With the assault on Mosul advancing quickly, Daesh have mounted a last ditch fightback. Seven eastern districts of Mosul have been lost; fighters who remain are hiding amongst the civilian population and launching repeated smaller guerilla style attacks on the approaching troops. 34,000 people have now fled the city.
Daesh leader and supposed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called unremitting opposition to the army, militias and Kurdish forces that are retaking Mosul. A spokesman for the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service told Reuters: “Sometimes they climb to the rooftops of houses where civilians are still living and they hold them hostage and open fire on our forces, because they know we will not use air strikes against targets that have civilians.”
Cars loaded up with bombs and with fighters posing as civilians and waving white flags are regularly driven into troops and buildings that are now occupied by their forces. It may be that the Sunni Arabs who are fleeing Mosul will not be able to return for a long time, if ever. It may be that the conflict in Iraq is not going to end with any form of power-sharing, as so often recommended by foreign powers.
The war on Daesh is producing winners and losers — and the people of Mosul may be among the latter. A second front against Daesh has been opened by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG. The campaign, Euphrates Anger, is an attempt to capture the capital of the “caliphate”, Raqqa, and will be supported by the US coalition. They are currently just 30 kilometres from Raqqa, with the hope that this action will stop Daesh consolidating its power in Raqqa and using that as a base to launch attacks across Syria, Iraq and the world.
Shia militias and Kurdish groups are also preset in the attack on Raqqa, a predominantly Sunni Arab city. The US has said they will be backing Arab (rather than Kurdish) forces to take the city itself. The 10-hour ceasefire declared by Russia has come to an end, and has Russia continued its barrage of bombs on the besieged civilian population. Eastern Aleppo, the rebel stronghold, has around 250,000 people who are besieged by government forces backed by Russian jets. The Syrian government’s tactic has been to issue messages advising them to “stop resisting or die.”