Federal Police fighting in Old City in west Mosul (Reuters)
Map of progress in Old City west Mosul. Green is liberated areas. Red is contested. Tan is under Islamic State control. Blue in right hand corner is the Tigris River. (Iraqi Day)
Fighting in the Old City went back and forth. The Golden Division attacking from the west took the Nablus area. There were renewed clashes in Bab al-Tob, which was just declared officially freed for the second time yesterday. Cramped streets, poor weather, tough defenses by the Islamic State have all slowed down progress in the city. The immediate goal remains taking the Grand Mosque where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in 2014. After that is taken there will still be the majority of the Old City to be assaulted.
A month into the west Mosul campaign and everyone is realizing that there has been a huge civilian casualty rate. Medics told the Associated Press that they had seen 750 civilian deaths since the operation started on February 19. That compared to 1,600 dead and wounded hospitals received in east Mosul. The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights accused the Iraqi forces (ISF) and Coalition of disregarding civilians trapped in the city with their use of heavy shelling and air strikes on residential areas. The United Nations was equally concerned. The Iraqi and Coalition forces have admitted to using more artillery, mortars, rockets, planes and helicopters in the current operation. The U.S. responded to the criticism by saying its precision munitions was reducing collateral damage. While that might mean hitting targets better, it ignored IS’s current tactics. The insurgents are constantly attacking and withdrawing and then moving back into positions. They are also forcing civilians to stay in their homes while they are using them as fire positions, and making them withdraw with them as well. As a civilian told Reuters, IS would set up a sniper position on top of a building, take a few shots and then move on, and then later the building would be hit while civilians were inside the whole time. The heavy toll this is taking on civilians is a major reason why so many people are fleeing the city.
Outside of Mosul the 9th Division and Hashd were active again taking two towns north of Badush. These forces were supposed to open a third front in west Mosul, but at the pace their moving that could come pretty late in the campaign if it ever does. They could stay on the perimeter and ensure the encirclement of the city.
Finally, Pulse News talked with two families that returned to west Mosul. They had both fled, but found no room in the camps and were forced to go back. One person said he found several families packed into one tent at a camp. One family had re-opened their business inside the city, but they had little to sell. They’d gotten some goods from Hamam al-Alil to the south, but it wasn’t much. The camps in the south are now overflowing, but the security forces keep directing people there. Hundreds of families are now living outside the facilities, probably out in the elements, and the ISF has plans to allow some to move on to Baghdad. This is while there are thousands of spots in Kurdistan, but the government is sending hardly anyone there even though aid groups have petitioned them to do so.
Adel, Loaa, "Federal Police repulses IS attack near Mosul, 17 militants killed," Iraqi News, 3/19/17
- "Islamic State militants blow up 14 houses south of Mosul," Iraqi News, 3/19/17
Baghdad Post, “Iraqi forces advance towards “Grand Nouri” mosque in Mosul,” 3/19/17
Iraqi Red Crescent Society, “Increasing in the numbers of displaced form the right side of Mosul to more than 100,000 people and the teams of the Iraqi Red Crescent are making extraordinary efforts to relief them,” 3/19/17
Markey, Patrick and Davison, John, “Iraqi forces close on Mosul mosque as strike kills foreign militants,” Reuters, 3/19/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, “Six foreign IS leaders killed as Iraqi forces retake more western Mosul areas,” Iraqi News, 3/19/17
- "UPDATED: Security forces recapture 2 central Mosul neighborhoods, militants killed," Iraqi News, 3/19/17
Shafaaq News, "Injuring 10 civilians in the fall of mortar shells on West Mosul," 3/19/17
- "Iraqi forces moving cautiously and repel suicide attack West Mosul," 3/19/17