Iraqi forces have entered Fallujah under coalition air cover as a new phase begins to win back one of Islamic State’s key cities. Troops backed by artillery and tanks went into the city from three directions, commanders told the AFP news agency. The offensive was also confirmed to a crew from Reuters - who reported hearing explosions in the city’s southern Naimiya district. "Iraqi forces entered Fallujah under air cover from the international coalition, the Iraqi air force and army aviation and supported by artillery and tanks,“ said Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi.
Counter-terrorism service (CTS) forces, the Anbar police and the Iraqi army, at around 4am (0100 GMT), started moving into Fallujah from three directions.
Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi
The commander said troops were meeting "resistance” from IS fighters. Despite many people having fled Fallujah, 50,000 are still believed to be trapped in the city about 40 miles west of Baghdad. Some 500-1,000 IS troops are estimated to be in control, with the jihadists reportedly using civilians as human shields and killing people who try to flee. Fallujah was the first Iraqi city to be captured by Islamic State. Along with Mosul, it is one of two major urban areas held by IS.
Our resources in the camps are now very strained and with many more expected to flee we might not be able to provide enough drinking water for everyone.
Nasr Muflahi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Iraq director