Iraqi forces ENTER Fallujah: Troops storm ISIS bastion on three fronts in massive dawn offensive
Watch video Harambe the gorilla enters his habitat for the first time Iraqi forces entered Fallujah today in a final assault to retake the city where 50,000 civilians are being held hostage by ISIS. Troops backed by coalition air strikes, artillery and tanks stormed the terror group’s bastion on three fronts in a massive dawn offensive. They were joined by counter-terrorism service (CTS) forces, marking the start of a phase of urban combat in a city where US forces in 2004 fought some of their toughest battles since the Vietnam War. A member of the Iraqi security forces fires a rocket against the backdrop of explosions during clashes with ISIS near Fallujah. Troops backed by air strikes, artillery and tanks have now stormed the terror group’s bastion on three fronts in a massive dawn offensive Guerrilla warfare: Troops were joined by counter-terrorism service forces (above) which marks the start of a phase of urban combat in a city where US forces in 2004 fought some of their toughest battles since the Vietnam War Heavily armed elite forces wait for their orders to advance ahead of the offensive which began at around 4am local time this morning Iraqi pro-government forces evacuate a wounded comrade in al-Sejar village in Iraq’s Anbar province, on the boundaries of Fallujah as they take part in a major assault to retake the city Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi, the commander in charge of the operation, said: ‘Iraqi forces entered Fallujah under air cover from the international coalition, the Iraqi air force and army aviation and supported by artillery and tanks. ‘Counter-terrorism service (CTS) forces, the Anbar police and the Iraqi army, at around 4am (1am GMT), started moving into Fallujah from three directions,’ he said. CTS spokesman Sabah al-Norman said: ‘We started early this morning our operations to break into Fallujah.’ The week-old operation had previously focused on retaking villages and rural areas around Fallujah, which lies just 30 miles west of Baghdad. Only a few hundred families managed to slip out of the Fallujah area ahead of the assault on the city, with an estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped inside, sparking fears the jihadists could try to use them as human shields. Fallujah is one of just two major urban centres in Iraq still held by ISIS. They also hold second city Mosul. Major Dhia Thamir, of the Special Forces Service, said troops have recaptured 80 per cent of the territory around the city since the operation began a week ago. Elite Iraqi troops were poised Sunday to assault one of the Islamic State group’s most emblematic bastions, Fallujah, as the jihadists counterattacked in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria Smoke billows on the front line near Hasan Sham village, some 45 kilometres east of the city of Mosul The ‘peshmerga-led ground offensive, backed by international coalition warplanes’ started before dawn Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces carry a wounded comrade during an operation near Hasan Sham village But the overall commander of the Fallujah operation, Abdelwahab al-Saadi, said Saturday it was a matter of hours before the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) entered the city. The week-old operation has so far focused on retaking villages and rural areas around the city, which lies only 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad. ‘I won’t tell you hours but the breach of Fallujah will happen very soon,’ Hadi al-Ameri, a senior commander in the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, told Iraqi television. CTS’s involvement will mark the beginning of a phase of urban combat in Fallujah, a city where US forces in 2004 fought some of their toughest battles since the Vietnam War. The jihadists were also under pressure from Kurdish fighters east of their northern Iraqi stronghold Mosul and from US-backed Kurdish-led fighters in Syria. An Iraqi girl sleeps inside a tent at a camp in the town of Amriyat al-Fallujah set up to shelter people fleeing violence around Fallujah Scared: Iraqi children stand outside a tent at a camp set up to shelter people fleeing violence around the city of Fallujah.The Norwegian Refugee Council, which runs the camp in Amriyat al-Fallujah, says around 3,000 people have managed to flee the area since fighting began Around 2,200 people have managed to escape the Fallujah area since Iraqi forces launched their operation to retake the city on May 22-23 Displaced Iraqis register their families at the entrance of a newly-opened camp in the government-held town of Amriyat al-Fallujah 30 miles southwest of Baghdad on May 29 which was set up to shelter people fleeing violence around the city of Fallujah Women and children swarm a Red Crescent ambulance handing out medicine at a camp sheltering displaced Iraqis Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region announced yesterday the launch of a pre-dawn offensive involving 5,500 peshmerga fighters to retake an area on the road between its capital Arbil and Mosul. ‘This is one of the many shaping operations expected to increase pressure on ISIS in and around Mosul in preparation for an eventual assault on the city,’ the Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement. In Syria, Kurdish rebels from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) allied to Arab fighters and backed both on the ground and in the air by the US-led coalition, were targeting Raqqa, ISIS’s de-facto Syrian capital. ISIS countered in both countries where they declared their ‘caliphate’ in 2014, attacking non-jihadist rebels in Syria as well as the Iraqi town of Heet, which was recaptured by the army just last month. ‘An attack by Daesh (ISIS) terrorists on several parts of Heet was thwarted… Now the whole area is under control,’ the Joint Operations Command said in a statement. It said coalition aircraft targeted ISIS forces during the attack and added that pockets of jihadists remained. Iraqi security forces, advancing towards Fellujah, clear one of the tunnels built by ISIS fighters in the city Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism forces gather ahead of an operation to re-take the ISIS-held City of Fallujah On stand-by: The elite fighters were called in ahead of an expected final assault on the ISIS held city Preperations: Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism forces clean their weapons ahead of the operation Hundreds of residents have managed to flee the extremist stronghold with Iraqi forces surrounding the city ISIS has been losing ground around their strongholds in Mosul and Fallujah in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria ‘Daesh attacked Heet to ease the pressure on their fighters inside Fallujah, especially following the announcement that CTS had arrived,’ the statement said. In northern Syria, the jihadists have launched an offensive against the towns of Marea and Azaz that threatens to overrun the last swathe of territory in the east of Aleppo province held by non-jihadist rebels. As the fighting raged on multiple fronts, civilians were once again bearing the brunt of the conflict. At least 29 civilians have been killed since ISIS launched the assault in Aleppo province early on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Northwest of Azaz, a senior nurse said late Saturday that a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was closed except for emergencies. A troop buildup has been completed around Fallujah with the last battalion having arrived at dawn yesterday at the sprawling Tariq Camp Major Dhia Thamir, of the Special Forces Service, said troops have recaptured 80 percent of the territory around the city since the operation began a week ago Iraqi commander, Abdelwahab al Saadi, told al jazeera: ‘These forces will break into Fallujah in the next few hours to liberate it from Daesh’ The Iraqi army is preparing for a final assault to retake Fallujah from ISIS as jihadists continue to hold 50,000 civilians hostage amid fierce fighting MSF said on Friday that it was evacuating patients and staff from the hospital in Salamah town as it was just three kilometres (two miles) from the front line. In Iraq, only a few hundred families managed to slip out of the Fallujah area, with an estimated 50,000 people still trapped inside the city proper. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, around 2,200 people have managed to escape the Fallujah area since Iraqi forces launched their operation on May 22-23. ‘We are receiving hundreds of displaced Iraqis from the outskirts of Fallujah who are totally exhausted, afraid and hungry,’ said Nasr Muflahi, NRC’s Iraq director. The extremist group still controls territory in the country’s north and west, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city Iraq’s counter-terrorism service (CTS) reach al-Sejar village in Iraq’s Anbar province, on the boundaries of Fallujah An estimated 50,000 civilians remained trapped in Fallujah city as well as twice that number along Syria’s border with Turkey as a result of an ISIS sweep near Aleppo ISIS fighters holed up in Fallujah are believed to number around 1,000 and while the myriad forces involved in the operation have moved closer, none have yet entered the city proper Mourners carry the coffin an Iraqi soldier, who was killed during the assault to retake the city of Fallujah Among the terrorists killed, was the area’s commander, Maher Al-Bilawi, who was one of 70 jihadis killed in the airstrikes. Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the US-led coalition said the terrorists ‘are holding the civilian population captive so that they can hide behind them’. In a weekly update of operations across Iraq and Syria, Warren said: ‘We’ve killed more than 70 enemy fighters, including Maher Al-Bilawi, who is the commander of ISIL forces in Fallujah.’ Warren said the Al-Bilawi commander was killed two days ago while an Iraqi officer and a local official had reported his death last week. Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake Fallujah, one of only two major Iraqi cities still controlled by ISIS, the other being Mosul. ISIS fighters holed up in Fallujah are believed to number around 1,000 and while the myriad forces involved in the operation have moved closer, none have yet entered the city proper. Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces on May 22-23 launched an offensive to retake Fallujah, one of only two major Iraqi cities still controlled by ISIS, the other being Mosul Iraq’s CTS, the country’s best-trained and most battle-tested fighting unit, deployed on the edge of Fallujah for the first time since an operation was launched to retake the jihadist-held city A destroyed tank is left in Harariyat village on the outskirts of Fallujah city in Iraq’s western Anbar province Iraqi pro-government forces rest inside a building ahead of a major assault to retake the city of Fallujah It was the first Iraqi city to fall out of government control in January 2014 and was the scene a decade earlier of some of the worst fighting US forces had seen since the Vietnam war. The city has been surrounded by pro-government forces for months and concern has been mounting among humanitarian groups that the population was being deliberately starved. Nasr Muflahi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Iraq director said: ‘The situation inside Fallujah is getting critical by the day.’ Despite plans before the operation for safe corridors, few civilians have managed to flee the Fallujah battle in recent days. The biggest group slipped out on Friday. The militants meanwhile launched an attack Sunday on the town of Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, which was recaptured by government troops last month. A military officer said the extremists entered three neighborhoods and were engaged in heavy clashes with Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes. Fallujah, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the 2003-2011 U.S.-led military intervention, was the first city in Iraq to fall to IS. The extremists seized control of Fallujah in January 2014, six months before they swept across northern and western Iraq and declared a caliphate. During the past few months, the army, security forces and allied paramilitary forces carried out operations around Mosul and Fallujah to tighten the grip on the besieged city Despite plans before the operation for safe corridors, few civilians have managed to flee the Fallujah battle in recent days The city has been surrounded by pro-government forces for months and concern has been mounting among humanitarian groups that the population was being deliberately starved Fighters from a Shiite paramilitary units, known as Hashd Shaabi, are seen at a tunnel in Harariyat village on the outskirts of Fallujah city Police Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said: ‘Our forces evacuated 460 people… most of them women and children.’ One of the lucky civilians who managed to flee the city with more than ten of her family, Umm Omar said: ‘ISIS gave us food that only animals would eat.’ A Kurdish-Arab alliance has launched an operation to retake the city, where an estimated 300,000 people still living there are becoming increasingly desperate to flee. According to anti-ISIS activist group Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), residents were paying smugglers £270 each to try to escape. The Iraqi army has begun its assault on the ISIS stronghold of Fallujah to rout the remaining 1,000 terrorists 70 ISIS terrorists including their commander Maher Al-Bilawi were killed by an airstrike in Fallujah, Iraq The 1,000 remaining terrorists are holding 50,000 civilians who are trapped in the city has human shields Small numbers of civilians have been able to flee the city, avoiding the attentions of the 1,000 remaining jihadis Hamoud al-Musa of RBSS said: ‘There is nearly no one walking in the streets. People are afraid of a brutal onslaught from the warplanes, whether coalition, Russian, or even regime. He said ISIS had set up a few new checkpoints in Raqa city and was ‘amassing its forces on the front lines’ further north, he said. UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said a total of 592,700 Syrians were living under siege, an increase of some 75,000 from a previous estimate. He told the Security Council Friday that the use of siege and starvation as a weapon of war was ‘reprehensible’ and ‘must stop immediately’. Iraqi forces began their attack on Fallujah on May 22 assisted by US and coalition bombers and drones ISIS have been accused of using civilians as human shields in Fallujah as terror group loses ground in Iraq The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
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