Iraq faces vast challenges in securing, rebuilding Mosul

With Mosul in ruins and nearly a million displaced, Iraq now faces the enormous task of restoring order and rebuilding its second city. (AFP)
Updated 03 August 2017
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Iraq faces vast challenges in securing, rebuilding Mosul

MOSUL: With Mosul in ruins and nearly a million displaced, Iraq now faces the enormous task of restoring order and rebuilding its second city after driving out Daesh.
After eight months of gruelling fighting against Daesh, Iraqi forces are in control of Mosul.
But the famed Old City has been reduced to rubble and the iconic leaning minaret of its Al-Nuri mosque, the image of which adorns the 10,000 dinar note, lies in ruins.
The ancient, crowded alleys have become a silent maze of stone and iron skeletons, marked by mountains of rubble, craters and burned-out cars emitting a putrid odour of decaying bodies.
“The price of freedom is very high,” said Omar Fadel, a municipality employee who returned a month ago to his neighborhood of old Sinaaya, close to the ruins of the Al-Nuri mosque.
“We lost our houses, our money and above all, people, our loved ones.”
Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said that Mosul represents “the biggest stabilization challenge the UN has ever faced — the scale, the complexity, the scope of it.”
Out of 54 residential quarters, “15 are destroyed, 23 moderately damaged, 16 lightly damaged,” she said.
In eight months of combat, 948,000 people fled their houses, far beyond the UN’s most pessimistic predictions of 750,000 displaced.
Like Fadel, some have already returned. But 320,000 are still living in camps and another 384,000 are staying with relatives or in mosques, living on humanitarian aid, according to the UN.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared the city “liberated” on July 9, but the threat of violence has not disappeared. An unknown number of jihadists mingled with the flood of civilians fleeing the fighting.
With few resources, “the local police can’t, at this stage, hold the area,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, a security official at the provincial council of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital.
The job of securing the city might be entrusted to a “joint force” made up of Iraq’s counterterrorism service, the federal police and the army, which led the battle, a US adviser to the federal police said.
Authorities also set up a provincial intelligence center, the first in Iraq, two months ago to “locate terrorist bases and sleeping cells, arrest and hand suspects over to the judiciary,” Ibrahim said.
Meanwhile, workers have begun the tough task of clearing the damage left by the fighting, revealing hundreds of civilians buried under the rubble.
The streets need to be cleared of explosive devices left by the jihadists.
Next begins the work of rebuilding. The UN says the first phase of “stabilization” — providing infrastructure, housing, education and a police force — will cost at least $707 million.
“In the heavily damaged districts that are almost completely destroyed, we have to expect that this will take months, if not years,” Grande said.
“The families who come from those districts — we are talking about 230,000 to 240,000 families — will probably not be able to go back to their homes for a very long time.”
The UN has called for more international aid to help reconstruct the city, but less than half the aid needed for 2017 has been donated so far.
Mosul residents do not want to see rebuilding efforts confined to Iraq’s government, which is seen as corrupt, sectarian and distant.
In Baghdad, “they think that all of Mosul is Daesh,” said Issam Hassan, a young man in an east Mosul market.
Political analyst Ziad Al-Zinjari said he was “not optimistic” about Mosul’s future.
“There are signs that the city will go back to square one, that the same mistakes will be repeated,” he said.
Many fear that “corrupt people and thieves” will take over important posts, armed groups will emerge again and the authorities are “lagging behind in the reconstruction and resumption of public services,” he added.
Despite the defeat suffered by Daesh, the groups that united to fight it could easily splinter as rivalries re-emerge.
Civil society activist Majed Al-Husseini said that unless Mosul is declared a disaster zone and foreign organizations are involved in reconstruction, “political conflicts will bring back murders in the streets.”
“Shiite militias are setting up in the city, which the Sunni majority sees as a provocation... the Kurds have their sights on the disputed areas (and) Sunni politicians have conflicts between them for personal interests,” he said.
Years of rule by Daesh has also created divisions.
Some pro-government tribes are demanding “compensation” from other tribes who had pledged allegiance to the jihadists before they will allow them back into the city.
“The most important national priority is national reconciliation,” Grande said.
But on both sides of the Tigris river dividing Mosul, residents say communal divisions are mainly a political creation.
“The city’s architecture will never be the same again, but the spirit of Mosul, the solidarity of the inhabitants, will not change.”


Israel warns Syrians away from frontier as Assad closes in

Updated 44 min 58 sec ago
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Israel warns Syrians away from frontier as Assad closes in

  • The Syrians who approached the fence were 200 meters away, when an Israeli soldier told them to leave
  • The crowd, which included women and children, then walked back slowly toward the refugee encampment

GOLAN HEIGHTS: Dozens of Syrians approached the Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to seek help or sanctuary from a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive, before turning back after a warning from Israeli forces.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have arrived near the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the past month, fleeing a rapidly advancing offensive which has defeated rebels across a swathe of territory near Jordan and Israel.
“Go back before something bad happens. If you want us to be able to help you, go back,” an Israeli army officer on the Israeli side of a frontier fence told the crowd in Arabic through a megaphone. “Get a move on.”
The offensive has triggered the single biggest displacement of the war, with several hundred thousand people uprooted. Both Israel and Jordan have said they will not allow Syrians to cross into their territory.
Israel, which seized the Golan in the 1967 Middle East War, has given humanitarian aid to refugees in encampments close to a 1974 Israeli-Syrian disengagement line. Many of the displaced are sheltering within the disengagement zone that is monitored by a UN force.
The Syrians who approached the frontier fence stopped some 200 meters (yards) away, before an Israeli soldier told them to leave.
“You are on the border of the State of Israel. Go back, we don’t want to hurt you,” the soldier shouted in Arabic through a loudspeaker at the crowd, live Reuters TV footage showed.
The crowd, which included women and children, then walked back slowly toward the refugee encampment. Some stopped mid-way and waved white cloths in the direction of the Israeli frontier.
The Russian-backed offensive has advanced swiftly, unopposed by President Bashar Assad’s foreign adversaries. The United States, which once armed the southern rebels, told them not to expect it to intervene as the attack got underway last month.
A witness on the Syrian side of the Golan frontier said the sound of bombardment was drawing ever nearer. The United Nations said last week up to 160,000 Syrians had fled to Quneitra province, some in close proximity to the Golan area.

Government forces celebrate
Israel has threatened a harsh response to any attempt by Syrian forces to deploy in the disengagement zone, complicating the government offensive as it draws closer to the frontier.
Israel does not want its enemies Iran and Hezbollah, both allies of Assad, to move forces near its border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking alongside US President Donald Trump on Monday, cited the need to restore the situation along the Golan borders to the state that prevailed before the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.
At least 14 people, including five children and some women, were killed when Syrian government forces dropped a barrel bomb on the village of Ain Al-Tineh 10 km (6 miles) from the Golan frontier, according to UOSSM, a medical aid charity that operates in the area.
Ahmad Al-Dbis, UOSSM safety and security manager, said another 35 people had been wounded in the attack which he said had hit a school. The casualties had fled to the village from nearby parts of the southwest.
Syrian state TV broadcast from a hilltop captured from rebels on Monday and overlooking the Golan frontier. Government fighters waved rifles and held aloft pictures of Assad as they celebrated on camera from the location, Al-Haara hill.
“We will liberate all Syria,” said one of the soldiers.