Iraqi PM orders offensive to take over town of Hawija

Iraq: the assault is launched against Hawija, one of the last two bastions of the AR

Iraqi forces have launched an offensive against Hawija, one of the last two bastions of the group islamic State in the country, announced Prime minister Haïder al-Abadi on Thursday.

Hours into Thursday's offensive, Iraq said its forces had gained ground against Islamic State.

"Now families face a bad choice of staying put as fighting intensifies, or risking their lives to flee on foot for up to 12 hours through minefields and snipers, then wade across a river to reach safety".

"It is imperative that all Iraqi and coalition forces open up safe escape routes for people and allow civilians to flee to wherever is safest", it added. They also provided safety instructions for civilians. "Without this, far too many children will be caught in the crossfire".

The UN's team will respect the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Iraq as they collect evidence to be used in fair and independent criminal proceedings in Iraqi courts. But, this flawed resolution sends a risky message to all the other parties to the conflict who have also committed serious violations and crimes that they are above justice.

"Greetings to all of our forces, who are waging several battles of liberation at the same time and who are winning victory after victory and this will be another, with the help of God", he said.

"With a new Iraqi dawn, we announce the launch of the first stage of an operation to liberate Hawijah", Abadi said in the morning in a brief statement. The operation, supported by the aircraft of the worldwide coalition antidjihadistes and the helicopters of the iraqi army, aims to seize three towns still in the hands of the AES, a hundred kilometers from the syrian border in the vast desert in the western province of al-Anbar.

Islamic State "now faces the mighty ISF [Iraqi security forces] in the last two areas where they hold any territory in Iraq", Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition against the extremist group, said on Twitter.

An AFP correspondent heard heavy shelling around the IS-held town of Sharqat where Iraqi forces have been massing in recent days. City of more than 70,000 inhabitants, it is located in the province oil of Kirkuk, disputed for years the federal government in Baghdad and the autonomous region of Kurdistan that borders it to the north and east.

The offensive started from the northwest and the southwest of Hawija district, she said.

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