Iraqi forces pose in Hawija town, retaken from ISIS on October 5. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Military operations to regain control of Hawija have ended, Iraq’s military announced, declaring all tasks completed.
Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi forces “completed the second phase of the operation to recapture the town of Hawija and its surrounding areas,” Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah, commander of the Hawija operations, announced in a statement published Tuesday night.
The operation to clear ISIS from the area known as the Hawija pocket southwest of Kirkuk began September 21.
On October 5, the army declared the town of Hawija liberated from ISIS, while operations continued east of the town.
Tuesday night, Yarallah, announced they had retaken the town of Ryaz, over 150 villages, key roads and bridges, and “all the Hamrin mountain range.”
With that, “army forces, federal police, rapid response and counter-terrorism, and the Hashd al-Shaabi forces supported by Iraqi fighter jets ended the operation to regain control of Hawija and its surrounding areas,” he stated.
The Peshmerga, which had several fronts with ISIS in the Hawija pocket, held their defensive line and coordinated some movements with the Iraqi forces, but they largely stayed out of the operation.
As of October 7, the UNHCR recorded over 33,000 civilians fleeing the military offensive. More than half of those have already returned to their homes, the refugee agency stated.
With the conclusion of Hawija operations, ISIS retains control of largely desert areas in western Iraq along the border with Syria as well as a few key towns, including the border town of al-Qaim in Anbar province.