By Kainoelani Lee
By Kainoelani Lee
Rabat – Iraqi forces have begun an attack on Falluja, a city held by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), longer than any other city in Iraq or Syria, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised speech on Monday, according to the New York Times.
“Today we will tear down the black flags of the strangers who have kidnapped this city,” Mr. Abadi, referring to the flags of the Islamic State that have been flying in Falluja for more than two years.
For months, Iraqi forces have continued firing mortar and artillery rounds at Falluja.
Abadi and other Iraqi leaders have made constant bold statements indicating new military offensives, in effort to stall on the ground, but the new decision to attack Falluja has signaled a change in strategy for the Iraqi government.
The United Nations said it has stockpiled supplies in Baghdad in the event of a new displacement crisis, and that only 80 families had been able to leave Falluja since the fighting has intensified there. Some civilians have even died trying to leave the city, according to the United Nations.
The city has been held since 2014 by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. It is believed that the Islamic State will stay and fight the Iraqi forces in Falluja, unlike in other cities such as Tikrit and Ramadi, where Iraqi security forced closing in caused the Islamic State to flee.
American officials have urged the Iraqis to stop trying to take back Falluja, but instead, try to focus on other targets, like Mosul, which is one of the country’s largest cities that has been held by the Islamic State since June 2014.
In the past, Iraqi forces have made progress in freeing territory held by the Islamic State, and have been backed by American and coalition airstrikes.
“The moment has come to liberate a city in the land of Iraq,” the Iraqi military said in a statement, “the land that will never accept humiliation because the people of this country have determined to end the darkness of terrorism of ISIS criminal gangs.”