Iraqi Forces Enter al-Qaim in ‘Last Big Fight’ against ISIS

Iraqi troops storm a building in the town of Anna during the first phase of their drive up the Euphrates valley against ISIS on September 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/MOADH AL-DULAIMI)
Iraqi troops storm a building in the town of Anna during the first phase of their drive up the Euphrates valley against ISIS on September 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/MOADH AL-DULAIMI)
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Iraqi Forces Enter al-Qaim in ‘Last Big Fight’ against ISIS

Iraqi troops storm a building in the town of Anna during the first phase of their drive up the Euphrates valley against ISIS on September 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/MOADH AL-DULAIMI)
Iraqi troops storm a building in the town of Anna during the first phase of their drive up the Euphrates valley against ISIS on September 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/MOADH AL-DULAIMI)

Iraqi forces on Friday entered Al-Qaim, the main town in ISIS’ last bastion in the country, military commanders said.

Backed by Iraqi and US-led coalition air strikes, Iraqi forces unleashed early Friday morning a barrage of artillery fire against militant positions inside the town.

Troops from the army and the elite Counter Terrorism Service "have started the assault on the center of Al-Qaim," Staff Major General Noman Abed al-Zobai, the commander of the 7th Division, told AFP from the scene.

Shortly afterwards, another officer said the town's Gaza district had fallen from terrorist hands.

Iraqi forces launched the operation last week to seize Al-Qaim and its surroundings, a pocket of barren desert along the Euphrates river near the border with Syria.

Home to around 150,000 people, it is one of the last remaining territories in the country still held by ISIS militants after rampaging across Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Welcoming the offensive, the US-led coalition has said around 1,500 terrorists are estimated to remain in the area, which it expects to be the scene of the "last big fight" against the extremist group in Iraq.

“ISIS members have to choose between death and surrender," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement announcing the offensive last week.

ISIS is also under pressure from separate offensives by Syrian regime and US-backed forces in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor that lies on the other side of the border.

Syrian regime forces said Friday they have liberated the eastern city of Deir Ezzor from ISIS.



Egypt Needs to Import $1.18 Billion in Fuel to End Power Cuts, PM Says

The moon is seen after the day of Strawberry Moon over old houses in Cairo, Egypt, June 22, 2024. (Reuters)
The moon is seen after the day of Strawberry Moon over old houses in Cairo, Egypt, June 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Egypt Needs to Import $1.18 Billion in Fuel to End Power Cuts, PM Says

The moon is seen after the day of Strawberry Moon over old houses in Cairo, Egypt, June 22, 2024. (Reuters)
The moon is seen after the day of Strawberry Moon over old houses in Cairo, Egypt, June 22, 2024. (Reuters)

Egypt needs to import around $1.18 billion worth of mazut fuel oil and natural gas to end persistent power cuts exacerbated by consecutive heat waves, its Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in a televised address on Tuesday.

It hopes the shipments will arrive in full around the third week of July, by which point the government aims to stop cutting power during the remaining summer months, he added.

It has already started contracting for 300,000 tons of mazut worth $180 million to boost its strategic reserves which are expected to arrive early next week.

Egypt's government on Monday extended daily power cuts to three hours from two hours previously in response to a surge in domestic electricity consumption during the latest heat wave.

These three-hour cuts will continue until the end of June, before returning to two hours in the first half of July with the aim of stopping completely for the rest of the summer, Madbouly said on Tuesday.

Egyptian social media has lit up with complaints about the impact of the blackouts, with some saying they have been forced to purchase private power generators.

The problem has particularly affected teenagers preparing for the crucial high school certificate, with some posting about students studying by candlelight and others in coffee shops.

A wedding hall owner in the coastal city of Port Said said he would turn one of his ballrooms into a study hall.

Since July last year, load shedding linked to falling gas production, rising demand and a shortage of foreign currency has led to scheduled two-hour daily power cuts in most areas.

"We had said that we planned to end load shedding by the end of 2024... we do not have a power generation problem or a network problem, we are unable to provide fuel," Madbouly said on Tuesday.

"With the increase in consumption related to the major development and population increase, there has been a lot of pressure on our dollar resources," he added.

He said production in a neighboring country's gas field had come to a full halt for 12 hours leading to an interruption in the supply, without naming the country or the gas field.

Egypt's Abu Qir Fertilizers said on Tuesday three of its plants had halted production because their supply of natural gas was cut.