-By Laurens Bammens
Iraq’s army started an offensive to take back Fallujah, a city just west of Baghdad. Together with Mosul, they are they only cities where ISIL still has ground. Although it does not appear ISIL will give up quietly.
Iraq’s Fallujah is being retaken by the Iraqi army. The offensive was announced yesterday after months of preparation. The army, police and several militias have been surrounding the city.
On Sunday night, the city was already bombarded, targeting the neighbourhoods where ISIL presumably has their headquarters. The first confrontation was in Al-Hayakil, in the south of Fallujah. Other Iraqi troops approach from the north side to scare off any ISIL troops and then make their way to the city centre.
Spokesperson for the Iraqi army, Yahya Rasool, said the army is slowly making progress. The roads are full with booby traps that have to be neutralised first.
Taking part in the offensive is the army, the police and anti-terror units. Also militants from local tribes and a coalition from several Shia militias. It is expected that the United States will lead the international coalition with artillery strikes. They have asked for the inhabitants to leave the city. Those that cannot leave should hang a white flag in front of their house.
Fallujah is a city just 50 kilometres west of the Baghdad capital. It was the first city to be conquered by ISIL in January 2014. Six months later, they declared the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Fallujah and Mosul are the only two cities in Iraq where ISIL still has ground.
It is without question that the offensive in Fallujah will be a tough one. The attempt to recover Mosul, in the north of Iraq, was accelerated already in April. Yet the city is still in hands of ISIL.
According to the Pentagon, ISIL keeps losing ground, especially in Iraq. Peter Cook, spokesperson for the Pentagon said that ISIL lost about 45 per cent of its territory in Iraq. In Syria about 16-20 per cent. Many experts confirm that ISIL is losing terrain, but many see the numbers of the United States as open to interpretation.
In June of 2014, ISIL took big parts of Iraq in a strong offensive. Mostly north and west of Baghdad. Later they took province capital Ramadi. Since then, much of the territory is back in friendly hands like the cities Ramadi and Hit. ISIL lost ground especially in the north-east of Iraq, mostly because of the Kurdish rebels supported by the international coalition.
The Fallujah and Mosul offensives does not stop ISIL from trying to gain more land. Yesterday, the terror group launched a series of suicide attacks in the countryside of Damascus, the country’s capital. It cost the lives of at least 150 people. The attacks were later claimed by ISIL. Presumably the cities of Jableh and Tartus were the targets as they are strongholds for Assad’s army.
International gene pool
Today, Russia called the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad for a ceasefire. The truce may last for three days. The announcement from Russia came after the United States insisted on Russia urging Assad to stop bombing opposition forces and civilians in Damascus and Aleppo.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, spoke to Russian state secretary, Sergey Lavrov, on the phone and asked him to press the Syrian government to halt its attacks on Aleppo in the north and Daraya near Damascus.
Most of the people killed in the attacks were civilians and also patients at the Jableh National Hospital. The hospital was taking patients from three blasts that occurred earlier when a suicide bomber exploded himself. The hospital is now no longer operational according to the World Health Organisation.