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Quarter-Million Kids Can Return to School in East Mosul While ISIS Battles for West

Rahma Ahmed, 12, Sara Saad, 8, and Magfira Ahmed, 10, wait outside a reopened school in east Mosul on March 10, 2017. (Rex Features via AP Images)

ARLINGTON, Va. — The commander of the Combined Joint Land Force Component for Operation Inherent Resolve said that since liberation of eastern Mosul in mid-January more than 250,000 boys and girls can return to more than 320 schools reopened by the Iraqi government.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin told reporters via teleconference from Baghdad today that “life is returning to normal” east of the Tigris even as a tough battle rages on for the smaller, more densely populated half of Mosul on the west side of the river.

He predicted “atrocities in the future” as ISIS makes its last stand in the city.

“ISIS uses the tactic of taking civilians hostage for protecting while they’re fighting from protected sites. ISIS has been indiscriminate in their use of VBIEDs and building IEDs to kill, maim and injure innocent civilians as part of their ongoing campaign of terror,” he said. “They’ve fired in excess of 7,000 mortars and rockets indiscriminately against the population of Mosul.”

The general noted that ISIS’s “capability and cohesion as an organization is weakening” as the terror group is “under pressure all the way across Iraq.”

“The number of civilians murdered by ISIS on a weekly basis is in the hundreds with evidence showing that that’s increasing. This is further proof that as their military position worsens so too does their inhumanity,” he added.

Martin emphasized that the Iraqi Security Forces, who launched the operation to retake Mosul in October, “are winning in defeating ISIS and Mosul, and they’ve been doing so for over 18 months throughout Iraq.”

“They continue to make steady progress on multiple fronts and demonstrate their care for the civilian population every day. They’ve already taken critical infrastructure, such as the international airport and government buildings,” he said. “And remember; only two short years ago ISIS was on the gates of Baghdad. Now, the Iraqi Security Forces are about to recapture Iraq’s second largest city and ISIS is reeling from defeat after defeat across the country. Their leadership has fled and their days are numbered.”

“…I fought against the Iraqis during the Gulf War. I’ve helped them train… they continue to improve their capability and demonstrate a level of professionalism that makes me proud to serve with them.”

The commander said it’s “tough to put a number on how many ISIS are left in west Mosul,” but “the number is going down each and every day.”

“They’re fighting tougher and tougher, and as I stated previously, their inhumanity continues to increase as they become more desperate. They’re surrounded. There’s foreign fighters — there are some foreign fighters that remain. Foreign fighters have nowhere to go. They can fight, surrender, or die,” he said.

“What’s left is a tough fight through some very complicated terrain that will require a significant amount of tenacity and commitment,” the general added. “But I assure you, the Iraqi security forces are up to that task.”