Iraqi government forces are keeping up the pressure on ISIL militants – pounding their positions in Falluja.
According to a report by AFP quoting army commanders, Iraqi forces have entered the city, which was one of the first in Iraq to fall to the militant group in 2014.
Reuters quotes a military officer as saying the Iraqi army has begun an operation on Monday to storm Falluja, the so-called Islamic State’s stronghold near Baghdad.
The Iraqi authorities have warned residents to leave if they can although ISIL is said to be preventing the majority from getting out.
For those who have managed to escape, and the numbers has been put at 800, the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing emergency relief supplies.
‘‘In the last two-and-a-half years in my area, families started to suffer when ISIL closed the exit routes,” said one woman who had fled Falluja with her family.
“Families started suffering from psychological problems and some of them committed suicide. Some of them even set fire to themselves and some of them drowned their children.’‘
There is also fighting going on in the area surrounding Mosul which is the other major Iraqi city still controlled by ISIL.
In the early hours of Sunday morning Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched an attack to dislodge the extremists from villages some 20 km east of the city.
Around 5,500 Peshmergas are taking part in the operation according to the Kurdish Region Security council.
“This is one of the many shaping operations expected to increase pressure on ISIL in and around Mosul in preparation for an eventual assault on the city,’‘ the council said.
The Peshmergas have already driven the militants back in parts of northern Iraq with the help of airstrikes from the US-led coalition.