The Hashd on the western front launched its Sixth Phase of operations. This involved units from Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Badr, Imam Ali Brigades, and the Al Abbas Division. The main goal was to cut the roads from Tal Afar to Sinjar and focused upon the Ain Hussan area. One brigade linked up with the Peshmerga in the Sinjar district, and another claimed it cut a crossing point from Ninewa to Syria used by the Islamic State. Since the Hashd have not been allowed to take Tal Afar their main task has been to secure the system of roads in western Ninewa and cut off IS supply lines.
Inside Mosul the insurgents carried out another series of attacks upon the eastern section of the city. The 9th Division and Rapid Reaction forces were assaulted. 3 car bombs also went off in Kuba killing and wounding 13 soldiers. IS mortar and rocket fire continued to rain down on liberated areas. 10 more civilians were killed as a result. The situation has gotten so bad that the United Nations reported that around 1,340 people fled northeast Mosul. IS might have been expelled from half the city, but they are still able to carry out raid and harass missions everyday. The shelling is also intensifying, and taking a heavy toll on civilians.
The issue of securing east Mosul was brought up by Niqash. There are five different forces operating in the city, the Golden Division, the army, the Federal Police, the Rapid Reaction forces, and Ninewa police. These units do not always cooperate with each other. The larger problem is that they do not appear to have enough forces to both hold the east effectively, while attacking the west. Since the military is pushing to go into west Mosul as soon as possible the stay behind forces may be stretched thin. This is worrying because the population has not been fully screened, and the Iraqi Forces are afraid of sleeper cells.
Maintaining control was IS’s main activity in west Mosul. It was still setting up defensive positions along the Tigris River. It arrested people who had been handing out supplies to people and whipped them for doing so without its permission. The organization has been telling imams to urge families to volunteer their sons to join the fight against the Iraqi government. At the same time, three commanders were executed for fleeing east Mosul.
The Associated Press was the latest to report on the militant’s drone program. IS has not only been using drones to drop explosives on east Mosul, but was using them to guide suicide car bombs during the fighting there. One of the first report of the group using the devices came from the Turkish army based in northern Ninewa in early 2016. The Turks saw a drone hover around their base for around 15 minutes and then they were shelled by IS. In east Mosul one drone usually scouts out an area, and then a second one is sent in to drop explosives on civilians or the security forces. Drones are relatively cheap and easy to operate, and IS has been able to fashion them into a poor man’s Predator.
Finally, the New Yorker had a great piece of war reporting following a unit of the Rapid Reaction Force. The unit was in Mosul in 2014 when it fell to the Islamic State, and was nearly wiped out. It was later rebuilt and is taking part in the current battle to recapture it. All the members are from Mosul making the fight a personal one.
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