The Iraqi forces were still fighting across eastern Mosul. Zuhur was declared freed, but a Rudaw correspondent said that when the day was over there were still clashes going on there. This is the second time the area has been said to be liberated. The Golden Division was also trying to clear Zahra that was freed on November 9 and then re-cleared on November 12. Hadbaa, Falah, Barid, Nassir, Mufti, Salam, Younis Sabawi, and Palestine were still being fought over, even though Falah was liberated two days before. In total, 41 neighborhoods have been entered in Mosul. 20 of those appear to be secured, and 21 contested. Progress is obviously being made, but it has been very difficult.
One of the major reasons why so many neighborhoods continuously come under attack is the Islamic State’s tunnel system. Military officials told Newsweek that there were around 15 km of tunnels in the areas freed in east Mosul. They estimated that there might be up to 70 km total of underground systems in that half of the city. This network allows IS to constantly re-infiltrate areas and attack the Iraqi forces from the rear.
On the other hand, IS’s defenses have been hindered. The U.S. coalition has hit the five bridges spanning Mosul. That has limited the group’s ability to move between the two sides of the city, and its attempt to use boats and other means to cross the Tigris River have been hampered by airstrikes. That has meant there are fewer car bombs, and that its wounded cannot be evacuated.
Reuters also reported that the humanitarian situation in eastern Mosul was declining. A major pipe was hit during the fighting cutting off water to around 40% of the residents in that half of the city. There is also a lack of electricity, food and other basic supplies. There have been stories of shortages in the western side of Mosul as well. This is another situation that is likely to continue to deteriorate
In the north and south things remain stalled. In the southwest, southeast and north the Iraqi forces were still clearing buildings and roads of IEDs. The Rapid Reaction Force did free one town. There has been very little movement on these fronts overall. The 9th and 16th Divisions, along with police units were supposed to be in Mosul days ago, but have been stuck in the surrounding towns and made little headway. Some of those forces are going to be diverted to take Tal Afar to the west, others may be shifted around as well as there is a growing belief that the campaign plan is going to be revised.
Speaking of Tal Afar the Hashd cleared five new towns in that district. Two mass graves of people executed by IS were also discovered in the area.
There have been other stories of abuses by both sides. The United Nations said that 12 civilians were shot by IS on November 11 for refusing to allow the militants to use their houses in the fighting. The group executed another 27 people on charges that they were working with the government. Amnesty International (AI) interviewed residents of a few towns in the south and east who said the Hashd and tribal fighters had humiliated, beaten, and tortured them for being suspected IS members. In one town, the Hashd split the men from their families, made them strip, and then bark like dogs, while they were called names. Tribal fighters were also accused of looting, and some bragged to AI that they had blown up houses.
There are some disagreements about how long the Mosul campaign will take. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi was interviewed by the Associated Press and told them he sticks by his promise that Mosul will be liberated by the end of 2016. A growing number of military commanders say that is still months away. General Najm Jabouri for instance thought it could take six months to complete the operation.
Finally, displacement from Mosul has gone up again. On November 29 the International Organization for Migration recorded 73,908 had been registered. The week before there were roughly 68,000 displaced. That went up to 73,000 by November 28. Since the Iraqi forces have entered Mosul the number of displaced has more than doubled. As further areas are penetrated those figures will continue to climb.
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BBC, “Mosul Iraq battle: IS accused of shooting civilians,” 11/29/16
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