x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

Setback for Iraqi forces as ISIL counterattack in Mosul 

The counterattacks underscore the extremist group's resilience in Iraq, despite significant territorial losses and months of heavy fighting

A member of the Iraqi Federal Police opens fire against ISIL militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 7, 2017. Ahmed Saad / Reuters
A member of the Iraqi Federal Police opens fire against ISIL militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 7, 2017. Ahmed Saad / Reuters

MOSUL // A major counterattack by ISIL along the northern edge of Mosul's Old City has pushed Iraqi Army forces back some 75 metres and is threatening recent gains in other Old City fronts.

An Iraqi military officer said the attack was launched just after midday on Friday and estimated it was carried out by 50 to 100 ISIL fighters. A doctor at a medic station said he received more than a dozen wounded Iraqi soldiers.

Iraqi security forces have recaptured  almost all of Mosul — Iraq's second largest city — from ISIL militants who overran it in 2014.

In late June, ISIL  counterattacks on nieghbourhoods on the western edge of Mosul , which had been retaken months earlier, stalled the Iraqi advance deeper into the Old City as they forced a reallocation of Iraqi ground forces, coalition surveillance and air support.

Unlike the Friday attack, the late June counterattack was launched from outside Mosul, most likely from Tal Afar, an ISIL-held town some 60 kilometres west of Mosul.

The counterattacks underline the extremist group's resilience in Iraq, despite significant territorial losses and months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by US air power.

The pockets of IS-held Mosul now measure less than one square kilometre.

Also on Friday, he United Nations migration agency suspended operations in two camps:  the Qayara air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp, which are both near Mosul  and currently hosting nearly 80,000 displaced Iraqis due to sporadic violence and exchange of gunfire.

Joel Millman, spokesman for the International organisation for Migration (IOM) said the security situation prevented six water-tanker trucks from entering the Haj Ali camp, where temperatures in recent days have reached the low 50s Celsius in recent days.

Security concerns have forced humanitarian groups to repeatedly suspend operations in and around the city since the battle for Mosul  against ISIL  began last October.

In April, the United Nations suspended operations in the same area due to security threats along the road to the south-west of the city. 

In February the UN suspended work in eastern Mosul weeks after the area was declared fully liberated as ISIL attacks continued to inflict heavy civilian casualties.In both cases, the UN  resumed operations within a matter of days.