Peshmerga patrol one of their five fronts north and east of Hawija. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The long-awaited offensive to retake Hawija from ISIS is expected to be launched next week, according to reports.
“The operation to liberate Hawija will begin a few days after Eid al-Adha,” Hashd al-Shaabi spokesperson Ahmed al-Assadi told AFP.
The four-day Muslim Eid holiday began Friday for Sunni Muslims while Shiite Muslims will begin celebrating on Saturday.
After completion of the offensive in Tal Afar, Iraq’s Joint Operation Centre (JOC) announced that Hawija would be next. The JOC published on Friday video of a military convoy headed for Hawija in preparation for operations.
Iraqi military convoy moving into the Hawija area. Source: JOC
Peshmerga officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Hawija pocket, centred on the town of Hawija 55 kilometres southwest of Kirkuk, contains fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters, according to coalition figures, half of what was estimated in Tal Afar, but they are a large security threat.
And on Thursday, as part of the preparations for the imminent operation, millions of leaflets were dropped on Hawija residents by the Iraqi Air Force, advising them to avoid ISIS positions and informing them of victories achieved over ISIS in Mosul and Tal Afar, the War Media Cell of the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced.
In the course of the past few months, ISIS has been carrying out deadly hit-and-run operations against the Peshmerga and civilians in the regions south and west of Kirkuk, particularly in Tuz Khurmatu and Daquq. Many of the militants came from the group's Hawija stronghold.
According to Peshmerga and Kurdish officials, ISIS has adopted a new strategy in the area, regrouping in the Hamrin mountains and around their stronghold of Hawija, establishing relations with local people and moving towards guerrilla-style tactics as they lose territory elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.
The expected operation will include Peshmerga, who control area on five fronts
to the north and east of the Hawija pocket, and the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi.
Kurdish forces were prepared to begin the Hawija offensive a year ago, before Mosul, but the launch was repeatedly delayed.