24 March, 2016
Iraqi forces have launched an attack in Mosul and Syrian troops entered Palmyra in an offensive against the Islamic State militant group.
On Thursday, Iraqi forces attacked Islamic State militants about 75 kilometers from the city of Mosul.
About 4,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi forces moved towards 12 villages southeast of the city Thursday morning.
The troops moved in from two directions. Sunni Arab forces joined in the battle.
The troops took over four villages but did not control the entire area.
Najat Ali is a Kurdish Peshmerga general observing the fight. He said IS attacked with suicide bombers, mortars and guns. That stopped the Iraqi advance. IS burned tires, creating a dark smoke screen.
The Peshmerga fighters said they are not involved in the battle for Mosul right now because it is a traditionally Sunni Arab area. But they are giving important information to the Iraqi soldiers.
The Sunni fighters are very important to maintaining control of the traditionally Sunni areas near Mosul.
Ali said airplanes from the coalition working to defeat IS, including U.S. warplanes, flew overhead and struck the villages.
Ali said this is the first part of the operation, and is the most important if the group wants to re-take Mosul.
"They will not liberate Mosul eas(il)y," he said. "Maybe it is harder than before."
The Peshmerga fighters said they are preparing for a possible IS counter-attack. They are standing ready at the border between their territory and Sunni territory.
Action in Syria
At the same time in Syria, forces supported by Russian military airplanes moved against IS in the ancient city of Palmyra.
Syrian state media report that troops are already inside the city. But another group observing the conflict between Syria and IS said the battles are still at the edges of the city. The fighting continued into the night.
IS took over Palmyra in 2015. Palmyra is a historic city with 2,000-year-old Roman ruins that IS fighters have destroyed.
The destruction of the ancient temples and tombs in Palmyra has been called a war crime by the United Nations.
The Syrian forces of President Bashar Al-Assad are trying to take back Palmyra and open a road to the eastern part of the country.
A U.S.-led coalition also said it carried out air strikes near Palmyra on Wednesday. It was the first strike by the coalition since March 4.
A soldier interviewed by the Syrian-run television channel said the army and its allies would keep moving beyond Palmyra to fight against IS in northern Syria.
I'm Dan Friedell.
Reporting Sharon Behn of VOANews, Reuters and the Associated press was used in this story. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Do you think these important cities in Iraq and Syria will be take from IS? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
advance –n. forward movement
coalition –n. a group of people, groups, or countries who have joined together for a common purpose