Iraq forces oust Daesh from northern town in drive on Hawija

Iraqi pro-government forces reach al-Sejar village on the boundary of Fallujah, on May 28, 2016, as they take part in a major assault to retake the city from the Islamic State group Iraqi pro-government forces reach al-Sejar village on the boundary of Fallujah, on May 28, 2016, as they take part in a major assault to retake the city from the Islamic State group (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2017
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Iraq forces oust Daesh from northern town in drive on Hawija

SHARQAT, Sharqat, Iraq: Iraqi forces achieved the first goal of a new offensive against the Daesh group on just its second day Friday, penetrating the northern town of Sharqat, AFP correspondents said.
Some residents celebrated in the streets as government troops and paramilitaries entered the town center and tore down the black flags of the jihadists who had ruled it with an iron fist for more than three years.
AFP correspondents saw little major damage in the town, although there had been casualties in the fighting as they saw the bodies of two jihadists in the back of a pickup.
Sharqat was the first goal of a major offensive launched on Thursday to recapture an Daesh-held enclave centered on the insurgent bastion of Hawija, one of just two pockets still controlled by the jihadists in Iraq.
Sector operations chief General Abdel Amir Yarallah said some 20 villages around Sharqat had also been recaptured from Daesh.
The next goal is Hawija itself, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the southeast.
After the defeat of Daesh in second city Mosul in July and the recapture of adjacent areas, Hawija and neighboring towns form the last enclave still held by Daesh in Iraq apart from a section of the Euphrates Valley downstream from the border with Syria.
The mainly Sunni Arab enclave, which was bypassed by government forces in their advance north to Mosul last year, has been a bastion of insurgency ever since the first year of the US-led occupation in 2003.
The territory still held by Daesh in the “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria it proclaimed in 2014 has dwindled, with stronghold after stronghold coming under assault on both sides of the border.
Iraq soldiers, police and paramilitaries launched an offensive against the jihadists’s other remaining enclave earlier this week, pushing up the Euphrates Valley toward the Daesh-held towns of Anna, Rawa and Al-Qaim.


Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

Updated 19 June 2018
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Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

  • The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria
  • Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

JERUSALEM: Israel declined to comment on Tuesday on a weekend air strike against an Iraqi paramilitary base in eastern Syria after its US ally implicated it in the attack.
The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria.
Fighters of Iraq’s Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, mainly composed of Iran-trained Shiite militia, have played a major role in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Daesh group in Syria as well as Iraq.
But their presence has sparked confrontations with both Washington, which has been supporting a Kurdish-led alliance that controls other parts of eastern Syria, and Israel, which fears Iranian-inspired attacks on its forces in the occupied Golan Heights.
Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
But US officials denied any involvement and instead pointed the finger at Israel.
“We have reasons to believe that it was an Israeli strike,” one US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Israeli military declined to be drawn on the US claims. “We are not commenting on foreign reports,” a spokeswoman said.
The military has carried out previous strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, but most have been significantly closer to Israel or the Israeli-occupied Golan.
Last month, Israel launched a large-scale attack on what it said were Iranian targets in Syria, raising fears of a major confrontation.
Those strikes followed a barrage of rockets that Israel said was fired toward its forces in the occupied Golan by Iran from Syria.
Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, Netanyahu reiterated his position that “Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria.”
“We will take action — and are already taking action — against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria,” the prime minister said.
“We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria.”
Israeli seized a large swathe of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
Iran has been a close ally of the Syrian regime for some four decades and, with Russia, has been a key supporter in the civil war that broke out in 2011.