Troops are set to back the Iraqi forces in an upcoming offensive to dislodge ISIS in Anbar’s western town of Qaem and areas around the military base. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces currently control over one third of western Mosul and are pushing deeper into the city, encountering fierce counter-attacks from the ultra-hardline group that has slowed progress. The assault on Mosul, the jihadists’ last major stronghold in Iraq, was launched by a 100,000-strong alliance of local forces on Oct. 17 that has become the biggest military operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The offensive to recapture west Mosul started three weeks ago.
Daesh (or ISIS) terrorists launched a counter-attack against advancing Iraqi forces in western Mosul during an overnight rain storm. Explosions and gun fire rang out across the city’s southwestern districts in the early hours of Thursday. The fighting eased in the late morning, although a Reuters correspondent saw an air strike and rebel mortar fire. The Takfiri militants are using suicide car bombers, snipers and booby traps to counter the offensive waged by the 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Kurdish Peshmarga fighters and Hashd al-Shaabi forces. Hundreds of women and children gathered in one abandoned bus station in the rain to receive food from the army and a local charity.
A building believed to be an Islamic State command center in western Mosul was destroyed on Friday in an airstrike conducted by the U.S.-led coalition, the building was situated in a main medical complex of the city. “The coalition was able to determine through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts that ISIS did not use the building for any medical purposes and that civilians were no longer accessing the site” the coalition said in a statement. “Coalition forces comply with the Law of Armed Conflict, work diligently to be precise in our airstrikes, and take all feasible precautions during the planning and execution of air strikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians”, they have added.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday hours after Pence said the U.S. would stand firm with Europe and NATO. In a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday, Abadi referred to the “importance of continued international cooperation against terrorism”; 6000 American service members are currently stationed in Iraq. The counter-ISIS efforts have now reached their “last stages” Abadi added in the call, saying that the courage and sacrifice of Iraqis has inflicted a huge loss on the militant group.
Eleven minors including small children were among the 24 civilians killed in new Turkish airstrikes against al Bab, the national observatory for human rights in Syria (Ondus) said Thursday. Eight women were also reportedly among the dead. Ondus said 89 civilians including 27 minors and 16 women have died in Turkish air strikes against the last remaining ISIS stronghold in northwest Syria in the last 10 days.