Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced early on Thursday an operation to recapture the western border region of al-Qaim and Rawa, close to the Syrian border, from ISIS.
Al-Qaim and Rawa are the last patch of Iraqi territory still in the hands of the terrorist organization.
The extremist group also holds parts of the Syrian side of the border but the area under its control is shrinking as the militants retreat in the face of two sets of hostile forces – a US-backed, Kurdish-led coalition and Syrian regime troops with foreign militias backed by Iran and Russia.
In 2014, the group seized nearly a third of Iraq in a lightning sweep. Since then government troops and paramilitary forces have driven the militants from more than 90 percent of their territory.
ISIS’ self-declared cross-border “caliphate” effectively collapsed in July, when US-backed Iraqi forces captured Mosul, the group’s de facto capital in Iraq, in a gruelling battle that lasted nine months.
Raqqa, the terrorist group’s stronghold in Syria, fell to US-backed forces last week.
Meanwhile, Kurdish authorities Thursday accused Iraqi forces of launching an offensive against their fighters near the border with Turkey.
"As of 0600hrs Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces) are shelling Peshmerga positions from Zummar front, northwest Mosul, using heavy artillery. They are advancing towards Peshmerga positions," the top defense body of the autonomous region's government said in a statement.