Iraqi Forces Make Big Advances in Hawjia

An Iraqi man, from a neighboring village, waves a white flag as Iraqi forces advance towards ISIS group's stronghold of Hawija on October 1, 2017. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP
An Iraqi man, from a neighboring village, waves a white flag as Iraqi forces advance towards ISIS group's stronghold of Hawija on October 1, 2017. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP
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Iraqi Forces Make Big Advances in Hawjia

An Iraqi man, from a neighboring village, waves a white flag as Iraqi forces advance towards ISIS group's stronghold of Hawija on October 1, 2017. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP
An Iraqi man, from a neighboring village, waves a white flag as Iraqi forces advance towards ISIS group's stronghold of Hawija on October 1, 2017. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

Iraqi forces entered Hawija on Wednesday after heavy battles with ISIS militants, as civilians continued to flee the town that lies southwest of Kirkuk.

"The army, the Federal Police, the Emergency Response division and rapid response (Popular Mobilization Forces) stormed Hawija,” said a statement from the joint operations commander, Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah.

“Progress is continuing," he said.

Eyewitnesses in Hawjia told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that ISIS militants fled towards the neighboring town of Riyadh when Iraqi forces stormed Hawija.

Riyadh is one of the last ISIS bastions southwest of Kirkuk.

Despite the Iraqi forces’ advance, there are some pockets of resistance in Hawija.

Mohammed Saeed, a fighter from the 15th army brigade who is participating in the battle for Hawija, said ISIS is collapsing and its militants are not showing any resistance, and are fleeing rather than confronting.

“The majority of those who have escaped from the liberated areas are foreigners. According to information we have received, they fled to the Hamrin mountains,” said Saeed.

He added that ISIS terrorists had resorted to suicide car bombings to stop the advance of Iraqi troops, but they failed to show any resistance inside Hawija.

Iraq launched an offensive on Sept. 21 to dislodge ISIS from Hawija and surrounding areas.

Hundreds of people, mainly woman and children, are fleeing the fighting to Makhmur district that lies southwest of Erbil, the city of Kirkuk and Salahuddin province.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.