266 days after launching offensive, Iraq declares liberation of Mosul

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A handout picture released by the Iraqi prime minister's press office on July 9, 2017, shows Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi (c) shaking hands with army officers upon his arrival in Mosul. (Iraqi Prime Minister's Office/Handout via AFP)
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Iraqi federal police members celebrate in the Old City of Mosul on July 9, 2017 after the government's announcement of the "liberation" of the embattled city.(AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)
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Iraq's national flag is suspended to a drone of Iraq's federal police as forces celebrate in the Old City of Mosul on July 9, 2017 after the government's announcement of the "liberation" of the embattled city. (AFP / FADEL SENNA)
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An Iraqi girl gestures as she celebrates in west Mosul Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2017
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266 days after launching offensive, Iraq declares liberation of Mosul

MOSUL: Iraq declared victory against Daesh in Mosul on Sunday after a grueling months-long campaign, dealing the biggest defeat yet to the terrorist group.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s office said he was in “liberated” Mosul to congratulate “the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people on the achievement of the major victory,” three years after Daesh declared its self-styled caliphate from the city.
The fighting did not seem to be completely over, with gunfire and explosions still audible in the city, but Al-Abadi’s arrival had been expected for days as a signal of the formal end of the battle for Mosul.
The victory came after a brutal 266-day military campaign against Daesh.
The Iraqi success came at an enormous cost: Much of Mosul is in ruins, with thousands dead and wounded, and nearly a million people forced from their homes.
Enormous challenges lie ahead, not just in rebuilding the city but in tackling the continued presence elsewhere of Daesh, which remains a potent force.
Photographs released by his office showed Al-Abadi dressed in a black military uniform and cap, shaking hands with police and army officers.
His office said he held meetings with commanders in Mosul and issued a series of commands on “sustaining victories and eliminating the defeated remnants” of Daesh, as well as “establishing security and stability in the liberated city.”
Iraqi forces celebrated, waving flags and flashing victory signs after Al-Abadi arrived in the city.
“This victory is for all Iraqis, not just for us,” Mohanned Jassem, a member of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, said at the police base where Al-Abadi met commanders.
Jassem, who fought in most of the other main battles of the war against Daesh, said Mosul was the toughest.
“I took part in fighting in Ramadi and Tikrit and Salaheddin and Baiji and Al-Qayara... but the fighting here in (Daesh’s) stronghold was the most violent,” he said, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders.
French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is a key part of the coalition, was among the first world leaders to offer his congratulations.
“Mosul liberated from Daesh,” he tweeted. “Homage from France to all those, with our troops, who contributed to this victory.”
Dash seized Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it swept across northern and central Iraq.
Iraq launched the operation to retake Mosul in October, backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition.
Daesh has lost most of the territory it once controlled and after Mosul the coalition is aiming to oust the jihadists from their Syrian stronghold Raqqa, which is under assault by US-backed Arab and Kurdish forces.


White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

Keeping spirits alive Palestinian youths play with rollerblades by walls covered with graffiti at the sea port in Gaza City on Tuesday. AFP
Updated 20 June 2018
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White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

  • The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas
  • Jared Kushner’s team plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them

AMMAN: President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, kicked off a swing through the Middle East on Tuesday, meeting with Jordan’s king as part of a broader effort to lay the groundwork for an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Kushner and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key US ally.
A White House statement said the talks focused on US-Jordan cooperation, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the US efforts “to “facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
US officials have said their peace plan is near completion and could be released this summer. But it faces resistance from the Palestinians, who have cut off ties since Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and moved the US Embassy in Israel to the holy city last month. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, accuse the US of siding with Israel in the most sensitive issue of their decades-long conflict.
Kushner’s team also plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for an independent state. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas militants seized control of the territory two years later.
The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas. The US, Israel and Western allies shun Hamas as a terrorist group. Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem. They also fear that aid to Gaza will help strengthen Hamas’ control over the territory.
Jordan also has a stake in east Jerusalem, serving as the custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines there. Jerusalem’s walled Old City, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967, is home to Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
Abdullah has also rejected Trump’s moves in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to relinquish any part of the city.
Netanyahu traveled to Amman on Monday for a surprise meeting with Abdullah, telling the king that Israel remains committed to the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Abdullah told Netanyahu that the fate of Jerusalem must be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and that a solution should be based on establishing a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on lands Israel captured in 1967.
Palestinian officials fear the Trump administration plan will leave them with a mini-state in the Gaza Strip, parts of the West Bank and a foothold in Jerusalem. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any plan being floated by the Trump team, arguing that the US has forfeited its role as mediator because of decisions seen as pro-Israel.