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Iraqi forces fight to break through ISIS’ last four defenses in Mosul

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Fierce armed clashes between the advancing Iraqi troops and ISIS militants are taking place around the last four districts the group holds in the western half of Mosul embedded with the Iraqi army in western Mosul, Rudaw’s Ranja Jamal reported on Sunday that heavy confrontations are ongoing in Najar neighborhood as the army managed to break into it the area and have Bab al-Sinjar besieged. Abdulwahab Saadi, an official with the US-trained Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (ICTS), told Rudaw that large segments of Najar were controlled by the ICTS forces, who had begun to advance on Bab al-Sinjar. Saadi said ISIS militants were putting up stiff resistance given they are on the brink of final defeat in Mosul. Plumes of smoke could be seen covering the skyline over Najar neighborhood as ISIS was being bombed on the ground and from the air.  ICTS  officials said in a press conference on Saturday that Najar neighborhood remained for them to liberate and their mission would be accomplished in western Mosul after they took control of 47 neighborhoods in the western half of the city of Mosul in the course of the last three months. Saadi explained to Rudaw that ISIS retains control of just four neighborhoods overall in Mosul, including the Old Mosul district, Shifa, Saha, and Bab al-Sinjar. SIS has placed a large number of militants in these four remaining places, he added. Old Mosul remains the last stronghold of ISIS in the city. In previous battles the army faced strong resistance when they tried to make advances against ISIS militants in Old Mosul, a more densely populated neighborhood with narrow streets. As a result, Iraqi armed forces were forced to shift their focus and instead open a new front in northwestern Mosul. raqi armed forces launched a massive assault on ISIS held districts in northwestern Mosul over the weekend.

Ceaseless Middle East wars forcing change in approach to medical care

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The Middle East’s protracted conflicts have caused a region-wide health crisis that goes beyond war wounds to heightened resistance to antibiotics and a collapse in vaccination drives, leading to a resurgence of diseases tamed in peacetime. Health threats are so varied that one of the Middle East’s main teaching hospitals, the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), has introduced a conflict-medicine program to equip students to cope in an environment afflicted by chaos. As fighting has engulfed Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya since 2011, doctors and nurses have had to adjust not only to treating terrible injuries but to a faster spread of disease and growing threats to their own safety from combatants. Doctors, universities and aid agencies must respond by sharing experience and expertise, and by adapting research and medical practices, said participants at a conflict medicine conference at AUBMC, pointing out that Lebanon’s doctors have had their share of experience in conflict medicine due to the 1975-1990 civil war. The conference was held a few hundred meters from the iconic Beirut building that is witness to the war with its riddled facade. One growing problem is the disruption of vaccinations. Ali Batarfi, dean of the Hadramawt College of Medicine in Mukalla, Yemen, described a recrudescence of dengue fever that had been comparatively rare before the war there. Yemen is suffering from a cholera outbreak after more than two years of a war that has crippled public services, fostered malnutrition, hindered the import of adequate medical supplies and hobbled hospital capacity with war injuries. The collapse in national health systems has accelerated resistance to antibiotics because of drug usage in excess of prescribed limits. At the same time, infections have spread as war has destroyed sanitation and clean water systems and triggered chaotic population movements. The impact ripples beyond countries at war. Lebanon’s health system has grappled with the extra patients from around the war-ridden region attending its hospitals, including some from the more than one million Syrian refugees now in the country. A fifth of patients at AUBC are from Syria and Iraq, of whom the overwhelming majority suffered from war wounds, though the burns department noted a big rise in cases among children because of tent fires in refugee camps. Doctors in war zones have had to radically alter their approach, rationing resources, operating in primitive conditions and changing the way they treat trauma injuries. Surgical treatment of injuries is very different when those wounds have been caused by high-velocity bullets or shrapnel – something traditionally trained surgeons must learn as war has spread in the Middle East. Increasingly, warring sides in conflicts are targeting medical facilities, seemingly aiming to reduce their enemies’ stomach for battle by aggravating the suffering of civilians. “When I started for MSF, my MSF jacket was my bullet-proof vest”, said Dr Anja Wolz, emergency coordinator at Medecins Sans Frontieres in Brussels, who has worked recently at the MSF field hospital in Mosul. “Now you feel like a target”. The ICRC has warned that the drawn-out crises plaguing the Middle East “could lead to the total collapse of health systems”.

Hashd al-Shaabi clash surround ISIS-held Qairawan from three sides

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The mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces are engaged in clashes with the ISIS militants in the Yezidi villages of Tal Banat and Tal Qasab, west of Mosul, as they continue their newest offensive for a third day in a row. They are working to recapture the remaining areas still under control of the extremist group near the Syrian border. The paramilitary force, backed by the Iraqi air force and the Iraqi army, had entered the Yezidi village of Tal Banat Sunday morning that fell to ISIS militants in late 2014, Rudaw’s Peshawa Pahlawi reported in the outskirts of the village. Dust and black smoke have been rising in the skylines of Tal Banat, located southeast of Shingal district. Rudaw’s Tahsin Qasim, also reporting on the ground, said that the paramilitary have surrounded Tal Qasab, another Yezidi village in the area. They Shiite force claimed Sunday afternoon that they have liberated Khilu village, west of Tal Qasab. The Shiite forces had declared that they liberated 10 villages on Saturday, including Tal Banat. They also reported that the main Shingal-Qairawan road fell to their forces the day before. With the advances made Saturday, the forces claim that they are surrounding Qairawan from three sides, to the north, east and south. The forces are now 3 km away from Qairawan, south of Shingal. The main objective for the fresh offesnive is Qairawan and Baa’j located west of Mosul and close to the Syrian border, commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi Mahdi al-Muhandis said on Friday. Muhandis added that the operation was to achieve its objectives within the “next 48 or 72 hours”.

Iraq’s Shiite militias squeeze Islamic State toward Syria border

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Iraq’s Shi’ite paramilitaries launched an offensive on Friday to drive Islamic State from a desert region near the border with Syria as security forces fought the militants in the city of Mosul. Spokesman Karim al-Nouri said the target of the operation was the Qairawan and Baaj areas about 100 km west of Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are advancing in their campaign to rout the militants from city. Seven months into the Mosul campaign, Islamic State has been driven from all but a handful of districts in the city’s western half including the Old City, where it is using hundreds of thousands of civilians as human shields. The paramilitaries have been kept on the sidelines of the battle for the city of Mosul itself, but have captured a vast, thinly populated area to the southwest, cutting Islamic State supply routes to Syria. Islamic State is losing territory in both  Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi military said in a statement its air force was supporting the operation by the paramilitary groups known collectively as Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). Unlike regular Iraqi security forces, the PMF does not receive support from the U.S.-led coalition, which is wary of Iran’s influence over the most powerful factions within the body. Officially answerable to the government in Baghdad, the PMF were formed when Islamic State overran around one third of Iraq including Mosul nearly three years ago and Iraqi security forces disintegrated. Nouri said PMF control over the border would assist Syrian government forces when they push toward the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa. On Friday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said their assault on Raqqa, the militants’ biggest urban stronghold, would begin soon and that they were awaiting weapons including armored vehicles from the U.S.-led coalition

Iraqi forces engage in intensive clashes in western Mosul.

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Iraqi forces continue to engage in intensive fighting against ISIS militants for the third day in northwestern areas of Mosul after it opened a new front against the extremist group last Thursday. Rudaw’s cameras have captured large plumes of smoke rising over the skyline of western Mosul Saturday as Iraqi forces, backed by their fighter jets and that of the US-led global coalition, bombed ISIS positions in the last remaining districts northwest of the city, and the now ISIS stronghold of Old Mosul. Brigadier General Yahya Rassol, the spokesperson for Iraq’s joint command, told Rudaw Friday that their forces now controll Mushairafa One, Two and Three, Mikhail Monastery northwest of Mosul, as well as Hawi Kanisa. Continued clashes have been reported Saturday morning in some of these acclaimed liberated districts, with ISIS using at least one car bomb, Rudaw’s Sidad Lashkri who is embedded with Iraqi forces reported from Mosul. The Iraqi forces had faced strong resistance when they tried to make advances against the ISIS militants in Old Mosul, where it is more densely populated and the streets are narrower than the eastern part of the city. As a result, Iraqi armed forces were forced to shift the focus and instead open a new front in northwestern Mosul. The ISIS militants are now “besieged” in all areas they control in Mosul and are “under the fireline” of the Iraqi forces, Brig. Gen. Rasool told Rudaw. He also said that they have so far captured 70 percent of western Mosul, adding that ISIS territory has shrunk significantly compared to what it once was more than two and a half years ago. He said ISIS used to control  40 percent of Iraq when it captured large parts of the country, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. It now controls less than 7 percent, he noted. ISIS is still in control of the Turkmen town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Hawija,south of Kirkuk, and several places in the Anbar province west of the country, including al-Qaim and Rawa, near the Syrian border. Commenting on an Iraqi airstrike that ISIS claimed killed scores of civilians, Rassol denied the accusations.

 

Iraqi army opens new front, advances on ISIS in Mosul from northwest

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“At hour 06:00 forces of the army ‘s 9th Division and the 73rd Brigade of the 5th Division and forces of the federal police including the Rapid Response units attacked neighborhoods of Mshirfa, al-Kanisa and al-Haramat neighborhoods north of the right side of the city of Mosul”, the military statement read. “Your sons are now fighting to break defenses of the enemy and destroy its capabilities and they are ready to embrace either victory or martyrdom to liberate what has been remained of the Mosul city from the terrorist Daesh”, the statement continued using an Arabic acronym for ISIS. The attack would help the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and Interior Ministry Federal Police troops who were painstakingly advancing from the south, a military commander told Reuters. The militants are now besieged in the north-western corner of Mosul which includes the historic Old City centre and the Grand al-Nuri Mosque-from which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” in 2014. Heavy sustained gunfire has been a constant in the Old City area for days, where militants are hiding among residents and using the alleyways, traditional family homes and snaking narrow roads to their advantage. Tens of thousands of Mosul residents are trapped inside homes, caught in the fighting, shelling and air strikes as Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition advance in the west. The United Nations believes up to half a million people remain in the area, 400,000 of whom are in the Old City with little food, water and medicine

Iraqi Shiite forces retake Hatra antiquities site near Mosul

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Iraqi Shiite paramilitary units captured the northern province of Hatra, cutting off several desert tracks used by Islamic State to move between Iraq and Syria, the military. The operations in Hatra are carried out by Popular Mobilisation, a coalition of mostly Iranian-trained militias of Shi’ite volunteers formed in 2014 after Islamic State, a hardline Sunni group, overran a third of Iraq. The militias on Wednesday dislodged Islamic State from the ancient ruins of Hatra, which suffered great destruction under the militants’ three-year rule, a military spokesman said. Hatra, a city that flourished in the first century AD, lies 125 km (80 miles) south of Mosul, where the militants have been fighting off a U.S.-backed offensive since October. Hatra is also located west of Hawija, a region north of Baghdad still under Islamic State control. Popular Mobilisation, which operates with the approval of Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, said the Hatra campaign aims at cutting off Islamic State’s routes between Hawija, Mosul and eastern Syria.

Mosul businesses start reconstruction without waiting for final ISIS defeat.

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Some businessmen in Mosul have begun rebuilding their shattered premises without waiting for financial support from the cash-strapped Iraqi government or for the final defeat of Islamic State (ISIS) in the city. Rafi’ Ghanem owns an automotive spare parts business in the eastern side of the city. Ghanem said he and the 25 other businesses that rent space in the building agreed to contribute funds to help the landlord clear the debris and rebuild one of the two storeys. The city, captured by ISIS in 2014, has suffered extensive damage as hundreds of houses and public buildings including the airport, the main railway station and the university have been destroyed. Cement and steel prices have gone down steeply since the militants were defeated in eastern Mosul, as road connections have opened up with the rest of Iraq and Turkey, allowing supplies to resume. A metric ton of cement used to sell for up to 350,000 Iraqi dinars ($300) after the militants took over nearly three years ago. It now costs 80,000 to 90,000, said an importer, Saif Ibrahim. And although some work may cause discomfort to road users, engineer Mahmoud Younis will continue to rebuild. “We are working in crowded areas and we cause traffic jams. We also lack machinery and have limited resources, so we sometimes use machinery from other departments to keep work going”, he said. For Ghanem and many other Mosul residents, there is no other choice but to rebuild the city which had a pre-war population of more than 2 million.

Iraqi forces push deeper into Old City of Mosul.

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Thick smoke could been seen  billowing over the Old City of Mosul, near the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, as Iraqi forces advance under the U.S.-backed offensive to capture Islamic State’s (ISIS) de facto capital. The battle to free Mosul – between ISIS militants and Iraqi forces – is now in its seventh month and has taken a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped in neighborhoods inside the city, still under control of the militants. Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel ISIS from Mosul but face a complicated urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, sheltering among civilians in the city in order to evade airstrikes. The war between ISIS and Iraqi forces is taking a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped inside the city, with severely malnourished babies reaching hospitals in government-held areas.

 

Iraqi Ministry: more than 55.000 displaced Nineveh families sheltered at refugee camps across Mosul

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The number of displaced Iraqi families from Nineveh sheltered at refugee camps across Mosul has surpassed 55.000, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement. Minister Jassem al-Jaff said Wednesday that 55.190 families (291.042 refugees) are currently sheltered at refugee camps across Mosul, where a U.S.-backed security campaign has approached a seventh month to eliminate Islamic State militants from the city. According to the minister, 120.000 refugees have so far returned to their homes in eastern and southern Nineveh. Last week, the ministry said refugees from Nineveh, Kirkuk’s town of Hawija and Salahuddin’s town of Shirqat reached 526.281 since operations were launched to clear Nineveh from IS militants in October 2016. Those include 467.210 refugees from Nineveh, 41.774 from Hawija, Kirkuk, and 17.297 from Shirqat, Salahuddin, according to the statement. “We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict”, United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday, commenting on the situation in Mosul.

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