Influential Iraqi cleric demands closure of US embassy after Rafah tent massacre

Baghdad, Iraq - Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr renewed his calls to close the US embassy in Baghdad Tuesday after an Israeli strike killed dozens of Palestinian refugees in a tent camp in Gaza.

Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr is calling for the closure of the US Embassy in Baghdad over continued American support for Israel's genocide in Gaza.
Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr is calling for the closure of the US Embassy in Baghdad over continued American support for Israel's genocide in Gaza.  © QASSEM AL-KAABI / AFP

Health officials in Gaza said the Sunday night strike killed at least 45 people in a displaced persons' camp in Rafah, the south Gaza city where Israel launched a deadly invasion earlier this month.

Sadr condemned the Israeli strike and Washington's "shameless" support for the genocide he charged was under way in Gaza.

The Biden administration continues to supply the Israeli military with billions of dollars' worth of weapons while denying its Gaza assault is a genocide.

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"I reiterate my demand to expel" the US ambassador and "close the embassy through diplomatic means without bloodshed," he said in a statement on X.

He said that would be a more effective deterrent than the use of force and would mean US officials "don't have an excuse to destabilize Iraq."

Sadr once led a militia fighting US-led forces after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. He retains a devoted following of millions among the country's Shiite Muslim majority community, and wields great influence over Iraqi politics.

Iraqi foreign ministry condemns Israel's "criminal acts"

The Iraqi foreign ministry condemned the "criminal acts that the occupation continues to commit" in Gaza, and urged the international community to take "deterrent" steps and impose sanctions on Israel.

The Israeli strike prompted a wave of international condemnation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed it was a "tragic accident" but vowed to push on with the military campaign.

Israel has killed at least 36,050 people in Gaza since October, according to the occupied territory's health ministry.

All of Iraq's political parties support the Palestinian cause. Like its neighbor Iran, Iraq does not recognize the Israeli state.

Cover photo: QASSEM AL-KAABI / AFP

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