Mansour above Wadi Hajar was one of the new neighborhoods taken on March 8 (Medecins Sans Frontieres)
The Golden Division continued their push from the southern tip of west Mosul into the center. The Joint Operations Command had it freeing the Mansour and Shahuda neighborhoods. A security source told New Sabah that the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were pushing into the Old City, but that might be premature. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) are advancing along two axes. One is along the Tigris River by the police and the other is in the middle by the Golden Division. Eventually a third from the west should be opened as well when the 9th Division and Al-Abbas Division finally reach the city.
9th Division and Al-Abbas Division seized the Badush Prison the site of a mass execution by the Islamic State (Liveuamap)
The army and Hashd to the east of Mosul took the Badush Prison and nearby Atshana Hills. The 9th Division claimed it had taken the facility at the start of the March. The prison is notorious for the executions carried out by the Islamic State there in 2014. When the insurgents seized Badush they separated the prisoners by sect and shot around 670 of them, mostly Shiites, but also some Kurds and Yazidis as well. The road between Mosul and Kasak was cut as well. This was supposed to isolate Mosul off from Tal Afar, but that has been said to have been done several times before.
The Defense Ministry announced that it was using new tactics in the west Mosul campaign. This was based upon deceiving the Islamic State about where the ISF would attack. That was done before the start of the operation when there were stories that the Golden Division would make a river crossing across the Tigris. This led the Islamic State to fortify the river bank. Instead the Iraqis came from the south led by the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division. This along with the multi-front approach shows that the ISF is expanding its planning, command and control during the war and is developing as a fighting force.
Civilians have been the main victims of the fighting in Mosul. According to the United Nations 600 people had been taken to hospitals so far since the battle for west Mosul began on February 19. The densely packed neighborhoods has been one cause for the increase as it is extremely hard to prevent collateral damage from air strikes and artillery fire. Another cause is the Islamic State has changed tactics. Before IS was forcing people out of their homes to convert them to fire positions. Now the insurgents are keeping people in their residents to be used as human shields. Unfortunately there are still some rash commanders as witnessed yesterday with the ill advised thrust into the government center, which turned into a black eye for the ISF.
U.S. and Iraqi officials told the press that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was not in Mosul. He probably left long ago as soon as the Iraqi government let it be known that it was going to target the city. The Iraqis for example have claimed that Baghdadi was in the western desert of Ninewa for some time. Wherever he is it will not be revealed in the media unless he happens to be killed.
Deputy United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq said that 53,500 people had fled west Mosul so far. That has brought the total number of displaced (IDPs) in Ninewa to 211,572. Around 64,000 people have gone back as well since October. Going largely unreported now is the fact that civilians are still leaving the eastern section of the city. The Islamic State is still shelling that part of Mosul, and there are severe shortages of water, electricity, and food for the majority of the population. The camps south of Mosul and in Irbil are almost full and the United Nations is building two more for the increased displacement.
The Economist was the latest to run a story on east Mosul. A man told the magazine there were no services and government in the city. Few aid groups were present as well. Baghdad has not appointed any administration leaving the security forces and the overwhelmed local government to run things. Much has been made of life returning such as shops opening, but they do not have much business as there are no jobs and people don’t have money. Many people stayed in east Mosul during the fighting, and when it was liberated more started returning. They did not want to be in the camps which are very restrictive on movement, and sought to secure their goods after stories of looting spread. People are trying to rebuild but it is very hard as there is no economy and Baghdad and aid groups lack the resources to make any meaningful changes. That has already led to some resentment, which could grow.
Finally, the Sydney Morning Herald went to the Qayara oil fields to report on the fires there. In July 2016 IS blew up 19 oil wells there, 3 of which are still burning. It also planted IEDs around the site making it difficult for workers to make repairs and douse the flames. A doctor at a health clinic said that at one point people were covered with oil from all the fires. The health effects of all this toxic material will likely not be felt until months and years later.
Adel, Loaa, "Al-Hashd al-Shaabi liberates Sabuniyah Train Station," Iraqi News, 3/8/17
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Bachelard, Michael Geraghty, Kate, “Surviving IS Stories From Mosul, ‘Oily residue is pouring down from the sky,’” Sydney Morning Herald, 3/8/17
Baghdad Post, "Iraqi Army captures Badush prison on Mosul-Tal Afar road," 3/1/17
BBC, “Mosul IS battle: Iraqi forces retake Badoush prison,” 3/8/17
CBS News, “ISIS leaves Mosul museum in ruins as Iraq forces advance,” 3/8/17
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The Economist, “The Iraqi army is on the brink of defeating Islamic State,” 3/8/17
Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: March 8, 2017," 3/8/17
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Rudaw, “Iraqi forces control Badush prison where ISIS killed hundreds of inmates,” 3/8/17
- “More civilians flee approaching battle in their hundreds,” 3/8/17
- “Nine districts in western Mosul in full army control,” 3/8/17
- “Two years under the shadow of ISIS’ sword,” 3/8/17
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 8 March 2017,” 3/8/17
- “Mosul Weekly Protection Update, 25 February – 3 March 2017,” 3/3/17
Xinhua, "Iraqi forces continue fighting IS in western Mosul," 3/9/17
- “Thousands of Iraqi people continue to flee fighting in western Mosul, UN says,” 3/9/17