iraqi forces managed to kill 207 militants in hawija
Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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As Hezbullah opposes Kurdistan’s referendum

Iraqi forces managed to kill 207 militants in Hawija

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Emiratesvoice, emirates voice Iraqi forces managed to kill 207 militants in Hawija

Iraqi forces moved Monday towards another area
Hawija - Najla Al Taee

Iraqi forces moved Monday towards another area neighboring Hawija, Islamic State’s bastion in southwestern Kirkuk, military media reported as offensives continue against the group’s last few holdouts in the country.

The Defense Ministry’s War Media Cell said the army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service, backed by the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Shia-led paramilitary force operating under the prime minsiter’s command, advanced towards al-Rashad as part of the second phase of operations to liberate Hawija, which launched Friday.

The first phase of operations launched on September 24th, and managed to retake eastern Shirqat, an Islamic State haven in neighboring Salahuddin province. Parallel operations were launched late September targeting IS havens in western Anbar. On Sunday, military media said joint forces recaptured 28 villages around Hawija with a few hundreds of militants killed since the launch of operations.

Iraqi forces recaptured also on Monday a strategic area on their way to retake  Islamic State bastion Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, paramilitary commanders reported. Hadi al-Ameri, a high-profile commander within the Popular Mobilization Forces, said  the force, backing the army’s Counter-Terrorism Service, liberated al-Rashad region, southeast of Hawija. He said troops began clearing the region from booby-traps.

Earlier on Monday, Iraqi military media said Iraqi forces advanced towards al-Rashad as part of the second phase of operations to liberate Hawija, which launched Friday. The first phase of operations launched on September 24th, and managed to retake eastern Shirqat, an Islamic State haven in neighboring Salahuddin province.

Parallel operations were launched late September targeting IS havens in western Anbar.
On Sunday, military media said joint forces recaptured 28 villages around Hawija with a few hundreds of militants killed since the launch of operations.

A wide-scale campaign launched with the backing of a U.S.-led coalition in 2016 to recapture areas occupied by IS since 2014, when the militants declared a self-styled “caliphate” rule in Iraq and neighboring Syria based in Iraq’s Mosul.

Iraqi government, coalition and paramilitary forces recaptured Mosul, the group’s former capital, and the neighboring town of Tal Afar early July and late August. In the same context, The Iraqi army said late Sunday it had killed 21 suicide attackers from the Islamic State near the holy city of Karbala where Shia pilgrims marked a major, annual religious festival.

The militants were killed in an air and ground operation on the borders between Anbar province and the holy city of Karbala, where millions of Shia Muslims marked Ashura, the anniversary of the death of Imam al-Hussein, the grandson of Islam’s Prophet Mohamed.

The announcement was made in a press conference by Maj. Gen. Qais al-Mohammadawi, head of the Defense Ministry’s Central Euphrates Operations. The “preemptive” operation was carried out by government forces backed by the Popular Mobilization, according to the military official. Mohammadawi added that more than six million visitors, including 400.000 foreigners, converged on the holy city for the celebration.

Shia religious festivals have always been a target for suicide bombings since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The country is currently fighting the Sunni militant group out of its last havens in Anbar and Kirkuk provinces. Iraqi, U.S.-backed military offensives since 2016 have, so far, recaptured the group’s former capital, Mosul, the town of Tal Afar and the Salahuddin town of Shirqat.

On the political side, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanese Hezbollah, condemned the Kurdistan Region's  independence referendum held on Monday, which produced a 92.7% vote in favor of secession.

The leader of the Iranian-backed paramilitary organization addressed crowds on Saturday in southern Beirut via video link, as they marked the major Shiite religious holiday of Ashura.

Nasrallah said that Kurdish independence would “open the door to partition, partition, partition,” Reuters news agency reported. “Partition means taking the region to internal wars whose end and time frame is known only to God.”

Nasrallah claimed that the referendum was part of a conspiracy, promoted by the US and Israel, to divide the region according to ethnic groups.

But while Israel has supported Kurdish independence, the US has opposed it. Indeed, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement on Friday affirming “The United States does not recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government’s unilateral referendum held on Monday.”

“The vote and the results lack legitimacy,” the statement continued—despite the overwhelming majority in favor of independence. “We continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq,” it affirmed.

Thus, the positions of the US and Hezbollah on Kurdish independence are virtually identical, and Iran’s position is the same.

On Saturday, Tehran announced the suspension of the export of refined petroleum products to the Kurdistan Region, as it seeks to pressure the Kurds to abandon their bid for independence.

Michael Pregent, an Iraq expert at the Hudson Institute who recently returned from Iraq, advised Kurdistan 24, “We shouldn’t be on the same side as Iran on this issue.”

There are concerns in the US Congress and elsewhere in Washington that the war against the Islamic State (IS) has increased Iranian influence in the region. The prospect of a “land bridge” from Tehran to Beirut is the most concrete of those concerns.

As Rep. Glenn Grothman, a Republican from Wisconsin, recently explained, “When the Syrian war wraps up,” there is a fear that “there will be a contiguous group” of like-minded states that runs “from Iran all the way to Lebanon.”

“You don’t want to have missiles and such driving down the highway between Iran and Lebanon,” he said.

Grothman supports an independent Kurdistan for several reasons, including as a means to counter Iran.

The establishment of a land corridor from Tehran to Beirut would very much benefit Nasrallah and Hezbollah, which the US has long designated a terrorist organization.

Nasrallah’s firm opposition to Kurdish independence reflects the position of his patrons in Tehran, but it is likely reinforced by the fact that an independent Kurdistan would constrain the movement of Iranian weapons and other material to Lebanon

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