hit several targets in Iraq, including the al-Saqr and Amerli bases.” On 21 August, PMF deputy chairman Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis claimed that the 20 August incident and previous attacks occurred as part of a joint US-Israeli campaign involving the employment of four Israeli UAVs based at sites hosting US forces in Iraq. He claimed the PMF were holding the US responsible for the series of attacks targeting PMF sites. “We have the right to defend ourselves,” said Muhandis. “From now on we will target any drone flying over our bases.”
This incident stands out as the fifth explosive event at PMF sites in Iraq since June. The Israeli government refused to confirm or deny their involvement in any of these events an established practice, instead promoting indirect references. A series of reports citing unnamed “western diplomatic sources” and other sources discussed Israeli intent to prevent the proliferation of SRBMs and other threats facilitated by Iranian proxies. Regular Israeli airstrikes against Iranian interests in Syria allegedly spurned Iranian responses shifting the stockpiling of assets in Iraq. The recent explosions at PMF sites in Iraq supposedly reflected an expansion of Israeli strike activity to address these threats and more broadly demonstrate Israeli power projection capabilities and intent.