There were more problems with the optimistic timeline laid out by the Iraqi forces on their planned progress in the Mosul battle. June 1 was when the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were supposed to have feed Zinjali, Shifa and Saha, which are the neighborhoods north of the Old City district along the Tigris River. There was fighting in all three of those areas, but no reported advances. The ISF are always saying they are trying to protect civilians, but the reality of battle is something else. Residents in Old Mosul said there were streets and yards full of dead bodies from artillery and air strikes. The Islamic State continued to target people attempting to flee as well. Twelve people were reportedly killed and 23 wounded by IS fire trying to escape, and the group executed another 8. Residents of the city have suffered huge casualties during the fighting from all sides. The government’s decision to tell people to stay in the city proved a major mistake, and IS using human shields and targeting civilians all played a role.
In the liberated section of Mosul the army, police and national intelligence agency conducted a series of sweeps looking for IS members. That resulted in several arrests. There are still fears of sleeper cells and infiltration, plus insurgents that simply melted away into the population to hide from prosecution.
The Hashd resumed offensive operations in west Mosul. Yesterday they were stopped by an IS counter attack. June 1 they freed one town, assaulted another, and were heading towards a border crossing. During the day there was a report that Hashd units had crossed into Syria and seized two villages. That was later denied. Many Hashd officials have been talking about moving into Syria if the government permitted them. A lot of the units are already engaged in the battle fighting for the Assad government. While the desire is there to formally move into Syria they have said they would not do so without government approval.
Deputy Hashd commander Abu Muhandis told the media that after the Iraq-Syrian border was liberated it would be turned over to the border police. There has been much talk of Pro-Iranian Hashd groups wanting to get to the area so that they could assist Tehran in moving men and materials from Iran across Iraq and into Syria to help the Assad regime. Muhandis’ comments were likely aimed at countering that narrative.
The Hashd’s presence in Sinjar continued to bring criticism from the Kurds. The Chief of Staff of the Peshmerga Ministry Jabar Yawar said that the offensive in west Ninewa should not be politicized by the Hashd. He called on Baghdad and the Kurdistan region to let Yazidis of the district to decide the future of their areas. The Hashd have made great fanfare from freeing several Yazidi villages and having two militia units join its ranks. This is a great worry to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) that is struggling to regain control of Sinjar after it abandoned it in 2014 to the Islamic State.
ABC News reported that the United States is still working with the Rapid Reaction Division (RRD) after Der Spiegel, ABC and the Toronto Star had stories on their abuse during the Ninewa campaign. The unit was blacklisted in March 2015 for human rights violations, but today the American military is praising its work in the Mosul campaign. The Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the matter, and the unit in the articles was withdrawn from the front. In reality, nothing is likely to happen just like all the other committees that have been formed over the years into similar stories. Torture and abuse is institutionalized within the ISF, and the authorities only give lip service to doing something about it. The same is true for the U.S. that needs the ISF to fight the war against the Islamic State.
There is a constant ebb and flow of people in and out of Mosul. From May 28 to June 1 there was a dip and then a surge. On May 28 there were 378,186 registered displaced (IDPs). That went down to 377,952 on May 30, but then back up to 378,120. There are always people moving in and out of the city. In the last two weeks there was a huge amount of civilians fleeing, but now that heavy fighting has restarted that figure has gone down considerably. Aid groups are afraid there could be another huge outflow before the battle concludes.
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Baghdad Post, “Mass grave discovered in Mosul’s right bank,” 6/1/17
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