Kurdish Peshmerga forces advancing toward ISIS positions on the Khazir front on Monday.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish Peshmerga forces successfully captured seven villages near Mosul from ISIS on Monday, the first day of the Mosul offensive, as the US-led coalition warned that the operation will likely last “for weeks.”
By 10am local time on Monday morning the Peshmerga liberated a total of seven villages on the Khazir front, backed by US-led coalition air power which is bombarding ISIS positions ahead of their advances.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve warned against expectations of a quick operation.
“This may prove to be a long and tough battle, but the Iraqis have prepared for it and we will stand by them,” he said.
Rudaw English’s front-line reporter Ayub Nuri said that in Badana village on the Khazir front ISIS tried to overrun Peshmerga positions with car bombs. Coalition airstrikes destroyed two of them but one managed to get near its target before detonating. There are no reports of casualties among the Peshmerga.
“ISIS militants have lost the morale to fight and their situation is bad inside Mosul. Many militants have fled to Syria together with their families,” Saeed Mamuzini, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official from Mosul told Rudaw.
His comments came as Peshmerga forces advanced against ISIS in the Hamdaniya district to Mosul’s southeast.
This operation is being overseen by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani personally, Aziz Waisi, the commander of the Kurdish Zeravani Special Forces, told Rudaw.
The Peshmerga offensive began early in the morning when Kurdish troops broke through the dirt mounds which marked the front-line border between them and the territory held by the militants. Peshmerga Commander Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa said that the Peshmerga will advance and liberate certain areas around Mosul that will help pave the way for the Iraqi Army’s advance into the city itself.
“We’ve an agreement with the Iraqis and coalition that the Peshmerga won’t be going to Mosul,” the Chief of General Staff of the Peshmerga forces, Jamal Iminiki, told Rudaw English.
Following a United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) press release earlier on Monday morning – which called upon the participating forces to ensure civilians in Mosul are not unnecessarily harmed under international humanitarian law – the commander of Iraq’s anti-terrorism forces said they are taking steps to help civilians escape.
“We will open a corridor for civilians to escape Mosul as soon as security forces arrive on the outskirts of Mosul,” Abdulghani Assadi told reporters. “We also ask civilians to help security forces by providing them with intelligence information.”
The OCHA statement warned that, “Tens of thousands of Iraqi girls, boys, women and men may be under siege or held as human shields,” in Mosul. “Children, women, the elderly and disabled will be particularly vulnerable. Depending on the intensity and scope of the fighting, as many as one million people may be forced to flee their homes in a worst-case scenario.”
OCHA estimates that there are “up to 1.5 million people living in Mosul who may be impacted by military operations to retake the city.”
Iminiki also advised Rudaw against making “any predictions about a city like Mosul.”
“ISIS has a considerable force in Mosul,” he said. “Many militants who are defeated in Iraqi cities such as Ramadi, Tikrit and Baiji might be in Mosul now even though some of them might have gone to Syria.”