A broad offensive plan has been launched by Iraqi government in order to retake the city of Hit from ISIL in the western province of Anbar.
Led by the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, forces from the police, army and local tribal fighters were making a final push to retake Hit, 145 KM west of Baghdad.
Major General Ali Ibrahim Daboun stated that they have begun a broad operation to liberate Hit and Kubaysa. Kubaysa is a smaller town a few miles west of Hit, a key hub along the Euphrates that the extremists have controlled since October 2014.
Gen Daboun said Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters had retaken a cement plant west of Kubaysa and raised the Iraqi flag there.
Head of the local council for Al Baghdadi district, Malallah AlObeidi, said, “Members of the terrorist Daesh gangs have fled back into the town centre."
Gen Daboun said Iraqi aircraft and jets from the US-led international coalition were providing air support. Al Asad military air base, which houses a large contingent of US and other foreign military advisers, lies around 35 KM north-west of Hit.
Iraq’s security forces launched a final push against ISIL in Anbar’s provincial capital Ramadi late last year and established full control over the city last month. Aid agencies have voiced concern over the fate of an estimated 35,000 civilians who have fled Hit and its surroundings in the run-up to the latest military offensive.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said late on Friday that thousands of freshly displaced people were stranded in areas where very little assistance is available. The organization stated that it was able to deliver aid for the first time to around 12,000 people of west of Ramadi.
Katharina Ritz, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq, mentioned, “We don’t know how they managed to survive. Repeated access is crucial in order to help the remaining thousands of people who urgently need humanitarian aid."
IS-militants still controls vast areas of Anbar province near the borders with Jordan and Syria, as well as the city of Fallujah, which is only 50 kilometers from Baghdad.
Meanwhile Pentagon stated that an American member of the international anti-ISIL coalition was killed in northern Iraq due to “enemy action" recently.
According to news channel reports, he was killed by a rocket attack on a base in Makhmur, an area around 70 KM south-east of the main ISIL hub of Mosul.
It also said that a “small number" of other American troops were wounded in the attack. Makhmur lies within territory controlled by the autonomous northern region of Kurdistan, but Baghdad has recently been deploying federal forces there to prepare for an offensive against Mosul.
The coalition’s main role in the war against IS has been to provide air support, with close to 10,000 strikes destroying or damaging more than 16,000 targets since the summer of 2014. But the United States and some of its leading partners in the coalition such as France, Britain, Australia and Italy also have significant contingents deployed on the ground Iraq.