Mosul Siege Extends IS Fight

Mosul Siege Extends IS FightMosul Siege Extends IS Fight

Iraqi forces are steadily closing in on the remaining pockets of territory held by the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Mosul, inching toward a victory.

But unlike past urban battles against IS in Iraq, the militants in Mosul are under siege by Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi government on Friday announced a call for all civilians in the Old City to flee, but human rights groups warned the orders could force tens of thousands into deadly frontline clashes.

The decision to surround the remaining IS holdouts is prolonging an already grueling fight, according to Iraqi commanders, and is punishing civilians being held by IS as human shields.

In the fight for Fallujah and Ramadi, cities that were also overrun by IS in 2014 as the group seized vast swaths of territory in Iraq, there was a tipping point in the battles—the moment when the militants’ hold on a city had shrunk to only a handful of neighborhoods. At that point, senior IS fighters began to flee in greater numbers, the terrorists’ command and control dissolved, defenses crumbled and Iraqi ground forces racked up a series of swift gains.

But in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city after Baghdad, Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition have shrunk IS-held territory to less than 5% of the city and still resistance has remained stiff.

By afternoon, at least three coalition airstrikes were called in to clear IS fighters armed with medium machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

“Because the enemy cannot flee, the area is completely sealed off,” said Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of Iraqi special forces.

He said it’s impossible to predict how the next few weeks of the Mosul operation will play out, but so far the siege of the Old City is slowing progress on the ground.

Iraq’s fight to retake Mosul began last October. By November, Iraqi forces had punched into the city limits along Mosul’s eastern edge. In January, after 100 days of fighting, eastern Mosul was declared “fully liberated”.

The slow military approach may be helping Iraqi and coalition forces kill and capture more IS fighters but it has put trapped civilians at greater risk, according to residents who recently fled neighborhoods still in IS hands.

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