Sunday, July 9, 2017

ISIL Loses Mosul

The Battle of Mosul (2016–17) is a joint offensive by Iraqi government forces with allied militias, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and international forces to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had seized the city in June 2014. Military intervention against ISIL had already included attempts in 2015 and 2016 to retake the city.

The offensive, dubbed Operation "We Are Coming, Nineveh" (قادمون يا نينوى; Qadimun Ya Naynawa), began on 16 October 2016, with forces besieging ISIL-controlled areas in the Nineveh Governorate surrounding Mosul, and continued with Iraqi troops and Peshmerga fighters engaging ISIL on three fronts outside Mosul, going from village to village in the surrounding area in the largest deployment of Iraqi troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The battle was also the world's single largest military operation in nearly 15 years.

At dawn on 1 November 2016, Iraqi Special Operations Forces entered the city from the east. Met with fierce fighting, the government advance into the city was slowed by elaborate defenses and by the presence of civilians, but the Iraqi Prime Minister declared "full liberation of eastern side of Mosul" on 24 January 2017. Iraqi troops began their offensive to recapture western Mosul on 19 February 2017.

The Battle of Mosul was concurrent with the Battle of Sirte (2016) in Libya, and with the Raqqa campaign conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIL's capital city and stronghold in Syria.

General Background

Mosul is Iraq's second most populous city. It fell to 800–1,500 ISIL militants in June 2014, because of the largely Sunni population's deep distrust of the primarily Shia Iraqi government, and its corrupt armed forces. It was in the Great Mosque in Mosul that ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the beginning of ISIL's self-proclaimed "caliphate" which spans Iraq and Syria. The original population of 2.5 million has fallen to approximately 1.5 million after two years of ISIL rule. The city was once extremely diverse, with ethnic minorities including Armenians, Yazidis, Assyrian, Turkmen, and Shabak people, all of whom have suffered and continue to suffer considerably under the (majority Sunni Arab) Islamic State. Mosul remains the last stronghold of ISIL in Iraq, and the anticipated offensive to reclaim it was promoted as the "mother of all battles.”

Violation of the Laws of War in the Battle for Mosul

In February 2017, Human Rights Watch issued a report regarding the violation of the laws of war in Iraq. According to the report, Islamic State fighters occupied Al-Salam Hospital in Mosul in June 2014, and put the staff and the patients at risk of attacks. During the Battle of Mosul, seven Iraqi soldiers’ corpses were dragged through the streets, and the bodies of three soldiers were hanged from a bridge in the city. As the report mentioned, ISIL fighters occupied a clinic in the town of Hammam al-Alil, which was then hit by an airstrike without warning on October 18, killing at least eight civilians. Previously, they occupied other clinics in other towns controlled by the Islamic State fighters in Iraq, as well operating offices in all the medical facilities in the Republican, Ibn Sina, al-Salam, and Mosul General Hospitals.

Human Rights Watch has also accused the Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Forces of dragging the bodies of alleged ISIL fighters in the town of Qayyarah and in the city of Fallujah, after Iraqi forces took eastern Mosul on January 24, 2017. They warned that allowing Popular Mobilization Forces to conduct the screenings of men and boys fleeing Mosul for having fought for ISIL would have "dire human rights consequences."

Human Rights Watch warned that Popular Mobilization Forces were poorly trained to conduct these screenings. They argued that the irregular nature of screening and detention practices and isolation of detainees in custody risk abuse of the detainees, including arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. Despite assurances from the Iraqi government that the PMF would not screen detainees in Mosul, an observer reported that three PMF groups were seen at a screening site on March 11, 2017: Hezbollah Brigades, al-Abbas Brigades, and Imam Ali Battalions.

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