Iraq forces push into streets of Fallujah
Iraqi forces thrust into Fallujah Monday, ushering a new urban phase in the week-old operation to retake the jihadist bastion that also raised concerns over the fate of trapped civilians.
The drive to recapture the first city to be lost from government control in 2014 came as fighting also raged in neighbouring Syria, leaving huge numbers of civilians exposed.
Led by the elite counter-terrorism service (CTS), Iraq’s best trained and most seasoned fighting unit, the forces pushed into Fallujah before dawn, commanders said.
“Iraqi forces entered Fallujah under air cover from the international coalition, the Iraqi air force and army aviation, and supported by artillery and tanks,” said Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi, the commander of the operation.
Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against IS in Iraq, said the jihadists had so far resisted mostly with snipers, booby-traps and suicide car bombs.
The forces have not yet ventured into the centre but they recaptured some areas in a southern suburb and took up positions on the eastern and northern fringes.
The involvement of the elite CTS marks the start of a phase of urban combat in a city where in 2004 US forces fought some of their toughest battles since the Vietnam War.
The week-old operation had previously focused on retaking rural areas around Fallujah, which lies just 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad.
It had been led by the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, which is dominated by Tehran-backed Shiite militias.
They were still in action Monday, attempting to clear an area northwest of Fallujah called Saqlawiya, officers said.
this is going to be a shit fight..i feel for the trapped civilians..this will be hell on earth..