US-backed siege batters Old City of Mosul
Bill Van Auken
19 June 2017
Backed by US airstrikes, artillery and special forces “advisors,” Iraqi troops began storming Mosul’s crowded Old City, where the United Nations estimates that some 150,000 civilians are trapped under the siege.
Iraqi commanders have issued triumphalist statements hailing the offensive as the beginning of the end for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which took control of Iraq’s second-largest city after government troops melted away in the face of their advance in June 2014.
“This is the last chapter” in the battle for Mosul, Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, the commander of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), the elite US-trained unit that has borne the brunt of the fighting, told the media Sunday. He warned that he expects a “vicious and tough fight.”
How long this “last chapter” will last is by no means clear. Some commanders have predicted that it will take at least a month to retake the area. US-backed Iraqi forces began their siege of Mosul eight months ago. Since then, thousands of Iraqi civilians have died under US bombs, rockets and shells. The UN has confirmed the killing of 230 civilians in western Mosul during the last two weeks alone, undoubtedly a significant undercount of the real death toll. The rest of the population has been reduced to desperate conditions, without adequate food, water or medical aid.
This final stage of the battle may well prove the bloodiest. The Old City is the most densely populated area of Mosul, with narrow alleyways that will make an advance by infantry troops difficult.
The International Rescue Committee, which is coordinating aid to the civilian population, warned that it expects a sharp rise in bloodshed. “With its narrow and…