Iraq Launches Offensive To Retake ISIS Bastion Hawija

Iraq: the assault is launched against Hawija, one of the last two bastions of the AR

Security forces backed by paramilitary units launched a dawn assault on a besieged Daesh-held pocket around the northern town of Hawija, just days after attacking the extremists' only other foothold in the country.

The council voted unanimously to ask the U.N.to establish an investigative team to help Iraq preserve evidence "that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide" committed by ISIS, variously known as ISIL and Daesh.

"The crimes committed by the Daesh [ISIS] terrorist organization against civilians and destruction of infrastructure and archaeological sites in Iraq are crimes against humanity, which makes it important to bring its perpetrators from Daesh terrorist gangs to justice, in accordance (with) the Iraqi law", Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in August.

"They have already suffered horribly under ISIS rule in the city". It soon became a realm of horrors, including mass killings, beheadings and rapes.

Iraqi civilians flee from the Old City of Mosul on July 7, 2017, during the Iraqi government forces' counter-terrorism operation. After it passed, Alastair Burt, the British minister of state for the Middle East, announced that the United Kingdom would provide 1 million pounds ($1.35 million) to the investigative effort.

After the defeat of Daesh in Mosul and the recapture of adjacent areas, Hawija and neighbouring towns form the last enclave still held by Daesh in Iraq apart from a section of the Euphrates Valley downstream from the border with Syria. The council could have established an inquiry without Iraq's consent, but Britain wanted Iraq's approval.

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In 2012, the sunni minority in power under Saddam Hussein, but marginalised after the us intervention, had led a protest campaign against the government, controlled by the shiites, accused of wanting to monopolize all powers.

"All victims of crimes under global law in Iraq deserve justice".

Fierce shelling with artillery were heard Thursday morning and the army moved toward the town of Sharqat, in the south-west of Hawija. Burt said the measure gives priority to Iraqi courts to try the cases but left a door open for other courts to get involved.

The offensive started in Annah, where Iraqi forces, with US-backed coalition's air support, seized al-Senaa and Shuqaq neighborhoods after several hours of battle. "The pursuit of justice is essential to all victims. regardless of who is responsible". We also call on forces to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and do everything they can to protect innocent lives. Human Rights Watch, however, says many such abuses aren't being investigated by authorities in Iraq, as far as the group can tell.

"It's been a long time coming; in the meantime, evidence has been lost and we've lost some opportunities along the way, but the fact that we have this resolution now means that justice is finally possible", she said.

Associated Press writers Alexandra Olson at the United Nations and Susannah George in Baghdad contributed.

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