The Battle of Hawija: Iraqi Forces Claims Victory Over Islamic State

The Battle of Hawija: Iraqi Forces Claims Victory Over Islamic State

IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: Iraqi forces and fighters from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation units) advance towards the Islamic State (IS) group's stronghold of Hawija, October 4, 2017 / Source: Ahmad al-Rubaye (AFP)

Image Attribute: Iraqi forces and fighters from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation units) advance towards the Islamic State (IS) group's stronghold of Hawija, October 4, 2017 / Source: Ahmad al-Rubaye (AFP)

The fall of Hawija in northern Iraq (45 km southwest of Kirkuk), after two weeks of fighting, is the latest in a string of defeats for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and suggests the rank-and-file fighters are demoralized as the group struggles to defend what remains of the territory it seized in 2014. 

According to Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat, Chief of Iraqi Federal Police - “The Hawija offensive has left 270 militants killed, gaining control on an area of 640 square kilometers. 141 regions and villages have been liberated.” 

General Abdul-Amir Yarallah, Joint Operations Command, said Army, Federal Police, Rapid Response Forces and the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization forces) announced on Thursday taking over the town of Hawija. 98 villages were seized back, while 196 militants were killed during the offensive.

Hawija, surrounded by mountains, was the center of a pocket of ISIS territory southeast of Kirkuk. From there, ISIS carried out frequent, deadly attacks on Peshmerga and civilians in Kirkuk province. Post Hawija's liberation, the only area that remains under ISIS's control in Iraq is a stretch of land alongside the western border with Syria.


Iraq launched the offensive last month (Sept. 21) to liberate the area north of Baghdad where up to 78,000 people were estimated to be trapped, according to the United Nations. An estimated 4,000 civilians fled to Kurdish-controlled areas as of Wednesday, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) office coordinating humanitarian relief.

ISIS still controls the western Anbar’s towns of Rawa, al-Qaim and the region surrounding it. They also hold parts of the Syrian side of the border, but the area under their control is shrinking as they retreat in the face of two different sets of hostile forces — a U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led coalition and Syrian government troops with foreign Shi'ite militias backed by Iran and Russia.

Earlier in July, Iraqi Government announced that - Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, was retaken from ISIS after about nine months of intense fighting. Since that decisive battle, the pace of the Islamic State's decline seems to have quickened. The moral of Daesh fighters was significantly affected by the group’s huge losses in Mosul, Tal Afar and Shirqat towns during the last few months.

ISIS swept into Iraq from Syria in 2014, capturing large swaths of territory. From a mosque in Mosul, al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of the group's so-called caliphate. Today, as few as 3,000 militants might remain in Iraq in Syria, down from estimates up to 30,000, though officials caution that the numbers aren’t a good measure of the group’s strength.

With the ongoing fall of ISIS, Baghdad seeks to impose its constitutional federal authority in the areas that were outside the borders of the Kurdish region before 2003. The Kurdish regional authorities under President Masoud Barzani announced a referendum in June 2017 on Kurdish independence which was held late last month. Iraq has declared it as a rebellion against the constitution and the federal government.

The Kurds, making up about 20 percent of the Iraqi population, have been seeking self-governance for decades. In 2005, Iraq’s Constitution recognized Kurdistan as an autonomous region run by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

With reporting by Arab News, Sputnik News, AFP, and USA Today
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