Iraqi Security Forces Start Offensive to Liberate Hawijah From Daesh

Frederick Owens
September 22, 2017

Iraq has launched an offensive to expel Islamic State militants from Hawija, one of the last two areas in the country still held by the jihadists.

It has a prominent champion in Clooney, who represents members of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority who were raped and kidnapped by Islamic State militants.

The release noted that the Middle Euphrates River Valley is one of two remaining areas where Daesh fighters remain in Iraq.

A U.S. -led coalition backed Iraqi forces with airstrikes Thursday, and U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon said American forces stand "shoulder to shoulder with our Iraqi brothers" in the operation. The operation, supported by the aircraft of the worldwide coalition antidjihadistes and the helicopters of the iraqi army, aims to seize three towns still in the hands of the AES, a hundred kilometers from the syrian border in the vast desert in the western province of al-Anbar.

Amnesty researchers interviewed 151 west Mosul residents, experts and analysts, and documented 45 attacks in total, which killed at least 426 civilians and injured more than 100, providing analysis for nine specific attacks by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition.

Hawija, which lies 50km (30 miles) to the west of the city of Kirkuk, has been a bastion of Sunni Arab insurgents since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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The United Nations last week said up to 85,000 people could be displaced from the Hawija region.

Lt. Gen. Raid Shawkat Jawdat, commander of the Iraqi Federal Police that is also taking part in the operation, said dozens of their armored vehicles started the push at dawn Thursday.

"They have already suffered horribly under ISIS, water and medicine are running out, with many children reportedly weak and malnourished", the organisation said. "Schools and hospitals have shut down", said Aram Shakaram, Save the Children's Deputy Country Director in Iraq. In a report on the final battle for the city of Mosul in July, Amnesty showed how Iraqi and anti-ISIS coalition forces - include British forces - had failed to take adequate measures to protect civilians, instead subjecting them to a terrifying barrage of fire from weapons that should not have been used in densely-populated civilian areas.

Plans to retake Hawija have been complicated by political wrangling among the Iraqi security forces, Shiite armed groups and the Kurdish Peshmerga troops.

Voting is due to take place next Monday in disputed areas claimed by both sides, including Kirkuk, which has sizeable Arab and Turkmen populations.

Abadi considers the September 25 referendum "anti-constitutional" and has called on the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government to cancel it.

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