Iraqi forces slice through ISIS fortifications on all fronts around Fallujah (VIDEO)

Iraqi government forces advance near al-Sejar village, north-east of Fallujah, on May 26, 2016, as they take part in a major assault to retake the city from the Islamic State (IS) group. © Ahmad Al-Rubaye
Iraqi government-led forces are slicing through ISIS positions around Fallujah, the citadel of the terror organization in the country. After less than a week of combat, armed units have recaptured key strategic points surrounding the city.

Reporting from the northwestern outskirts of Fallujah, an RT Arabic crew has been witnessing a large-scale attack on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions just outside the city. Barrages of rockets continue to push back the defense front of the terrorists, who had fortified their positions with trenches and minefields.

The assault, carried out by the army, police counterterrorism units, local tribal fighters and a coalition of Shiite Muslim militias, continues on all fronts around the city. Besides making vast gains in the north, the forces, aided by US advisers, have also been advancing on the city from the direction of Sinjar.

“We are moving in the right direction. We are killing those criminals,” a police unit fighter told RT, adding that approaches to the city are mined. “But we are moving on, thanks and glory to Allah.”

“Military operations continue on all directions. All the commanders are in their positions. The security forces are taking over designated locations, as well as the people’s militia forces,” another police conscript told RT.

Government forces have a massive advantage over ISIS fighters. Iraqi troops taking part in the offensive number around 20,000, versus an estimated 1,000 terrorists holed up in the city. Government troops believe that capturing the city can be done with relative ease once the periphery is cleared of ISIS fighters.

The closer the troops are getting to the city, RT Arabic reports, the less they rely on air support to avoid unnecessary casualties in a predominantly Sunni Muslim city that has been under the control of ISIS since January 2014.

Only some 800 people have managed to flee Fallujah since the beginning of the operation to retake the city which officially started on Sunday, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Around 50,000 civilians still remain trapped and are facing “extreme risk” in the city some 45 miles west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

“We are receiving distressing reports of civilians trapped inside Fallujah who are desperate to escape to safety, but can’t,”said Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. “Food supplies are limited and tightly controlled. Medicines are exhausted and many families have no choice but to rely on dirty and unsafe water sources.”

Kurshish news agency Rudaw is reporting that at least 82 civilians casualties have either been killed or wounded by the city’s “random” shelling by pro-government forces.

“As a result of mortar shells by [Shiite militia] Hashd al-Shaabi, 32 people were killed and 50 wounded including women and children in Fallujah,” Uzal Fahdawi, a member of Anbar Provincial Council, told Rudaw.

Hashd al-Shaabi is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40, mainly Shiite Muslim groups. According to the agency, the US command on the ground already addressed the issue of indiscriminate shelling with Iraqi Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi and other commanders on the ground.

“Shiite militia have to immediately stop random mortar shells and also no barriers should be put before civilians fleeing the town and their men should not be imprisoned,” said Fahdawi quoting US military officials after a three hour long meeting with Iraqi army officers. The member of the Provincial Council added that “in the meeting it was also decreed that Hashd al-Shaabi should be withdrawn from the battle for Fallujah.”