Northern Iraq offensive (August 2014)
|Northern Iraq offensive (August 2014)|
|Part of the Iraq War (2014–present) and|
the Military intervention against ISIL
||Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi|
|Islamic State: Around 100,000 fighters in Iraq (according to Iraqi Kurdistan Chief of Staff.)|
|Casualties and losses|
|14 killed (Zumar only)||100 killed, 160 wounded, 38 captured (Zumar only)|
|5,000 Yazidis killed 5,000–7,000 Yazidis abducted|
Between 1 and 15 August 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) expanded northern Iraqi territories under their control. In the region north and west from Mosul, ISIL conquered Zumar, Sinjar, Wana, Mosul Dam, Tel Keppe and Kocho, in the regions south and east of Mosul the towns Bakhdida (or Queragosh or Qaraqosh), Karamlish, Bartella and Makhmour.
The offensive resulted in 100,000 Iraqi Christians driven from their homes, 200,000 Yazidi civilians driven from their homes in the city of Sinjar, 5,000 Yazidi men massacred, 5-7,000 Yazidi women enslaved, and a war of several countries against ISIL.
In the opinion of a member of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, ISIL’s August campaign against Sinjar was more about demography and strategy than about religion: ISIL wanted to push most of the Kurds out of this strategic Kurdish area and bring in Arabs who were obedient to ISIL.
50,000 of Sinjar's Yazidis took refuge in the adjacent Sinjar Mountains, where they lacked food, water and other basic necessities. 35,000 to 45,000 of them were evacuated within several weeks, after the United States bombarded ISIL positions and efforts from Kurdish PKK, YPG and/or Peshmerga forces assisted their escape. Some ISIL-controlled territory was retaken; a subsequent Kurdish counter-attack recaptured the Mosul Dam and several other towns.
In June 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conquered significant territories in northern Iraq, including the cities of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest town, with over a million residents, and Tikrit, 200 km south of Mosul. While Iraqi federal military forces fled from the advancing ISIL troops, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took over the control of a wide territory in northern Iraq outside the semi-autonomous Kurdish region from the federal Iraqi government.
- 1 August
Friday 1 August 2014, ISIL attacked a Peshmerga post in Zumar, 40 km northwest of Mosul, in the peshmerga-controlled zone of northern Iraq, and a nearby oil winning facility and the nearby Mosul Dam, Iraq’s largest dam and important supplier of electricity and water. The Peshmerga fought off ISIL, killing 100 ISIL fighters, according to Kurdish sources, but also losing 14 Peshmerga fighters.
- 2–3 August
Sunday 3 August, ISIL, with heavy weaponry seized from the Iraqi federal army, in the darkness of morning seized first the town of Zumar and then Sinjar (90 km southwest of Zumar), and the surrounding Sinjar area. ISIL routed from those towns the Kurdish peshmerga troops that since June more or less controlled the region. A spokesman of citizens fled from Sinjar said, that 250 peshmerga in Sinjar had withdrawn from Sinjar in the night, leaving the civilians unprotected.
ISIL on 3 August also took control of the oil facility in Zumar subdistrict. Later that day, ISIL also captured the town of Wana between Zumar and Mosul. There were conflicting reports about whether the Mosul Dam was still in Kurdish hands or captured by ISIL.
- 4 August
ISIL surrounded the village of Kocho near the Sinjar Mountains, demanding its Yazidi residents to convert or die.
- 6 August
- 7 August
On 7 August, ISIL took control of Qaraqosh (or Bakhdida), the largest Christian town of Iraq, 30 km southeast of Mosul and 60 km west of Erbil, Karamlish, 5 km from Qaraqosh, Tal Keif (Tel Keppe), just north of Mosul, and Bartella, just east of Mosul. Kurdish forces had retreated from Qaraqosh and surrounding area, which caused civilians to flee in panic. The Chaldaic archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah, Joseph Thomas, stated that “all inhabitants” of those four cities were fleeing their town.
ISIL also captured the strategic town of Makhmour, between Mosul and Kirkuk, 20 miles from Erbil. There were conflicting remarks—in one newspaper—as to whether ISIL had ‘seized’ the Mosul Dam or was making ‘efforts to seize’ it. That week, ISIL also overran other towns in northwest Iraq, chasing Kurdish Peshmerga troops away.
- 8–9 August
On 8 August, the U.S. started to conduct airstrikes on ISIL, firstly around Erbil to stop ISIL’s advancemant on the city. Starting on 9 August, airstrikes also took place around the Sinjar Mountains. By this time, ISIL had also seized the Mosul Dam, 40 km northwest of Mosul on the Tigris river.
Following the start of U.S. airstrikes on 8 August, between 9 and 13 August, the American air-strikes and efforts from Iraqi, Syrian and Turkish Kurds enabled the evacuation of 35,000 to 45,000 of the 50,000 Yazidis stranded in the Sinjar Mountains.
On 10 August, encouraged by American airstrikes, Kurdish peshmerga forces retook the strategic towns Gwer and Makhmour, both about 20 miles from Erbil. American fighter jets bombarded areas in Makhmour, forcing ISIL fighters to abandon their positions, and Kurdish peshmerga together with Kurdish PKK fighters and civilian volunteers from the area reclaimed the village.
Reclaiming the Mosul Dam
From 16 until 18 August, the U.S. conducted 35 air strikes against ISIL positions at the strategically critical Mosul Dam. That facilitated Kurdish and Iraqi forces to move swiftly and in good cooperation around Mosul Dam.
On the morning of 17 August, Kurdish forces, supported by U.S. and Iraqi air strikes, attacked the dam. They quickly captured the eastern part of the dam, but fighting continued. By the evening, Kurdish and Iraqi forces had recaptured most of the facility, but were still in the process of removing mines and booby traps left by ISIL. U.S. warplanes destroyed or damaged 19 ISIL vehicles and one checkpoint during the battle.
On 18 August, the U.S. president confirmed Kurdish peshmerga ground troops, with the help of Iraqi Special Forces, overran ISIL militants and reclaimed the Mosul Dam.
Iraqi move on Tikrit
On the morning of 19 August, Iraqi government troops and allied militiamen launched an operation to retake the city of Tikrit from ISIL. The military push started early in the morning from the south and southwest of the city, which lies around 160 kilometres north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
On 10 August, the United Kingdom also began airdropping humanitarian aid in northern Iraq.
The Sinjar conquest, 3 August, was accompanied by a massacre of hundreds or thousands of Yazidi men, the selling of women into slavery, and 200,000 civilians fleeing Sinjar, of whom 50,000 into the Sinjar Mountains.
ISIL ordered the Yazidi minority in the area to convert to Islam, pay special taxes, or face death, which prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes, not only in Sinjar but for example also 300 Yazidi families in the villages of Koja, Hatimiya and Qaboshi.
The UN reported in October 2014 that ISIL, “sweeping” through Iraqi territory inhabited by Yazidis in August, had gunned down 5,000 Yazidi male civilians in a series of massacres and detained 5–7,000 Yazidi women to be sold as slaves or given to jihadists.
100,000 Christians, 25% of Iraq’s Christianity, fled Bakhdida (Qaraqosh) and neighbouring villages and towns in the Nineveh Governorate after ISIL’s invasion on 7 August, leaving all their property behind, many of them supposedly to Iraqi Kurdistan. According to local officials, this August ISIL advance nearly purged northwestern Iraq of its Christian (Assyrian) population.
Protests and demonstrations were organized around the world, particularly in Paris, to support the Kurdish and Yazidi people.
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