An Iranian-backed Shiite Iraqi militia said on Saturday it planned to storm Falluja, Islamic State’s stronghold near Baghdad, once civilians left the city, as 50000 civilians are trapped in the city.
Families escaped Friday anyway they could. Crossing the Euphrates River outweighed the risks of being trapped inside Fallujah as Iraqi forces slowly encircle the city and the ISIS militants that still control it.
The assault is being spearheaded by U.S.-trained Iraqi Special Forces. There are also Iranian-backed Shiite militias and even local Sunni tribal fighters taking part, all backed up by airstrikes from the U.S. and its allies.
Yet any hopes of a swift victory have been shattered by ISIS’ fierce defense.
Iraqi military officials said that the troops have run into unexpectedly heavy resistance. Mortars, snipers and countless roadside bombs have stalled the advance on the southern outskirts of the city.
ISIS fighters have had an iron grip on Fallujah since capturing it two years ago.
Now, as Iraqi forces edge toward the city itself, Iraqi commanders said the estimated 50,000 civilians who live there make it much harder to call airstrikes in. The battle will likely go street by street and house by house.