Backed Iraqi forces advance on ISIS-held western Mosul

Posted February 23, 2017

Iraqi Federal Police forces have pushed into the southern outskirts of Mosul on the second day of a new push to drive Islamic State militants from the city's western half.

Police units quickly entered the village of Athba, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) southwest of Mosul's global airport, encountering only light resistance.

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the US-led coalition forces, said in a statement on Sunday: "Mosul would be a tough fight for any army in the world".

Smoke rises during a clash with ISIS militants south of Mosul, Iraq, on Monday. Even then, sectarian tensions are likely to continue to loom large across Iraq, threatening to provide an opening for future militant groups to take the place of ISIS in Sunni Arab cities.

"We are very close to it, if not already engaged in that fight", U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Jewish headstones destroyed at mass vandalization of St Louis cemetery
At least 11 Jewish community centers received bomb threats on Monday, the JCC Association of North America America reported. The damage happened the same day that almost a dozen Jewish community centers nationwide received bomb threats.

Commanders expect the battle to be more hard than in the east of the city, which Iraqi forces took control of last month after three months of fighting.

With Iraqi forces, aided by American airstrikes and artillery, closing in on the Isis redoubt of western Mosul and an anticipated battle for Isis's Syrian capital of Raqqa looming in the near future, the command indicated on Wednesday that it expects to hew toward relying on local proxies on the ground for the lion's share of the fighting.

Iraqi forces seized 15 villages from the Islamic State group yesterday, launching a daunting operation to retake west Mosul which aid groups warned will put civilians in grave danger.

"Mosul is going better than we expected, but there are serious dangers ahead", said Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. Isis - also known as Islamic State - has destroyed numerous bridges that connect the two sides of the city and its own fighters had to flee the western districts by boat during the bitter fighting for western Mosul that ended in January. The U.N. estimates 750,000 civilians may be left in western Mosul. It is the extremist group's last major urban bastion in Iraq.

The spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades, Jaafar al-Husseini, said the troops captured the villages of Sharia and Khirbat al-Jahish.

US Defense Secretary warns of "long-fought" battle in Iraq
Among them: putting more troops in Iraq and Syria and boosting military aid to Kurdish fighters backed by the USA -led coalition. In Syria, a possible option would be to send more USA forces, including combat troops, there as the Raqqa fight heats up.

The Islamic state is responsible for some awful attacks.

Islamic State has overrun Mosul - along vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq - in 2014.

Mattis rejected a suggestion by President Trump that the United States might take Iraq's oil.

Trump had said repeatedly that the United States should have taken Iraq's oil during the Iraq War, most recently during a January 21 visit to Central Intelligence Agency headquarters when he said, "Maybe we'll get another chance".

Steve Irwin's son Robert makes late-night television debut on Jimmy Fallon
Robert Irwin introduces Lady, a red-tailed boa to Jimmy Fallon, during his appearance on "The Tonight Show" last February 17. Now, I don't know about you, but I had plum forgot that Irwin had a son named Robert as well as his famous daughter Bindi.