The Iraqi Forces (ISF) made more advances in central and northeast Mosul on January 16. In the north, the 15th and 16th Divisions freed Arabi, Qairawan and Kindi. In central and northern Mosul the Golden, 15th and 16th Divisions took the Nabi Younis shrine and Taqafa. In the center and south the Golden Division seized Jammasa and Majmoaa. Finally, in the southeast the Golden Division, Rapid Reaction forces and elements of the 9th division freed Shurta, while the army and Federal Police were also clearing areas taken in the last few days. The ISF found a large group of IS fighters in Andalus that was declared liberated yesterday. After they were defeated the neighborhood was marked as occupied once again.
The Islamic State is in a state of disarray, while trying to cope with its losses. There was another story about IS leaders fleeing Mosul for the west. Similar rumors have been heard since the Mosul campaign started in October. The militants set off explosives on the Third Bridge in the middle of the city to try to deny its use to the government forces. That caused a large section of the span to collapse. In east Mosul the group was forcing people from their homes to try to get them to retreat west with it to be used as human shields. It was burning homes and cars of those that did not comply, and firing on the others that tried to flee to the government’s side. It was also destroying more government buildings in its mini-scorched earth policy. Last, the ISF accused the militants of distributing month old videos of its operations within the city to make it seem like it was still fighting hard instead of falling back. IS has done that before in previous battles to keep up morale. Even with all these setbacks there are still split opinions on how the fight for west Mosul will go down. IS could have lost most of its fighters and the next phase will go quicker. It might be just as hard as the first half, or it might even be harder since the west is more densely populated and more built up with houses and buildings.
Much has been said about the United States’ increased support for the government in the second phase of the Mosul campaign, but there are other members of the Coalition. France 2 aired video of French Special Forces working right at the front with the Golden Division clearing an area in east Mosul. The French have deployed with the Peshmerga and the Golden Division for more than two years.
Reuters had a piece on how the fighting in Mosul has disrupted families’ ability to bury their dead. One family lost their mother, but because of shelling couldn’t go to the cemetery so they had to bury her in the backyard. When things stabilized they dug up the body and interned it in Gogjali graveyard. That story symbolized life for those that have stayed in the city. When there was fighting in their neighborhood life was upset and people had to shelter in their home or with others, but when that passed they could start putting things back together.
Rudaw talked with the President of Mosul University Dr. Obay Saeed al-Dewachi who was already talking about rebuilding the school. The physical destruction done to the facility was extensive because it has been hit by air strikes and artillery heavier than other parts of the city because there were no civilians there. Another major problem is the loss of staff. Dr. Dewachi said that 56 lecturers were executed by the Islamic State and another 20 killed during the fighting. The president already had talks with the Ministry of Higher Education about how to proceed. This is a huge task, but it’s good that plans are underway to try to revive this important school.
Aid groups continued to worry about the humanitarian situation within Mosul. They are afraid of shortages of food and services in west Mosul. Assistance also has to be delivered to people in the liberated areas of east Mosul. The U.N. and other groups are handing out emergency packages. The government is starting to restore the food ration system to parts of the city. Services however are sporadic and there are fears that food is running short. There are three trauma centers close to the front to provide triage to civilians and ISF killed and wounded in the fighting, and there are plans to build another.
People continue to flow out of Mosul. From January 9 to 15 around 12,500 new displaced were registered. Most of those came from east Mosul and went to camps in Kurdistan or south of the city in the Qayara district. Of the 140,000 total displaced 87% are in camps. Since there are tight restrictions on letting people out of these places the aid groups are trying to provide all of the amenities like schools. The tough conditions in the camps and the lack of freedom of movement has been one factor that has led to so many people staying in Mosul rather than leaving.
Finally, during the first two weeks of January there were a reported 465 killed, and 341 wounded. Because of government censorship only 35 members of the joint forces were said to have died, and 12 wounded. In comparison, the U.N. reported that roughly 1,590 ISF were wounded, and 1,410 civilians from the end of December to the second week of January. That showed the huge disparity between what gets into the press and what is really happening on the ground.
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Agence France Presse, “Iraq forces retake IS-bombed ‘Jonah’s tomb’ in Mosul,” 1/16/17
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