Comparison of Mosul 5/4/17 vs 5/5/17 showing the new thrust by the Iraqi forces into the northern section of the city (Ninewa Media)
The spokesman for the Iraqi Joint Operations Command General Yahya Rasool told the press that the new northern attack upon Mosul caught the Islamic State off guard. The insurgents were not able to build adequate defenses, which has led to a swift advance. This is being made by the 9th Division and units from the Rapid Reaction Division and Federal Police. The police were fighting in Harmat, which was declared freed the day before. In the center of west Mosul, the Federal Police were also pushing into Zinjali by the Old City. The Iraqis originally claimed this new offensive started on May 1, but that now appears to not have occurred and was another example of Iraqi propaganda and exaggeration. The goal is to cut through the north and reach the Tigris River. The northern front will then connect with the Iraqi forces in the center, and then take the Old City at the end.
There was another bombing controversy in Mosul. The Iraqi air force announced it hit a car bomb factory in the July 17 neighborhood of northwest Mosul on May 4. The Islamic State claimed the building was sheltering displaced families and killed and wounded over 150. A source in the Federal Police confirmed that story with Al Jazeera. The War Media Cell denied that there were any civilians in the area, and released a video of the strike. It accused members of the media of repeating IS propaganda. Unfortunately, in these types of situations, the Iraqi government is not a reliable source. It is official policy to deny any heavy civilian casualties. This happened in the Jadida air strike incident where the Iraqi forces blamed the story on IS, denied it happened, and then released two disinformation stories to deceive the press and public about what happened. This strike could very well have been a car bomb factory, but the Iraqis or outside sources will have to provide more proof.
The fighting in Mosul has caused a large amount of destruction, especially in the west. A member of the Mosul council claimed that 80% of the city’s infrastructure was damaged as a result. These types of statements can only be rough estimates as the fighting is ongoing, and there has not been a comprehensive accounting yet.
Rebuilding Mosul and Ninewa in general appears to be based more upon hope than plans. Ninewa’s Governor Nawfal Hammadi wrote an article for Foreign Policy where he stated that the negatives in the process need to be ignored, and the government’s attempts at reconstruction in Mosul should be acknowledged. The government is clearing streets, and slowly but surely restoring basic services like water. Big picture however, there is no real plan on how to proceed. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution travelled to Iraq in April and was told by Iraqi and U.S. officials that there is no real strategy to rebuild Ninewa after the Mosul battle is over. Iraqis told him they were hoping the United Nations and U.S. led Coalition would provide most of the know how and money. Le Monde Diplomatique noted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson let it be known that the Trump administration will not be doing nation building or reconstruction. The paper went on to say that politics and budgetary problems have hindered rebuilding in the province leaving it to local groups to carry out ad hoc and haphazard work. That could pose problems in the long term integrating these organization’s goals with that of the state. Despite the governor’s and other Iraqi official statements, there is no strategy for putting Ninewa back together. The Iraqi government has a poor track record of making and then following through with large plans. That is especially hard now because Baghdad only has money to cover its current bills, and not for any massive rebuilding project. Until oil prices see a significant rise this budgetary limitation will continue. Pollack and others are worried that unless this becomes a systematic process the gains of liberating the city could be lost as people become frustrated with the situation.
The Mosul Dam opened for the first time in almost 12 years. The dam was built in 1986 and has been plagued with problems ever since due to poor construction. In January 2016, the Water Resources Ministry signed a contract with an Italian company to conduct repairs, which were finally completed. As a result, the gates were opened and water was released. This is a notable success story as there have been constant fears that the dam might collapse. That has hopefully finally been resolved.
People continue to flow out of Mosul. From May 2-3 around 4,000 displaced (IDPs) arrived at Hamam al-Alil south of the city. Flooding was still a problem. There have been heavy rains for several weeks, and this has shut down some bridges across the Tigris. One was closed at the start of May, hindering civilians reaching Hamam al-Alil. In April, there were more people leaving IDP camps and returning to areas then new arrivals. That has since been reversed this month. This is all part of the movement of people in and out of the city, and will likely continue to fluctuate between the two until the city is completely freed.
Kuwait is one of the only foreign countries providing aid to the displaced and inside Mosul. The Kuwait Red Crescent delivered 75 tons of food to east Mosul. The country has also brought in aid, and funding schools and other assistance to the people of Ninewa.
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Baghdad Post, "Security forces liberate 3 neighborhoods in right bank of Mosul," 5/4/17
Coles, Isabel, “Iraqi forces gain foothold in northwest Mosul after surprise new push,” Reuters, 5/5/17
Hammadi, Nawfal, “Here’s How We’re Building a Better Mosul,” Foreign Policy, 5/5/17
Hathalyoum, “Ninewa We Are Coming Announces the liberation of Mesherfa II, Church and Monastery in West Mosul,” 5/5/17
Iraq News Network, “Jabouri: 80% destruction in Mosul,” 5/5/17
Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: May 5, 2017,” 5/5/17
Al Jazeera, “Mosul: Iraqi army denies air raid targeted civilians,” 5/5/17
Kuwait News Agency, “Kuwaiti food aid trickles into Iraq’s Mosul,” 5/4/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, "Police say 30 IS members killed as troops advance through new Mosul axis," Iraqi News
New Sabah, “Chaos in the ranks of Dash in Mosul as their families escape with displaced people,”
- “The gates of Mosul Dam were opened and the water level reached 321 meters,” 5/5/17
- “The joint forces storm the Mesherfa and Haramat in West Mosul,” 5/5/17
Pollack, Kenneth, “Dispatch from Iraq: The anti-ISIS fight, economic troubles, and political maelstrom,” Brookings, 5/5/17
Rojkan, Mira, “New Territorial Gains Against IS in Northwest Mosul,” Bas News, 5/5/17
Schweitzer, Matthew, “Rivalries threaten in post-ISIS Mosul,” Le Monde Diplomatique, 5/5/17
Shafaaq News, “Iraqi authorities respond to agency: those who were killed inside the building in the right bank of Mosul were members of Daash,” 5/5/17
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 4 May 2017,” 5/4/17