Anti-IS Assaults Gain Ground in Iraq, Syria

A convoy of US forces armored vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli,  on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5. A convoy of US forces armored vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli,  on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5.

Iraqi forces advanced in west Mosul and fighters in neighboring Syria seized a key supply route to Raqqa on Monday, as twin offensives gained ground against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

The anti-IS coalition, Iraqi forces and a Kurdish-Arab alliance in Syria are battling to push the militants from Mosul and Raqqa, the last two major urban centers under their control, AFP reported.

The Pentagon said it has sent extra troops into northern Syria to make sure competing forces in and around the town of Manbij remain focused on fighting IS rather than each other.

In Iraq, security forces retook a series of government buildings that were one of the targets of a renewed push in west Mosul launched on Sunday, said the Joint Operations Command.

Iraq’s elite Rapid Response Division and federal police forces recaptured the Nineveh police headquarters, the courts complex and the water, electricity and sewage directorates.

And the Counter-Terrorism Service, the country’s premier Special Forces unit, retook Al-Sumood neighborhood, another target in the drive, and attacked Al-Mansur.

The operation to recapture west Mosul was launched on February 19, but slowed due to bad weather until a fresh push began on Sunday.

AFP reporters in west Mosul witnessed intense clashes, with heavy automatic weapons fire and clouds of black smoke billowing over the city.

In Syria, US-backed forces cut a key IS supply route between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor Province.

The Syrian Democratic Forces seized control of the only major road linking Raqqa along Euphrates Valley to Deir Ezzor, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Monday, US defense department spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff David, said “additional” American troops had entered Manbij on a “reassurance and deterrence mission”.

Their task would be to ensure the Kurds and Turks—both US allies—stop attacking each other to focus on IS.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Monday gave assurances that Ankara would not attack Manbij without the cooperation of Russia and the United States.

The SDF, dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, has benefited from air support, equipment and training provided by the US-led coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes against IS in Syria and Iraq.

The alliance began its offensive against Raqqa in early November and has since seized swathes of territory.

Elsewhere in Syria, heavy Syrian Army airstrikes and shelling targeted the area around oil and gas fields in eastern Homs as forces battled IS.

Government troops have advanced inside the Jazal field and seized most of it from IS, following up on the regime’s recapture of the city of Palmyra last week.


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