WASHINGTON, July 22, 2016 —
Coalition forces continue strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, to support local forces fighting to reclaim areas including Mosul in Iraq, and Manbij in Syria, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said today.
Speaking via videoconference from Baghdad, Army Col. Christopher Garver told reporters the coalition has conducted 73 strikes inside Iraq over the last seven days in support of Iraqi security forces.
"In the Tigris River Valley in northern Iraq, shaping operations in preparation for the eventual liberation of Mosul continue," he said, adding that Iraqi forces continue clearing operations in the vicinity of Qayyarah.
Iraqi forces are clearing Aswajah Gharbi on the east side of the Tigris River, he said, while remaining focused on reclaiming Qayyarah and Sharqat.
"The ISF continues offensive operations in and around the area," Garver said.
The coalition has conducted more than 450 strikes to date in support of the operations along the Tigris, he said.
In the Euphrates River Valley, the 7th Iraqi Army Division cleared the Dulab Peninsula, he said. ISIL controls an area north of the river, and the ISF is "consolidated and holding defensive positions in Dulab and the surrounding villages," he added.
'Extraordinary' Efforts to Avoid Civilian Casualties
In Syria, the Syrian Arab Coalition and other members of the Syrian Democratic Forces continue "to push the fight forward slowly and deliberately" in Manbij, he said. Those forces have seized just under half of the city, he said.
ISIL continues to "fight hard within the center of Manbij with machine guns, well-placed snipers, and improvised explosive devices," he said. "We have seen [ISIL] collapsing back into the center of the city."
The terrorists have used civilians as "human shields and as bait," Garver said, "by sending them into range of SAC weapons, trying to draw the fire of the SDF towards the civilians."
Garver said the coalition is reviewing information about reports of civilian casualties in a recent coalition strike.
"The strike was against both buildings and vehicles," Garver said. "Afterwards, we received reports from several sources, both internal and external, that there may have been civilians in the area who are mixed in and among the [ISIL] fighters."
Garver said the coalition will determine if the information is credible enough to warrant a formal investigation.
"As we have discussed many times, we apply an extraordinary amount of rigor into our strike clearance procedures to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict," he explained.
Trove of Information in Syria
The Syrian Arab Coalition is maintaining momentum in the fight for Manbij with the support from coalition strikes, Garver said. Since the beginning of the offensive on May 21, the coalition has conducted more than 500 strikes in support of the operation, he pointed out.
More than 10,000 items, including more than four terabytes of digital information, have been seized in the Manbij operation, he noted.
The information is providing insight into how ISIL controls daily life and how it facilitates the movement of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq, Garver said.
"We also see indoctrination of the young by rewriting text books with the language of hate for those not following the prescribed [ISIL] way of life written into it," he said.
Determined Forces in Iraq
Temperatures in Iraq have soared to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, with the Iraqi government declaring the last two days as “heat days” and minimizing the number of officials at work, Garver noted.
"But despite the brutal heat and the increased dust in the air, the Iraqi security forces have continued offensive operations in both the Euphrates and Tigris River valleys," he said.
In addition, Garver highlighted how the coalition has trained more than 23,770 Iraqi security forces. The inaugural class of border guard police training wrapped up July 20, he said, noting the approximately 300 graduates of the four-week course will be deployed to complement national and local police training efforts.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoDNews)