Battle of Hawija

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Battle of Hawija
Part of the American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present) and the Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)
Hawija offensive.svg
Map of the advances of the Iraqi forces during the offensive
Date20 September – 8 October 2017
(2 weeks and 4 days)[2][3]
Result Decisive Iraqi victory
The Iraqi Army recaptures Hawija, 155 villages,[4] and the rest of the eastern Salahuddin and Diyala Provinces[5][6]

Supported by:

 Islamic State
Commanders and leaders
Iraq Abdul-Amir Rashid Yarallah[7]
(operations commander)
Iraq Qais Khazali[8]
(leader of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq)
Iraq Akram al-Kaabi[8]
(HHN secretary general)
Iraq Abu Mushtaq[1]
(PMF commander)
Iran Aghai Eghbali[1]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Qusay Hassan Wali Al-Bayati "Abu Haytham"[9]
(Wali of Wilayat Kirkuk and Wilayat Dijlah)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Nasser al-Zawbaei [10]
(Wali of Hawija)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Abdullah al-Tajiki [11]
(sniper commander)
Units involved

Iraq Iraqi Security Forces

United States United States Air Force[12]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Military of ISIL

  • Garrison of Wilayat Kirkuk and Wilayat Dijlah
    • Saladin Battalion[9]
  • Elite forces
    • Seekers of Martyrdom[15]
42,000 soldiers[16] 1,500–2,000 militants[17][18]
Casualties and losses
Unknown 942 killed (Iraqi claim)[4]
1,000 captured or surrendered[15]

The Battle of Hawija was an offensive launched in September 2017 by the Iraqi Army, in order to recapture town of Hawija and the surrounding areas from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[19]

The offensive was concurrent with the 2017 Central Syria campaign by the Syrian Army to capture ISIL territory towards Deir ez-Zor, as well as with the Raqqa campaign (2016–17) conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIL's de facto capital city and stronghold in Syria.


Hawija, which is located 50 kilometres (31 mi) west of Kirkuk city, had been a bastion of Sunni Arab insurgents since the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.[20] In 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered his forces to open fire on peaceful protesters in Hawija. In return, Sunnis became convinced of using violence to counter Maliki's sectarian policies while also giving substantial support to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[21] The group captured the city in June 2014 when it seized control of most of northern and western Iraq.[20] It became isolated from the rest of the group's territory in July 2016 during the Mosul offensive and was its last stronghold in Iraq.[22] The offensive had been repeatedly delayed due to various sectarian issues, as well as disagreements over the involvement of the Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces militia.[23]

Timeline of the offensive[edit]

Playing a leading role in the offensive, the mostly-Shiite PMF reject claims according to which they harass local Sunnis as suspected ISIL supporters.[1]

The offensive began on 20 September, from the northwest of Hawija, as Iraqi forces recaptured four villages northeast of al-Shirqat (which itself was captured a year earlier during the 2016 Mosul offensive).[24] On the following day, the Iraqi forces managed to liberate at least 11 villages in the Hawija pocket, killing and wounding several terrorists in the process. The goal of Iraqi forces is penetrating the city of Hawija with several side wings, as they want to secure these important areas in the Kirkuk Governorate.[25] On 22 September, Iraqi forces liberated approximately 140 square kilometers of territory north of the district of Hawija from the Kirkuk Governorate. Led by Hashd Al-Sha'abi (Popular Mobilization Forces), Iraqi forces have liberated at least 15 villages in the Al-Shirqat district, located directly northwest of the country.[26] On 24 September, the Iraqi forces declared that they had finished Phase 1 of the offensive, having liberated all of the areas north of the Al-Zab River, along with some other areas west of the Tigris River and in the northern Makhoul Mountains. They also stated that they killed 200 ISIL militants during the operation.[5] On 29 September, Iraqi forces launched the second phase of the offensive, capturing four villages and entering the town of al-Abbassi.[27] Iraqi forces reported that they killed another 200 ISIL militants on the first day of Phase 2 of the offensive.[6]

PMF commanders with IRGC advisors during the 2017 Hawija offensive

On 4 October, Iraqi troops entered the city of Hawija;[28] with the local ISIL garrison showing relatively little resistance, the government forces quickly sized several neighborhoods.[7] On the following day, Iraqi forces took control of the city centre and liberated the entire city.[29][30] On October 8, the Iraqi Army cleared out the remaining ISIL-held points, and with the victory in Hawija, Iraqi Defense Ministry's War Media Cell released an updated map of the country, showing the remaining areas of Iraq under ISIL control now limited to the western Anbar Province and southwestern Nineveh Province.[3]

This offensive saw the first time that large numbers of ISIL fighters had surrendered en masse, instead of fighting to the death. It was also noted that in the "Hawija Pocket," ISIL fighters put up little to no resistance at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps.[31]

Iraqi war hero Abu Tahsin al-Salhi was killed in action within this operation, on September 29th, 2017.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Dlshad Anwar (27 September 2017). "Iran-backed Militia Taking Leading Role in Operation for Iraq's Hawija". Voice of America. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Iraq forces retake town of Hawija from IS". BBC News. 5 October 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Map: Remaining Iraqi Territories Under Control of IS". Basnews. 8 October 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Over 300 Islamic State militants killed in Hawija offensive: Commander". Iraqi News. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b Mohammed Mostafa (2 September 2017). "Iraqi forces end phase 1 of Hawija offensive: command". Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b Nehal Mostafa (29 September 2017). "200 IS members killed on first day of Hawija offensive's second phase". Iraqi News. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Rikar Hussein (4 October 2017). "Iraqi Army, Allied Shiite Forces Enter IS-held Hawija". Voice of America. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Bill Roggio (5 October 2017). "Iraqi troops, Iranian-backed militias eject Islamic State from Hawija". Long War Journal. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  9. ^ a b Gareth Browne (2 September 2017). "Hawija: The next battle in Iraq's war against the Islamic State group". The New Arab. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b Loaa Adel (29 September 2017). "Iraqi airstrike kills ISIS Wali of Hawija near Kirkuk". Iraqi Times. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  11. ^ Nehal Mostafa (7 October 2017). "IS's Baghdadi's close member, five snipers, killed in airstrike in Kirkuk". Iraqi Times. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d e Derek Henry Flood (18 October 2017). "The Hawija Offensive: A Liberation Exposes Faultlines". Combating Terrorism Center. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-07-03. Retrieved 2018-07-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ a b Rod Nordland (8 October 2017). "ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender en Masse". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Iraq Brought About 42K Fighters Near Daesh Controlled Hawija For Hawija Operation". LiveuaMap. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  17. ^ Jim Michaels. "1,000 ISIS militants surrender as Iraq retakes key town of Hawija". USA Today.
  18. ^ Osama bin Javaid (September 23, 2017). "Iraq: Who will control Hawija after ISIL?". Al Jazeera. Retrieved September 23, 2017.
  19. ^ "Iraqi forces launch offensive to retake Hawija from IS". BBC News. 21 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  20. ^ a b "Iraqi forces launch offensive to retake Hawija from IS". BBC. 16 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  21. ^ Florian Nehouf (7 September 2017). "Battle to remove ISIL from Hawija could unlock further sectarian tensions". The National. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Almost everybody is against a Kurdish referendum". The Economist. 16 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  23. ^ "Abadi blames Peshmerga fragmentation for delay in Hawija op". Rudaw Media Network. 6 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  24. ^ "The Iraqi army and the PMU control 4 villages in North-East of Sharqat". LiveuaMap. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  25. ^ "Iraqi forces make significant advance towards Hawija: map". 21 September 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  26. ^ "Iraqi forces liberate 140km2 of territory north of Hawija". 22 September 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  27. ^ Nehal Mostafa (29 September 2017). "More than 40 IS militants killed, as second phase of Hawija offensive starts". Iraqi News. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  28. ^ "Les forces irakiennes entrent dans Hawija, le dernier bastion nordiste de l'EI". 4 October 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  29. ^ "L'EI perd son dernier grand centre urbain en Irak". 5 October 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  30. ^ Reuters in Baghdad. "Hawija: Iraqi army says it has recaptured one of last Isis enclaves | World news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  31. ^ Alex Lockie (9 October 2017). "ISIS fighters, once bent on martyrdom, surrender en masse from last Iraqi stronghold". Retrieved 20 October 2017.