Sunday, November 06, 2016

How Goes The Battle

"Daesh have continued to hide behind civilians and facilitate harm to them."
"[Iraqi forces and the coalition] developed a plan that is intended to reduce the possibility of civilian casualties and collateral damage."
Col. John Dorrian, U.S.-led coalition spokesman

"[Coalition air support] hasn't been enough."
"We've never been in such a situation before. We would be fighting and there would be a family right next to us."
Iraqi Captain Naqib Jaff, Mosul outskirts
Mideast Iraq Mosul
Displaced people ride atop a pickup near Bartella, east of Mosul on Friday. Heavy fighting erupted in the eastern neighbourhoods of Mosul on Friday as Iraqi special forces launched an assault deeper into the urban areas of the city and swung round to attack ISIS militants from a second entry point, to the northeast. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)

The Iraqi government had issued orders to Mosul residents warning them to remain inside their homes. The possibility of a mass exodus from residents fleeing the city in anticipation of the murderous violence that is certain to descend and threaten their lives, as always happens during times of war, no doubt alarms the government in the certainty that should that scenario ensue of maximum damage to civilian lives while its troops are battling Islamic State fighters, a hue and cry will erupt from the international community.

It is obviously more concerned about such reactions than the neighbouring regime of Syria's Bashar al-Assad.

There remains still in Mosul over a million people, though it originally housed double that number. As Iraqi forces have advanced, despite their expectations and intelligence warning that ISIL has dug in entrapments, munitions meant to explode in their faces, trenches, berms and tunnels, the fact that they are discovering in real time the presence of all these fortifications that have been put in place over the last few years in anticipation of having to oppose government forces attempting to retake Mosul, the slowdown has begun.

The streets and alleyways of each area of the city that will be encountered promises to make any advance dangerous and laboured. Rows of concrete barricades, mounds of piled-up earth and rubble are shown by satellite images, blocking routes into the centre of the city. Islamic State fighters are shown by the images to have cleared terrain and levelled buildings at Mosul airport as well as at a former military base nearby, on the west bank of the Tigris. Progress by Iraqi forces has been understandably uneven since October 17, despite declarations otherwise.

Within Mosul, a minute fraction of the city is now in government hands. Artillery shelling competes with snipers firing from rooftops while civilians emerge from front lines with white flags waving. Other Mosul residents are held back to be used as human shields by Islamic State. As Iraqi forces hope to press harder into densely populated areas of the city, airstrikes will be withheld in view of the risk of civilian casualties. "Daesh is in the city centre and we must be very careful as our forces advance", declared Maj.Gen. Sumi al-Aridi of Iraqi special forces entering the Gogjali district on Mosul's eastern edge.
Men are held by Iraqi national security agents, to be interrogated at a checkpoint, as oil fields burn in Qayara, south of Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016.  (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Men are held by Iraqi national security agents, to be interrogated at a checkpoint, as oil fields burn in Qayara, south of Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

On Saturday ISIL fought to dislodge the special forces from Mosul's southern edge with both sides firing mortar rounds and automatic weapons. Civilians with children and the elderly complained of being forced to troop over ten kilometres after emerging from their homes, to reach a displaced persons camp. The order  for civilians and families to be kept inside their homes was extended to the front line troops who are warned to ensure civilians are kept well away from the front lines.

Meanwhile, a few kilometres distant, Iraqi officers coordinate airstrikes with the U.S.-led coalition where they watch live drone footage where a team of ISIL fighters regroup close to the front line. "They're moving in front of the mosque", said an Iraqi soldier, calling in an airstrike, and moments afterward, a small building is flattened. After which civilians move into the area, ushered there by the jihadists who want them to be present as a preventive for further strikes.

Mosul map

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