Battle for Fallujah, Take 3

 In Foreign, Military

Fox News reported today that there are more than 50,000 civilians trapped by ISIS and surrounded by Iraqi Forces at the city of  Fallujah. Once again, this city is at the center of a pitched battle for control. The aim of this move is to wrest the ISIS terrorists from the city, and save the civilian hostages…something easier said than done.

According to the Fox article, some of the civilians have been evacuated, but the vast majority of them can’t get past the ISIS checkpoints around the city.

The ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) and assorted militias are charged with saving the civilians, but that could prove to be a problem. ISIS death squads and snipers, who deliberately target innocent civilians, added to sectarian violence, may leave many of the civilians trapped inside the city no way out.

fallujah

Twitter photo of Fallujah via Telegraph UK

Calling for civilians to be spared

Fox reported,
“The spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites called on Iraqi forces preparing to retake the city to safeguard civilians. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said that “saving innocent people from harm’s way is the most important thing, even more so than targeting the enemy.”

The city has both Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims. Some of the factions in the coalition are Shi’ite militias. In particular, the Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), which is, according to the Institute for the Study of War, one of the most lethal of the Iranian backed Shia militias. Their view of Fallujah as welcoming to ISIS could lead to serious bloodshed.

Understanding War’s analysis

The ISW reported,

“…that “80 percent” of Fallujah’s residents were with ISIS, providing potential justification to punish, and ultimately kill, civilians from Fallujah. Most civilians currently appear to be fleeing south out of Fallujah towards Amiriyat al-Fallujah and the Euphrates River’s southern bank, however.

ISF and Sunni tribal fighters currently hold this area, though Nujaba Movement maintains a presence. Widespread proliferation of Iranian proxy militias in the predominantly-Sunni environs of Fallujah will accelerate sectarian violence and proxy control, over which civilians can return to their homes. Instability caused by sectarian violence and internal refugee crises on the border of Baghdad will flood into Baghdad and detract from efforts to secure the Baghdad Belts.”

Taking Fallujah, killing another ISIS commander

Twice before, Americans fought for this city, in what became the bloodiest battles of the war.  When the city fell to ISIS in 2014, it was a devastating blow to those who had fought so hard to take it both times previously.

American air strikes reportedly killed one IS leader, Maher al-Bilawi, who was in charge of ISIS fighters in Fallujah.

As estimates are that 500-700 ISIS fighters are completely surrounded, it remains to be seen how the Iraqi forces will handle this battle. Freeing yet another city from ISIS would bring much-needed boosting of morale for all of the Iraqi troops.

Keep in mind, though, that Ramadan is coming June 6-July 5 – and the possibility that ISIS has something up its sleeve during that time is high.

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