Daesh under siege as Iraqi forces advance deeper into west Mosul
Reuters, AFP | Published — Monday 20 February 2017

Iraqi forces, supported by the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitaries, advance near the village of Sheikh Younis, south of Mosul, to retake the western side of the city from Daesh militants on Sunday. (AFP / Ahmad al-Rubaye)
BAGHDAD/ERBIL: US-backed Iraqi forces on Sunday launched a ground offensive to dislodge Daesh militants from the western part of the city of Mosul, and put an end to their ambitions for territorial rule in Iraq.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the start of the offensive in the northern city, asking the armed forces to “respect human rights” during the battle and to take care of those displaced by the fighting.
Daesh militants are essentially under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 650,000 civilians, after they were forced out of the eastern part of the city in the first phase of an offensive that concluded last month, after 100 days of fighting.
Up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the offensive as residents of western Mosul suffer food and fuel shortages and markets are closed, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters on Saturday.
Iraqi federal police units are leading a northward charge on the Mosul districts that lie west of the Tigris River, aiming to capture Mosul airport, just south of the city, according to statements from the armed forces joint command.
Meanwhile, security forces in the western region of Anbar began digging a trench around the provincial capital Ramadi on Sunday to protect it against infiltrations by the Daesh group, officials said. The trench and berm defensive structure will be 45 km long, protecting mostly the city’s southern and western side from the vast desert of Anbar where Daesh has remote hideouts.
“Ambar Operations Command has begun digging a trench and building berms south of Ramadi,” provincial council member Adhal Al-Fahdawi told AFP.
They dashed through several villages, reaching Zakrutiya, a hamlet 5 km south of the airport by the end of the day, the statements said, and captured a power distribution station along the way, killing several militants, including snipers.
The Rapid Response, an elite Interior Ministry Unit, is advancing alongside the federal police and captured several villages, according to an officer, who said they were largely abandoned.
“Mosul would be a tough fight for any army in the world,” the commander of the US-led coalition forces, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, said in a statement. To date, the coalition has conducted more than 10,000 air strikes against Daesh targets in Iraq and trained and equipped more than 70,000 Iraqi forces, the statement said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declined to offer details about US battle plans when speaking to reporters in the UAE.
“The coalition forces are in support of this operation and we will continue ... with the accelerated effort to destroy ISIS,” he said, using an acronym for the militant group.
Islamic State has escalated its insurgency in retaliation for the military setbacks that have, over the past year, forced it out of most Iraqi cities it had captured in 2014 and 2015.
Two militants blew themselves up in eastern Mosul on Sunday. http://www.arabnews.com/node/1056916/middle-east