Iraqi Forces Push Into Fallujah City

 nsnbc : Iraqi forces, on Saturday, pushed into the city of Fallujah after fierce clashes with Islamic State forces. Preparations for the assault have been underway for days but delayed to minimize the risk for non-combatant civilians.

Iraq_iraqi military_Jun 2016_(archives)Iraqi military and militia broke through the defenses of the self-proclaimed Islamic State )a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) in the al-Nuaimia district of the city of Fallujah, some 50 kilometers west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The troops are, according to nsnbc sources in the region securing new positions in the adjacent districts of Shuhadaa and Jubail in northern Fallujah.

The troops will have to push trough more than an additional three kilometers of urban, densely populated areas, before reaching the government area in the central part of the city. Air forces from members of the U.S.-led coalition have targeted ISIS positions in the Shuhadaa district. The air strikes resulted in the death of several ISIS fighters and helped denying area control.

Air strikes were also launched against ISIS fighters in the Azragiyah area in northwest of Fallujah. The strikes reportedly left x16 ISIS fighters dead and four injured. The Iraqi military and militia forces also repelled a counterattack by scores of ISIS fighters in the Albu Hawa area in the south of Fallujah, on the western bank of the Euphrates river. Some 24 ISIS fighters were reported killed.

Thee have been reports about casualties among Iraqi military and militia forces as well. However, the military, militia as well as the Defense Ministry are tight-lipped about casualties and losses.

Military and so-called Hash Shaabi militia also entered the Saqlawiyah, northwest of Fallujah, and recaptured the town. The forces there were supported by air cover and air strikes from members of the U:S.-led coalition. The assault that began at noon resulted in the raising of the Iraqi flag after ISIS forces were defeated and dislodged after heavy clashes.

Further progress within the city of Fallujah is likely to be slow, careful and systematic. In the current situation time is on the side of the Iraqi military and militia. ISIS forces in Fallujah have, depending on the sources, reduced to a strength of 600 to 1,500 troops. The military has according to nsnbc’s source “decent intelligence” from inside Fallujah and the military and militia have the advantage of absolute air superiority.

There are about 50,000 and 70,000 non-combatant , including an estimated 20,000 children in the city. Further advances will have to take the safety of these civilians into account. Another factor that necessitates caution is that the city is riddled with bobie traps, mines, and improvised explosive devices. A third major risk factor is the presence of snipers.

Progress will, according to nsnbc’s source also be dependent on the security forces’ capacity to police liberated areas to prevent that ISIS fighters hide among the population or flee the city, disguised as non-combatant civilians.

CH/L – nsnbc 05.06.2016

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