Red areas show where Iraqi forces have recently moved into in northern west Mosul (Ninewa Media)
The new thrust into northwest Mosul resulted in more victories for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). On May 7, Harmat Thaniya, Tammuz 30 and Wadi Akab were attacked, and there was a second day of fighting in the Tammuz 17 neighborhood with more in Harmat 1 and Mesherfa that were freed the day before. The Islamic State often re-infiltrates into areas, so that could be expected. On May 8, Wadi Akab, Ghanem al-Sayid, and Shuqaq al-Harmat were liberated, and Tammuz 17 was still being fought over. More Iraqi units were being shifted from the center of the city to the north to push the advance further. The two Tammuz neighborhoods was where the Islamic State was constructing a defensive line to confront this new line of attack. The insurgents have done most of their fighting with small units. Those were all in the center of the city. This new front spreads out IS’s forces, which is why the ISF have been able to move forward so quickly.
The 9th Division is leading the charge in northern Mosul and is supported by American forces. The 82nd Airborne Division has advisers with the Iraqi soldiers and they could be seen working with them. Under the Trump administration the U.S. has been able to move their advisers closer to the front. Usually Coalition Special Forces are forward deployed with the Iraqis calling in air strikes and providing assistance.
Since the start of May more people are flowing out of Mosul than returning. From May 5-6 the United Nations recorded over 11,000 people arriving in Hamam al-Alil, south of the city, which is the main checkpoint for the displaced (IDPs). In comparison from May 3-4 only 975 people left IDP camps. Since May 3 all the bridges across the Tigris River have been closed due to flooding. That has cut off Hamam a-Alil from east Mosul. Most of the people coming out of west Mosul are sent to Hamam al-Alil, register, and then move on to east Mosul to be closer to their homes. They now must take boats to get across the river. In April, there was a slight lull in fighting prompting thousands of people to leave the IDP camps and head towards their homes. That has since been reversed.
Mixed Migration Platform did a survey of IDPs from northern Iraq staying in Kurdistan and Ninewa. They talked with 339 people in homes in Dohuk and Irbil or in camps in Haj Ali and Khazir. The overall findings, were that few people were happy with their situation and treatment. 67% of respondents felt that their most important needs, money, food and healthcare were not being met, and 52% believed that the resources that were available were not going to those most in need. The Displacement Ministry is supposed to provide cash payments to IDPs. 80% felt that this process was not being handled well with 69% saying they had not received any money at all. Only 6% were happy with the system. People were divided over services. When asked whether they were fair, 17% said not very much, 18% were neutral, 27% said mostly yes, and 9% were completely satisfied. Lack of jobs was another major concern with 38% saying they were not able to make a living, 27% said there was not much employment, and only 16% saying they were happy with the situation. 69% told the organization they didn’t feel they were going to be able to find any work at all. When asked whether they could find information on assistance available from organizations or the government 31% said not at all, 17% said not very much versus 18% mostly, and 3% completely. 27% said they didn’t know. The main information they wanted was how aid was being distributed, how to get notices in general, and where jobs, supplies and health care were. 64% responded that they didn’t know where they could move after their initial displacement. A few months ago, all the camps south of Mosul were full, and there was space in Kurdistan but the authorities were not telling people. 83% said they didn’t know how to make suggestions or file complaints to the government or aid agencies. The only real positives in the survey was that 97% felt they were safe where they were, and that aid groups, the government, and security forces treated them respectfully. The overall results were that IDPs felt completely helpless in their situations. They didn’t know how or where to get aid, were pessimistic that they could support themselves, and believed they were stuck where they were.
The Financial Times ran a piece on what will happen in Ninewa after the Battle for Mosul is over. One big issue is reconciliation. Some aid groups have put forward some programs on that topic in other parts of Iraq, but they have failed to accomplish many results. In a central Iraqi town for instance, an aid group paid money to allow people suspected of being IS sympathizers to move back, only for them to be kicked out a few months later. Most politicians and non-governmental organizations think that Ninewa needs reforms as well, but no one agrees on what form they should take. Some are pushing for federalism, while others want more districts to promote greater autonomy. Both the Ninewa and central governments are against federal regions, and there’s no consensus on how many districts should be created or where to draw the new lines. In Iraq, disagreements usually lead to the maintenance of the status quo. Provincial elections are scheduled for this year, which could inject some new blood into the debate, but those are probably going to be postponed until next year.
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