The New York Times had a great article on the decision behind the new offensive in northwest Mosul. In mid-April Prime Minister Haider Abadi held a conference with his commanders in Hamam al-Alil. The premier argued that the operation was dragging out, and that only benefited the Islamic State, therefore a change was needed. The officers then debated who should be responsible for the new thrust, since most of their forces had been involved in the fight since the start, and had suffered heavy losses as a result. Two main issues were brought up. First, was that the army had not taken part in any of the fighting in west Mosul, only the Golden Division, Rapid Reaction Division, and Federal Police had. Second, some believed the Federal Police were not holding up their responsibilities as they have been stuck in the Old City for two months now. Finally, the decision was made that the army’s 9th Division would attack the city from the north. Previously it had been working with the Hashd’s Al-Abbas Division in clearing the Badush district. After that was accomplished in April it simply sat outside the city. The plan is to push into Mosul from the north and south to spread out the Islamic State’s fighters. The Old City will be freed last. While the Iraqis have improved, it seems that they still have work to do in coordinating their forces. A lot of that has to do with the divided command the Iraqi forces (ISF) fight under. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division answer to the Interior Ministry, the army to the Defense Ministry, the Golden Division is a separate entity, which is directly under the prime minister, and the Hashd are a confederation of separate units. This caused problems in east Mosul when the Golden Division was told to attack the city by itself because the army hadn’t caught up, and then when it finally arrived, there was a lack of cooperation initially. These issues still need to be worked out as the army could have attacked Mosul long ago.
The new offensive was announced on May 4, which raises some questions. The 9th Division and units from the Rapid Reaction Division attacked in the morning. Mesherfa, Kanisa and Harmat were assaulted and declared freed by the end of the day. The point of this thrust is to cut through the northern section of the city and reach the Tigris River and the Fifth Bridge. The army is being supported by U.S. advisers, who helped planned the operation and probably have Special Forces operating along the front as well. The problem with today’s announcement was that troops were said to have assaulted Mosul from the north on May 1. That included attacking Harmat and several other neighborhoods by the police and Golden Division. Did that really happen or was that just propaganda as the Iraqis are ought to do? It’s unclear as of now.
As the fighting has picked back up, so has civilian casualties. The deaths of 11 people in west Mosul was blamed upon a Coalition air strike. Shelling also led to 79 fatalities and 159 wounded since the start of May. Civilians have suffered the brunt of the battle for the city. The increased use of heavy weapons by the Coalition and Iraqi forces in the west has also increased the casualty rate.
For most of April there were more people leaving the displaced camps then arriving, but that has been reversed in May. On April 30 there were 339,558 registered displaced. That jumped to 358,410 on May 2, and then 359,250 on May 4. There is always a constant flow of people in and out of the city, and there was a slight ebb in combat in April, which probably attributed to the increase in returns. People area also unhappy with staying in the camps where their movement is severely restricted, and there is a lack of jobs. That has led many people to leave and move to east Mosul even if they didn’t originate from there. In total, 114,030 people have been counted as returnees. The real number is probably much higher as many never signed up with the authorities or aid groups.
Aboulenein, Ahmed and Rasheed, Ahmed, “Mosul offensive gains fresh momentum as army attacks IS from northwest,” Reuters, 5/4/17
Associated Press, “Spokesman: Iraqi Forces Launch New Push in Mosul’s West,” 5/4/17
Baghdad Post, "240 civilians killed, injured in 4 days by gov't shelling in Mosul," 5/4/17
- "Security forces liberate 3 neighborhoods in right bank of Mosul," 5/4/17
- "Security forces storm Hawi Kanesah in Mosul," 5/4/17
BBC, “Mosul battle: Iraqis open new front to retake city from IS,” 5/4/17
Gordon, Michael, “Iraqi Forces Open a Front in West Mosul, Trying to Squeeze ISIS,” New York Times, 5/4/17
International Migration of Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking, Factsheet #27 – Mosul Operations From 17 October To 04 May,” 5/4/17
Al Jazeera, “Iraqi forces launch new operation northwest of Mosul,” 5/4/17
Morris, Loveday, “Iraqi forces open new front in Mosul offensive, gearing up for a final showdown,” Washington Post, 5/4/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, "Eleven civilians die in western Mosul airstrikes, coalition suspected," Iraqi News, 5/4/17
Mostafa, Nehal, "Offensives begin to liberate two western Mosul districts," Iraqi News, 5/1/17
-"Updated: More locations liberated in western Mosul," Iraqi News, 5/4/17
NINA, "Security Forces Enter Haramat Area Of Mosul's Right Side," 4/19/17
Rojkan, Mira, “IS Continues Using Drones Against Iraqi Forces in Mosul,” Bas News, 5/4/17
Rudaw, “Iraqi army launches assault to northwestern Mosul, controls village,” 5/4/17
- “Normalcy trickles back into liberated areas of west Mosul,” 5/4/17
Xinhua, "Iraqi forces make new push against IS stronghold in western Mosul," 5/4/17